I don’t think I’ve made it much of a secret that I’m not all that fond of what the internet has become. It has morphed into a wasteland of platforms, and everyone who’s on one of these platforms calls it some form of “Hellsite.” We sacrifice our personal data, mental health, and creativity for ease of use and visibility. I’ve learned that ease of use and visibility aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, and the value placed on these two things is a smoke screen created by the corporations that own the new internet.
I’ve been reading up on the indie web and getting a sense of how the internet was, before corporate platforms took over, and what it could become moving forward. I’ve also been spending a lot of time on Neocities looking at all the unique websites that community members have built using the three simple building blocks of web design. Some of them are just simple pages of text, others are vibrant and complex journeys, and all of them are beautiful in their own way. They have all been sources of inspiration for me and gave me and idea of how I wanted to build my own website.
I started learning HTML, CSS, and JS back in March and sketched out the structure of my proper home. While learning to code I discovered that ease of use is possible, if you want to work for it a bit. I know not everyone does, and this isn’t to shame anyone for that. For me, though, learning how to code and then weighing the cost of the time that took versus the cost that comes with being on a platform, I came to my own conclusion that this was a price I was willing to pay.
The thing is, even though learning to code has its own frustrating trials, I never feel burnt out on it, and when I triumph through a problem I feel so dang good. From my experience, the tribulations of a corporate platform and the alienation that comes with it are never ending. They aren’t things a single user can fix, they are a problem deep in the core of the thing. On a corporate social media platform it’s a game the developers are playing with the users, but we barely get to touch the ball, the rules keep changing, and we’re always losing. For me, something had to give.
Building my own site also has me thinking about what digital and online art could look like. I think my art will be better treated in a space I have created for myself. I’ve noticed for artists on corporate social media there is a mounting malaise, a feeling that what we make doesn’t matter because it will eventually get lost in the algorithm. The corpo sites are also all the same. Everyone has the same looking cell, and after a point the art we put up there feels samey as well. Why do we put up with this? Well, it’s for the traffic! But that traffic is so fleeting. I’ve been thinking about the longevity of my art and the value it has to me personally. I still want people to be able to see it, but it deserves a better place to call home than some cold soulless feed built around a corporation’s aesthetics. I’m building my site as a work of art that holds my art, so that the container matches and respects what I put in it. Like a beautiful frame that compliments the painting in it.
Returning to the learning process of it all, there is so much value in what I’m learning while coding a site compared to what I got out of a corporate platform. Corpo gets more eyes on me so long as I conform to its rules. From that attention maybe I’ll get a couple of Patreon subscribers for that month, or an agent might reach out to me (though I have a lot to say about the presumed value of traditional publishing). Meanwhile, while learning how to code, I am alone. No one is looking at me, but I am looking inwards at myself and I am learning a new skill that has a far wider application than being really good at twitter or instagram. I’m nurturing something inside of myself.
Making my own website nourishes me and teaches me to be self sufficient, it is also, hopefully, teaching me how to spend my time on corpo social media as well. Corporate social media is like shopping mall or a freeway, it is not a home. My website is a home that I am building with my own two hands. It is a haven in this maelstrom of noise. Maybe one day I will show people where to find it, but for now it’ll stay hidden while I finish applying the wallpaper.
I hope all of you can have, or have found, a quiet place for yourselves in this corporation controlled internet. Maybe one day these massive miserable districts will crumble and all that will be left are villages made up of all our hand-built homes.
When I posted this early to my Patreon a friend asked me if I had any resources on learning to code. I wanted to share some of what I sent to them here as well.
For building the code for your website you can just type it in a text document, but if you want something more intuitive I recommend the Brackets app if you are using a Mac or Notepad++ if you are using PC.
Finally if you're ever looking for inspiration for what direction you want to take your site definitely browse sites on Neocities. Also don't be shy about right-clicking and viewing the page source to get a sense of how your favourite sites are built. Seeing what material other people have used are very useful jumping off points.
And finally! Have fun! No matter what your build you can always update it and change it. The web is your oyster! I hope my tips helped.
Hello, my name is Gisele! I'm a cartoonist, editor, and writer living on the cold shoulder of Canada. You can support me and my work through Patreon.
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