All this week, join us for a delightfully unwell celebration of our Internet Boyfriends. They’re sweet, beautiful men we’ve never met, and we can’t wait to share the fully formed relationships we have with each of them.
Michael Blount didn’t need YouTube, Twitter or Instagram to go viral. He didn’t shamelessly engineer a Twitter trend, or callously market-test a litany of lowest-common-denominator memes in hopes that one of them would be subsumed by the algorithm. No, in 1998, the culture didn’t yet possess the precedents of virality. Yes, the internet was still capable of creating stars out of thin air — consider the Dancing Baby, the “I Will Survive” alien, the hundreds of jump-scare pages that dominate the Netscape archives — but these were all selected through pure chaos theory. The internet was a feral beast in its primordial age, which means that when Michael Blount asked for a girlfriend on his personal web page, nobody could’ve expected what happened next.
“I was taking an online class where I learned to code. I was chatting with a lot of people on Yahoo! at the time and wanted to make, like, a profile page,” says Blount, in 2022, long after his brush with immortality. “I imagine I wanted to find an online girlfriend or something.”
And so, on ancient HTML, Blount inscribed a yearbook headshot of his mid-pubescent self — blue polo shirt, wire-framed glasses and an infamous dark-brown mullet — absolutely radiating with youthful romantic ambition. “Hello my future girlfriend, this is what I sound like,” begins the audio file that automatically cued whenever anyone entered Blount’s ancestral domain. The page itself has been lost to time, but a kind soul has documented the remains in a handy YouTube video. “I’m 11 years old, in the sixth grade, in New Mexico. Please PM me. Bye! Thanks for stopping by!”
The recording is crinkled and compressed under the restrictions of dial-up modems — remember, this was an era before Myspace, or Facebook, or really, any of the infrastructure that kids use to connect with other suitors today. So consider Blount’s missive something like a message in a bottle. The denizens of the late 1990s web pine in the same way we do today, but they needed to go to extraordinary lengths to actualize those desires. “I just wanted to connect with someone,” recalls Blount, now in his 30s, and still living in New Mexico.
Internet trends are intractable by nature, but the essential researchers at KnowYourMeme have done the vital work identifying the inception point of Michael Blount fame. It was 2001, three years after his amateur website hit the internet, when Tom Fulp posted a link to Blount’s treatise on his flash-cartoon repository, Newgrounds. Suddenly, “Hello My Future Girlfriend” was everywhere: 4Chan, IGN message boards, GameFAQs threads. The nature of Blount’s spirit — earnest, lovelorn, thirsty and exceedingly neophytic — was catnip for a generation of digital edgelords. And so, he entered an inaugural pantheon of memes. Blount had no intention of lighting forums ablaze; he built that website for a singular purpose, and that was to find a dang girlfriend. But now it was being disseminated by the masses — going viral, if you will, at a time when there were no guides written on how to survive a sudden shock of attention.
“I suddenly got a lot of emails, because the site did have my email address on it. There were a range of things in there. Some were nasty, some were good, like, interested in [being my internet girlfriend]. Or they were catfishing,” says Blount. “It was kind of surprising. At one point, I had people calling my parents’ house in the middle of the night. I had some friends that thought it was cool, but my parents didn’t care for it.”
Remember, Blount was only 11-years-old when he became the internet’s universal boyfriend. And the internet isn’t a kind place, especially when you’ve been made an exceptionally easy target. It’s one of the reasons his webpage was such a mystery for so long. Blount didn’t make any real efforts to capitalize on the notoriety. How could he? There were no brand deals to broker; no T-shirts to sell or Cameos to distribute. The well-oiled machinery that transmutes clout into wealth was simply nonexistent in the late 1990s. Instead, all Blount received was a legion of trolls, which is a grave injustice for a kid playing the field in Yahoo! chat.
That said, I get the sense that Blount has grown into his status as a prodigal online legend with grace. In 2010, when he was in his early 20s, he returned to the internet to close the loop on his one-of-a-kind legacy. The video is titled “Hello My Future Boyfriend,” and Blount lets us know that in his intervening teenage years he found the words to articulate his sexuality. Blount is gay, and he’s open for applications of a slightly different variety. “I’m 22, still in New Mexico, and I’m online a lot so you should IM me,” he says. Apologies to all who once stuffed Blount’s inbox in hopes that they could be his girlfriend; those days are long gone, and the record has been set straight.
“I’m at the point where I can look back on it and laugh,” wrote Blount on a Reddit post where he launched his comeback. “Although I’d still love to make money off it, it really hasn’t been a priority for me. I do still cringe whenever I hear the audio playing.”
Blount tells me he’s currently taking college courses, and hopes to move into a business administration job after he graduates. He still spends a lot of time online, but left his coding career behind in middle school. That’s one of the ultimate truths about virality: No matter how hot the stove gets, eventually everything goes back to normal.
These days I think of the “Hello My Future Girlfriend” kid through a prism for so many of our own cosmopolitan misadventures in online romance. Consider all of the different lines we’ve endured on Tinder, the shapeless enigma of a first date, the treacherous social mores that dictate when it is, or isn’t, okay to double-text. It enfeebles the mind! At the end of the day, we’re all just sixth graders taking a shot in the dark and hoping for the best.
Michael Blount was ahead of his time; he’ll be our boyfriend forever.