Stacy Horn (right) founded the online community Echo in 1989 as New York’s answer to California’s pioneering Well. She opened it to the public in 1990, when the digital revolution was in its infancy. Echo now is a tight group of about 500, many of them writers and artists, who, Horn says, “talk about work, love, what MP3s they’re downloading, and what’s on TV.”
Echo members have established passionate bonds, both platonic and conjugal. The first Echo baby is now 11, and a couple more were born a few weeks ago. I joined Echo (echonyc.com) in 1993.
We asked Echoids about their New Year’s resolutions—especially those involving exercise, relationships, personal pampering, and other activities that require interfacing with the “wet” world.
On Echo since 1989. I was the first! I started Echo because the company I was working for moved to Virginia and I had to find something else to do. I didn’t know it would completely change everything in my life. I love Echo, and I want it to stay around as long as I live because I want to be part of it. It’s still my home base.
Your New Year’s resolutions for 2004: Eat fruit and something green every day. Talk to at least one stranger every day. Forget about that guy who dumped me.
Did you follow them? Yes to the first and third one. I talk to strangers only sporadically. It’s almost always worthwhile, though.
What were your results? I’m not dead from cancer yet.
Resolutions for 2005: I used to walk miles every day, and last year I became more sedentary. So this year I am going to walk a lot again, and talk to more strangers along the way.
BENEDICT DOESN’T STAND UP FOR CHRISTMAS
On Echo since 1995. It was a nice portal into the non-high-school world for an alienated teenager. I’m no longer quite so alienated, nor nearly so teenage, but Echo is still a good place to exchange news of the world and of culture, to keep up with a wide circle of colorful acquaintances, and to keep in touch with a few close friends.
Your New Year’s resolutions for 2004: I did not make any. I find that I am able to take on tough tasks when I am ready, and no sooner.
Results? I spent a fourth year with my beautiful and learned girlfriend, Suzanne, who this year realized her long-standing dream of entering a Ph.D. program in comparative literature. I took up photography, and have made prints that now hang in my apartment and those of a few family members. I began the parallel processes of selling my apartment and buying a new one (I desire less street noise, and Suzanne passionately desires more living space). I traveled to Florida and Ohio in efforts to elect John Kerry for president. I got my first haircut in 11 years.
Resolutions for 2005: I would like to sell some of my prints. (If there is a wall in your apartment or your office that needs a little something, perhaps we can talk.) I will have to move, and of course that is a lot of work. I will embark on my fifth year working at Panix, which is far longer than I’ve ever worked anywhere before.
It will also be my fifth year with Suzanne, during which I will help her stay sane as she balances part-time work, teaching responsibilities, and her own classwork. I may occasionally have to remind her to help me with my own sanity needs.
I’m long overdue to give my little brother a visit at college.
You can call these resolutions if you like, but that’s not how I think about them. It’s just what’s coming up on the agenda. If I were going to make a resolution, it would be to get some exercise already.
GEORGINA’S GOT THE GOODS [Anna Lank]
On Echo since 1998. It meant a community I could access at 2 a.m. when rocking a newborn, parents that weren’t just parents but interesting humans as well. I was looking for the information and support. Have gotten all that and more. Way more.
Your New Year’s resolutions for 2004: (1) Be kinder to my kids, i.e., be a more patient mom. Pray for guidance, as it were. (2) Find meaningful work.
Did you follow them? Mostly.
Results? (1) I’m better than I was. It helps to have made a conscious decision to do this. (2) Jackpot. Love what I am doing (I recruit, train, evaluate, and otherwise organize actors and laypeople to portray patients for medical students and foreign medical professionals, who must pass clinical competency exams in order to get their licenses to practice medicine. (See c3ny.org.)
Resolutions for 2005: Solve the weight/exercise/food thing. Took some strides in the past year toward this—lost 20 pounds (Atkins- based), Pilates classes . . . but now have to fit it all in with work and parenting. Ask me again in ’06.
On Echo since 1995. I saw an ad in BOMB. I got the (ultimately correct) impression that Echo was the place for interesting, individualist, funny, smart, creative types.
Your New Year’s resolutions for 2004: The real self-overhaul happened in 2003, when I quit my seven-year, two-pack-a-day Marlboro Light habit and adjusted another bad habit; 2004 was a continuation of these resolutions. I also wanted to see the inside of the gym more frequently, to get into really good shape and shed some unwanted pounds.
Did you follow them? My real resolve kicked in after Memorial Day 2004, when I opened an item in Echo’s FOOD conference, #318: “My kinda Low Carb, kinda other things too Food Journal”—an ongoing inventory of my eating and exercise habits. Other Echoids have added theirs. Being accountable for everything I ate, not only to myself but to readers, helped me stay on the straight and narrow.
Results? I reclaimed my girlish figure.
Resolutions for 2005: To spend more time away from the computer and more in Real Life with other people, entertaining and socializing, especially in my apartment. To update my website. To resume my also-put-on-hold artistic projects or switch gears and try to figure out what exactly I really want to do instead. To learn Arabic, improve my French, and fix up my German.
To relearn to ice-skate. To learn to meditate.
SMOKE [Mark Russell]
On Echo since 1992. The man who helped install our network at P.S.122 turned me on to it. He left. I stayed. I fell in platonic cyberlove with Stacy Horn. Stacy and I used to tell each other we had the best jobs in New York. Having a virtual New York neighborhood has been a touchstone for me for many years. I love its secret corners, big characters, passionate and funny writing. It’s the community I turned to during 9-11, the election, or whenever I needed to hear another voice in the madness.
Your New Year’s resolutions for 2004: To get through the year with a positive attitude. And lose 20 pounds.
Did you follow them? Tried.
Results? Lost 10 pounds. Kept the attitude positive for the most part.
Resolutions for 2005: Lose 20 pounds.
VISIGOTH [Douglas Anthony Cooper]
On Echo since 1993 or 1994. I discovered Echo during those heady days when the prefix cyber inspired a frisson rather than a cringe. For a long time, a good third of my social life was Echo-centric. Then I realized that it wasn’t all that social—it involved, well, sitting alone in a room with scrolling ASCII characters. So I left, for many years. I’m now back, because these days I’m almost never in New York, and Echo’s a nice postpartum umbilical cord.
Your New Year’s resolutions for 2004: I resolved to move to Mexico and finish a novel.
Did you follow it? I did.
Results? I laughed, I cried. I fired my agent. I got a contract. It’s coming out in June.
Resolutions for 2005: To finish the second book. (It’s a two-book contract.) To cure myself of my Internet addiction, which will probably involve quitting Echo again. To stop hanging out with gringos, so that my Spanish will begin to exist. To conquer apathy, purge lethargy, terminate the brute procrastination.
On Echo since 1997. In the summer of 1997, a few months after my husband died, I was only What Had Happened to Me; I had become only Richard’s Poor Sad Unemployed Widow, Waiting for Something Else to Happen to Her. Two Echoids, Hadley and Angus, sat down at my computer after dinner one evening and brought up a screenful of goofy names with little stories and relationships attached (“He’s the One Who Makes Porn Sites”; “She’s the One who Stalked the One Who Used to Date the Dancer”). Echo was where I could go and take only as much of My Story as I chose, or none. I could sit down on this bar stool in a strange town and tell everyone my name was Persephone and I’d been raised by circus folk. I could just be The One Who Types With Too Many Capital Letters.
Your New Year’s resolutions for 2004: To seek out and recognize joy when it bites me in the ass.
Did you follow it? No.
Results? Very little joy.
Resolutions for 2005: See above.
RASSA FRASSA MERMAID
On Echo since 1994-ish. It’s where I go for all manner of advice, from how to fix a lamp to how to get my Mac to do what I want it to do. It’s a bunch of old friends, some of whom I’ve never met, who have watched me evolve from a West Village girl to an Upper East Side stroller mom to a minivan-driving expatriate, living in the suburbs and yearning for Sable’s lobster salad.
Your New Year’s resolutions for 2004: If I made any, I’ve forgotten them.
Resolutions for 2005: One big one: to do a better job of being with my husband and my kids—not just being in the same space at the same time, but really being focused and present; not contemplating the next thing on my to-do list while I go through the motions of playing dolls or doing puzzles; paying attention and listening when they talk to me, not waiting my turn to speak; really being more in the moment.
Then, of course, there are the little ones: Eat more fruit, moisturize, and put the toilet paper on the holder, not the bathroom counter.
On Echo since 1991. It’s an addiction less life-threatening than, say, crack.
Your New Year’s resolutions for 2004: With success rates: Finish my novel—73 percent; lose 50 pounds—21 percent; be nicer—12.5 percent; make more money— -8 percent.
Resolutions for 2005: Finish my novel, lose 50 pounds, be nicer, make more money.
MOP [Anne Sussman]
On Echo since 1998. On a first and last date, a guy from Swoon (before Nerve, there was Swoon) told me about an online discussion board. It sounded incredibly nerdy, as all online discussion groups did, and vaguely cultish. But he was cute, so I listened. He gave me a copy of Stacy Horn’s Cyberville and urged me to read it. The next day, I got a very well-written kiss-off e-mail that was maybe 20 percent kissing off, and 80 percent shilling for Echo. He said three times how much I’d “flourish” there. So, I joined. And fell in love. With various men (with whom things invariably didn’t work out), but more important, with Echo, which is like a member of my family. I love it, I hate it, I take breaks from it, but I always come back.
Your New Year’s resolutions for 2004: Get a job. Get a boyfriend. Get sane.
Did you follow them? In a 33 percent kinda way.
Results? I got a job. I’ve been on various dates. Oh, and sanity? C’mon. You didn’t really expect that to have panned out.
Resolutions for 2005: To write more. To be more social. To allow myself to spend more money than I am comfortable with in order to improve my quality of life. To get a boyfriend. To get sane. Scratch that. To get a sane boyfriend.
APPARATUS [Jack Taylor]
On Echo since 1991 or ’92. A friend in Colorado joined the Well and ballyhooed its value as an alternative information source and community. I couldn’t afford the long-distance charges to San Francisco. My friend said I should check out Echo.
Your New Year’s resolutions for 2004: My resolutions for 2004 were girthy, zaftig, and filled with the chewy nougat of aspiration: completing three large oil paintings a week; writing three books in six months; learning to fix the plumbing in my house; learning to eat fire; learning to ward off the Evil Eye; learning the name and location of my future wife; remaining in San Diego; and ensuring the supremacy of butter over guns for future generations.
Did you follow them? I’m a better planner than executor.
Results? I completed 10 small oils and one book in 12 months, hired a contractor to put in plumbing, burned my lips on a flaming shot of sambuca, and have moved to Los Feliz, where I live a block away from Jumbo’s Clown Room.
Resolutions for 2005: I plan to avenge butter.
I AM THE KING I HAVE NO TESTICKALS
On Echo since 1999. I joined Echo—which I kept hearing about in my graduate research into online communities—before I moved to New York, in an attempt to make some connections. My attachment is no longer obsessive, but Echo is still the place I go to talk about the things that are most important to me. And on 9-11 I realized, as did many Echoids, that an online space can be the emotional foundation of a life-changing, if harrowing, experience.
Your New Year’s resolutions for 2004: To be honest with myself.
Did you follow it? I tried.
Results? By being brutally honest about my physical condition and my long avoidance of exercise, I was able to short-circuit my well-practiced methods for avoiding getting in shape. I just shut my own mouth and went to the gym. Twenty pounds and a pair of great legs later, I get to practice my newfound honesty by admiring myself in the mirror and liking what I see.
Resolutions for 2005: (1) Compete in my first ballroom dancing competition with my new partner. (2) Make a profit from the amateur catering I do. (3) Belly fat: the final frontier.
On Echo since 1994. A friend called and said, Hey, you have e-mail, right? Did you know you can talk to more than one person at a time? And that they can all be artsy and cool? I joined and was thoroughly intimidated for the first six months. Then I plunged in, and have never left. No other online experience (and few offline) has come close to Echo for revealing the soul, brains, humor, and compassion of real people. They are the major source of procrastination in my life. I trust them thoroughly. These days I often Echo from my Treo while walking down the street, which is starting to scare me.
Your New Year’s resolutions for 2004: (1) Don’t work so hard. (2) Remain calm. (3) Go on some dates. (4) Maybe even meet a nice guy. (5) Try to do a little good in the world.
Did you follow them? I tried, but I was usually working too hard.
Results? In the fall I started to do better with items 3 and 5, and have slowly begun to make inroads on 2.
Resolutions for 2005: (1) Make some more progress on last year’s resolutions. (2) Take a really, really long vacation, write a book, make a million or so dollars, start a charitable foundation, and live happily ever after (with the results of resolution 4, ideally).
BURUN [Jodi Shapiro]
On Echo since 1998. As a photographer, I’ve always wanted to keep a distance between myself and my subjects. When I joined Echo, it was initially to just be an observer. Along the way, I became an active participant. I’ve met incredible people through Echo, and through them have had some incredible adventures. Echo enabled me to reconnect with a friend I had lost track of, and to meet people I knew by name or reputation, but lacked the intestinal fortitude to approach at a party or similar social occasion. I’m old-fashioned; I like being introduced to people by a third party, and Echo has served as a good third party.
Your New Year’s resolutions for 2004: To survive and be happy, and the hell with everything else. Three days after Christmas last year, I was nearly killed by a speeding car. I had the cliché near-death experience and was compelled to start thinking about my life, my career, and what I could do to unstick myself. After a few months of physical rehab and some minor setbacks, I was able to go out and photograph again, and it felt really, really good. It became clear what I had to do to be happy.
Did you follow them? I started taking more risks in terms of photographic assignments. At the behest of the friend I reconnected with through Echo, I threw caution (and two paychecks) to the wind and self-financed a trip to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, with the intent of photographing the participants. I spent two weeks in Binion’s Horseshoe, getting to know my subjects, making lots of friends (and some enemies), and shooting a lot of film. It really drove home the point that the distance between myself and my subjects doesn’t have to be psychological as well as physical.
Results? As gamblers will tell you, big risks pay off big. They also tell you that winning is addictive. My trip has made it possible for me to do some of the best work of my life—one of my images of Greg Raymer, the 2004 WSOP winner, was made into a commemorative poker chip, which is a cool thing to show people when they ask, “So what do you do?” at parties. I fell in love with my subjects, which is something I never thought was possible for me.
Resolutions for 2005: To just keep doing what I have been doing. I can’t wait for the 2005 WSOP, so I can do even better work than I did this year. I’m hoping to photograph more close-up sports, not just poker. I’m thinking Scrabble tournaments are the next big thing.
On Echo since 1995. An ex-boyfriend was a member and thought I’d like it. I did. It’s a small miracle: a real writers’ community, with a smattering of everything else you need.
Your New Year’s resolutions for 2004: I had just come back from a trip to Italy with two girlfriends—my first trip. I did a little triage on my life: (1) More Italy—maybe that was a metaphor for more happiness. (2) Get rid of Mr. Wrong. (3) Find Mr. Right.
Did you follow them? I did! The second I got home, I bought a cheap ticket to go back to Italy again. I ended a long-term relationship that was going nowhere. I wrote an ad for nerve.com that did not exactly hide my essential snarkdom. I responded to one from this guy sitting on top of his desk at work, not even smiling. He was 5-3—four inches shorter than I am!
Results? We got married November 8 at City Hall.
Resolutions for 2005: Make enough space for the two of us in a studio. It’s like my 2004 Italian triage resolution: Clean out your life, make space for happiness.
HOWL [Howard Mittelmark]
On Echo since 1990(?).
I knew there was a world out there in my computer, but Echo was the first place that sounded like I might want to stick around and make myself at home.
Your New Year’s resolutions for 2004: (1) Kill self. (2) Alternatively, quit smoking. (3) Stop spending entire working days hanging out on Echo when I should be making a deadline. (4) Do more drugs; see more live music.
Did you follow them? (1) Apparently not. (2) Three or four times. (3) See 1 above. (4) Yes.
Results? (1) Life continues, parole denied. (2) Intermittent rage, weight fluctuation. (3) Acute deadline anxiety; chain-smoking. (4) Pixies rocked.
Resolutions for 2005: See 2004.
NOA [Noa Jones]
On Echo since 1994. It’s a safety net I can leap into when I need to vent or when I need to find out where to buy the best Pont l’Evêque. At times it was utterly thrilling, logging on in the middle of the night and yo-ing people.[“Yo-ing” is Echo’s instant-message equivalent.]
Your New Year’s resolutions for 2004: I vowed to control my versions. I know this sounds strange, but I have a real problem tracking versions of my writing and other projects.
Did you follow it? No. My computer died and it’s worse than ever.
Results? Utter chaos.
Resolutions for 2005: To do yoga and floss regularly. To break a sweat and laugh heartily each day—I heard it is a Chinese formula for good health. To write at least one more short story. To watch my mind for at least five seconds a few times every day. To learn Hindi or Spanish (can’t decide).
On Echo since 1991. Echo means a lot to me. I found my wife, Nancy “Ngraham” Graham, there, for one thing, but I also went to lots of fun parties, ran the Echo gopher service, participated in art shows, and even got a job or two. I got to know at least 50 of the people behind the handles.
Your New Year’s resolutions for 2004: To use my considerable unemployed time to branch out artistically and try to make some money at it.
Did you follow them? Yes and no!
Results? I set up a new website, jhhl.net, specifically to present my artistic works and philosophy. I went to a few seminars about setting myself up as an artist. I probably need more of them. Nancy and I created a number of multimedia works together and presented them at an evening at Deep Listening Space in Kingston, New York. Now we’re submitting the animation we did to various film festivals. So, the art part is progressing, but the money part isn’t.
Resolutions for 2005: Keep trying to establish an artistic life, further clarify what I really want, gain the ability to express those needs, and, uh, get a job.
KZ [Karen Rose]
On Echo since 1989! I am one of the original “Echo 20.” I was an online “personality” in the early days of telecom; Stacy recruited me to help populate her new online salon. Echo was home in so many ways. Now that I no longer live in the city, probably more so. It’s my link to all that is current and vital in New York.
Your New Year’s resolutions for 2004: (1) To live up to my financial goal for the year. (2) To be a kinder, gentler me. I can be fairly snarky in my comments and never shy about expressing them. (3) To join a gym, work out more, and get back into shape.
Did you follow them? I didn’t do badly!
Results? (1) I was a few thousand shy of my financial goal but did OK for the year anyway. (2) I’m nicer to others than I used to be, often surprising people with my generosity, but need to learn a bit more tact when it comes to expressing my opinions. (3) I don’t want to talk about it.
Resolutions for 2005: (1) Same goal financially. Maybe this time I’ll actually hit it. (2) Listen more, talk less, be less judgmental. (3) Get back into shape! Really. At least I’ve already joined the gym.
Echo since 1994. A friend from high school told me Echo was a woman-friendly online space. It was my first venture online. I met my true love, found a job, moved to New York, made wonderful friends. In many ways, it has changed my life.
Your New Year’s resolutions for 2004: My main resolution was to do more yoga.
Did you follow it? I didn’t do less yoga. I kept it consistent throughout the year.
Results? The benefits of yoga are legion. Strength, calmness, a larger view of the world.
Resolutions for 2005: To continue doing things that are good for me—eating right,exercising, etc. To be more politically active, to try to save the world from the forces of darkness that gained so much ground in 2004.
DUCKSTRAP [Chris Dykstra]
On Echo since 2000 I was a technology consultant and attending Super Cyber Suds, a function of the New York New Media Association. I found a brochure for Echo. Now, I log on at least once a day for rambling, esoteric discussions on the mysteries of life as we know it-politics, male life, words, the Internet, computers, books, travel, and the just plain weird.
New Year’s resolutions for 2004? I resolved to work as hard as I could to elect as many Democrats as possible.
Did you follow them? Yes. I campaigned 20 hours a week for six months, started three blogs, and maintained the state website for the Minnesota Democratic Party.
Results? We gained 13 seats in the Minnesota House of Representatives and carried the state for Kerry. I know I personally couldn’t have done much more to realize the kind of world I want to live in.
Resolutions for 2005? To get back into peak physical condition. In 2004, I blew out my knee (ACL) playing soccer. I face a six-month rehabilitation. It’s likely I’ll have to give up the sport I have played for 25 years and find another outlet.
To test my leadership skills. I just started my own company and am driving the implementation of several large technology projects for progressive causes.
To build better relationships with my co-workers, parents, ex-wife, kids, and girlfriend, I recently sold my house to move closer to my kids. I have to sand some of the rough edges off myself, work on acceptance of myself and others, and pay attention.
ARSINOE [Kathy Schnapper]
On Echo since 1990 It’s an intelligent, quiet corner of cyberspace where one can always find stimulating conversation. Currently, I host the Art Conference.
New Year’s resolutions for 2005? The only “resolutions” that matter are the number of pixels on the computer monitor. Last year my goal was to travel a lot and to spend more time with close family and friends. The high point of the year was a riverboat trip with my parents from Amsterdam to Vienna. For 2005, I am focusing on fixing up my home, so that the friends who were such generous hosts to our family will find a comfortable welcome in New York.
On Echo since 1993 In San Francisco, I stumbled upon the Well, wondered if there was a New York version, and then forgot about it once I was back home. A year later, I read about Echo as well as some other bulletin boards. Checked out most of them; Echo was the only one to capture and keep my attention after the first few months.
New Year’s resolutions for 2004? Be healthier, be nicer, floss regularly, etc. I also vowed to work on efforts to unseat a president.
Did you follow them? The health-related ones were vague enough that I can say I did. I did some tremendously healthy things in the spring and fall, and slipped some in the summer and winter. On the political front, I gave some money and went down to Florida to monitor the election and get out the vote.
Results? I weigh less and have more stamina than I did last year at this time. Florida turned out to be about experience (great) but not results (gag).
Resolutions for 2005? (1) Continue walking as much as possible. The subway’s loss will be my gain. (2) Keep saving money. (3) Really learn how to surf. (4) Spend more time seeking out, developing, and maintaining relationships. I tend to let people just slip away, and then feel sad about it. (5) Finish most of the projects I start. (6) Eat less chocolate. Eat less cheese. At least, only eat the really good kinds.
Find out more about this online community at echonyc.com. Stacy Horn’s third book,The Restless Sleep: Inside New York City’s Cold Case Squad, will be published by Viking in July.