Image: The Great Internet Sleepover
M. River
Organized by “pro net surfer” Bennett Williamson, the Sleepover was a confluence of five “pro” Web surfing groups, Nasty Nets, Double Happiness, Supercentral and Loshadka. These Internet collectives formed independently in the zeitgeist, and met online through a shared love of what is perhaps best described as primitive Web artifacts.
Helen Popkin
By
msnbc.com
updated 8/30/2007 5:28:10 PM ET 2007-08-30T21:28:10

Way back in Web One Point Oh, my friend and fellow Internet habitué Ree Hines and I had this game we used to play. It was called “Find the Grossest Internet Image Ever and Trick You into Looking at It.” As even the most casual Web surfing enthusiast can imagine, the possibilities were endless.

We grew more net savvy, and strategy evolved beyond finding colorful sea anemone entrails, LASIK surgery documentation or a comparatively unusual fetish site. The game was now about luring one’s increasingly-paranoid opponent into a false sense of security, either by weeks of e-mail silence, labeling a particularly odious image with an irresistible slug (like “fuzzy_bunny”) or forwarding proxy urls that gave no hint of the carnage about to open in one’s browser.

It was exciting and creative. In the dark a time before “Battlestar Galactica,” “FtGIIEaTYiLaI” gave us reason to live. But it all came crashing down one sticky day in 1997 with an incident we reluctantly refer to as “The Jelly Jar Jpeg.” Trust me, that’s all you want to know. It doesn’t matter who sent what to whom, or which one of us inadvertently opened said file within co-worker range. Suffice to say, the game was over. It was fun, but now forever compelled to eat our peanut butter solo, we happily called a truce.

Sure Ree and I played rougher than most, but show-and-tell is the InterWeb’s driving force, right after porn. Cyberspace is an infinite source of human curiosities. And while Web surfing is generally a private experience, we are social creatures. It was just a matter of time before “C’mere! Check this out! And shut the door!,” evolved into a full-on scene. Hence, the Great Internet Sleepover, Friday, August 24 at Eyebeam art and technology center in New York City.

Ree
Organized by “pro net surfer” Bennett Williamson, the Sleepover was a confluence of four “pro” Web surfing groups, Nasty Nets, Double Happiness, Supercentral and Loshadka. These Internet collectives formed independently in the zeitgeist, and met online through a shared love of what is perhaps best described as primitive Web artifacts. That is, remnants and holdovers of early html — glitter gifs, cheesy banners and the unironically cute.

Open to the public from 8 to 10 p.m., the Sleepover offered all manner of Web activity for the Internet-obsessed, including these listed events: net battles, gif animation, dirt-style html, green screen madness, MIDI jams, video games, web ephemera, dead computer sea, projections and public Web surfing. Inability to identify any of the above makes you the Ludditewith the 10 p.m. curfew — though actually, no one got booted when the time rolled around.

The whole thing was more like an actual super fun sleepover/all night high school party than one expects at an event held in an art gallery. Loud music ricocheted throughout the large concrete space, which was packed to the gills with flat-screen Macs and twenty-somethings playing wall-projected video games and drinking beer. There were tents, toddlers in bathing suits and a tiny shivering Chihuahua held by a pale young lady dressed like Annie Hall.

Art” figured in somehow, but as I do not possess a masters degree in that subject, I’m at a loss to explain how. My gentleman friend does, la-dee-da, so I’m only going by what he says. Admittedly, I’m a hater who generally rolls her eyes whenever “Art” is added to something everybody does while goofing off at work. But in my defense, many of the hardcore surfers who took part in the party’s panel discussion weren’t so clear on how “Art” figured in on the phenomenon of communal surfing either. 

Still, that there are actual organized Web surfing clubs is cool and worth knowing about. Look how far we’ve come. In the beginning, it was mostly your dumbass friends crapping up your inbox with Dr. Phil’s personality test and their blind insistence that “signing and circulating online petitions is an effective way of remedying important issues.” Those dunderheads still abound, but we also have social bookmarking sites like digg and del.icio.us, with user-based ranking systems that help sort the crap. Still, until Kevin Rose invites everyone over to his swank pad for an overnighter, surfing with friends is way more appealing. Within reason.

Take Ree and me. Ten years later, our e-relationship is still strong — much owing to our mutual “FtGIIEaTYiLI” abstinence. That’s not to say we don’t still enjoy sharing Internet artifacts, or annoying each other in cyberspace. As an elitist jerk, I take great pleasure in telling Ree that the Gmail: A Behind the Scenes You Tube video she just forwarded is sooooooo 2:26 p.m., EST, and not even culturally significant or funny, like say, the Hipster Olympics. (Which by the time you read this is already so totally over.) Good ol’ Ree retaliates with a perfectly-timed e-mail subjected something along the lines of, “Look what I just found!” Inside, there’s and a proxified link to Hamster Dance … which she’s tricked me into opening, like, 57 times.

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