Despite the bust ups, yearning for goth popularity did have one major advantage: “We all learned to code from it,” says Clark, “because if you wanted that sweet, sweet greebo clout you had to have a big presence.”
His brother Dean Gray who was once a Top User on the site agrees, citing the platform as being his King Of The Internet stage. He tells Kerrang! that he’d use VampireFreaks to speak to people from all over the world in an age before smartphones.
“You could express yourself however you felt you wanted to at the time, make your own profiles and such. I met my two best friends from it,” says Dean. “One of them, Colin, now works in web design, which is definitely because of [VampireFreaks] – he got into it because I was teaching him bits and pieces of web design and wanted to make cool stuff. The other got a job at (multinational audit company) PWC; she didn’t know Excel when she started and quickly realised it was very much like HTML, so rapidly excelled there.”
Now a professional photographer, Dean credits the site as being the reason for him getting into the practice: “[VF] got me interested in wherever art meets technology. I’m studying computer programming with cyber security now, probably because of it too.”
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We spoke to Dean’s friend Colin who currently works as a front-end web developer, crediting building VampireFreaks profiles as an early lesson in coding.
“VF was a well-known social site for the alternative teenagers in Aberdeen. I was involved with creating profiles for my friends and also admining a couple of the ‘cults’, (the equivalent of a Facebook group) as well as starting up the one for Aberdeen,” recalls Colin today. “Because of the vast amount of customisation you could do on your profiles at the time, this took me down the route of learning basic HTML and CSS.”
“VampireFreaks was a haven for young baby goths who were being bullied a ton in their real lives, because it gave a platform for you to be yourself without fear,” says photographer Emily Rose England. Choosing to seek friendships through sites like VampireFreaks helped to shape Emily’s personal identity, crediting VF as being the perfect solace for an alternative teenager growing up in the early 2000s: “I lived with someone I met on there and have been on holiday with another, I’m still really good friends with them both to this day.''