You know what? The Internet used to be fun.
There. I said it.
The corollary to that is it is no longer fun to be a part of the internet.
I can’t tell if it’s because I’m looking back through my permanent rose-colored glasses, or if I’m just getting older and less tolerant to BS. But I sincerely think the internet has lost its charm.
To preface, I’m pretty elitist. Readers of this blog (are there even any?) should have guessed that by now. Anime, technology, and now even Internet usage – I’m pretty elitist. Is that a bad thing in of itself? Probably. But that sure as hell isn’t going to stop me from going full-on old-man-waving-cane-at-damn-kids mode.
A little background on my exposure to the Internet and its culture: I started my internet journey back when I was around 12 or 13 years old, trying fervently to figure out how to get to disney.com and play their sweet Flash games (back then Flash games were all the shit – miniclip, newgrounds). It’s not like now where Flash is being shamed for being this buggy, security-prone shell of software it is now. There was mass usage of IRC and AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), prepubescent kids asking the proverbial “a/s/l?” in random chatrooms, most of the time not yielding anything (but apparently some of them did, much to my surprise). The internet was seen as this place of unfiltered discussion. The “Wild West” of the 20th century. You could pose as anyone, post anything, and get away with what we would consider “trolling” easier, without the fear of “doxxing”. That’s not to say doxxing was non-existent back then. Trolling and making people angry half-way across the world was just seen as harmless fun. And at the end of the day, the computer would be turned off and people would return back to their normal lives, completely unaffected by whatever their digital lives did on the Internet.
Nowadays, it’s not so easy. User accounts are tied to phone numbers, people have (mistakenly) given their actual names. Personal information is seen as an expendable commodity, given away at the first chance for the hopes of getting something for free. You wouldn’t dare give away your real name, phone number, hell – even house address – to random strangers on the Internet. The fact of the matter is that the Internet has evolved to span across ubiquity, touching the lives of a wider breadth of people that in the late 90’s people wouldn’t have dreamed. Every valley girl, tween, middle-aged salary man and retiree has access to the Internet. Tweeting on your phone, sharing every personal event in one’s life is seen as average, sharing photos with text about how X girl was Y and now she needs $Z or A-many likes to stay alive – all of this is now socially acceptable.
And thanks to the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory (thanks, Penny Arcade), you have more and more people looking to mess with others, throw out shit for laughs. I hate to break it to you, internet outragists: but people have been telling others on the Internet to “kill [themselves]” and “get raped” for the last decade. It’s not like the world has this newfound affinity for saying malicious things to others for (mostly, there are exceptions obviously) the sole purpose of getting under people’s skins. It’s called goading. I’d like to not call it trolling because I think it’s a low-effort way of trolling someone. Way back, trolling someone took a combination of wit and subtlety that most people don’t have nowadays. A troll would say something controversial and roll with it, not because he/she believed in the garbage they were saying, but because it would make some random internet-goer so fucking mad it would be the funniest thing ever. Nowadays, you just have people saying the same stupid drivel like “kill yourself” and “get fucked” and then getting laughs from that. It’s not trolling. Way back, trolling was considered an art form (or, as the motivational poster would put it, a art form). If that “rustled your jimmies” then congratulations, you got trolled. The growing ubiquity of computing has, in a lot of ways helped enable more people with better tools to empower their lives. But as a consequence, the culture has changed dramatically, and, for the most part, for the worst.
It’s tiring to see this new generation of people on the internet suddenly think they can apply real-life culture in the digital world. You really can’t. Whatever happened to having fun, cracking jokes, and being this anonymous amorphous blob that says stupid things without any repercussions? Nowadays, you’re walking over eggshells trying not to offend the wrong person. God help you if you do, because getting doxxed isn’t as fun as it looks. Thankfully, I’m not a complete idiot and share my personal information online like most new-goers nowadays. You really can’t go five steps without coming across some kind of personal information. What the hell is wrong with you people?
There’s irony in that post, I know.
Anyways, I’ve lost my train of thought and interest in this topic. I spoke quite a bit with my friend Tony about this, but I think the both of us share different views about this cultural shift. Maybe we’ll cover it in a podcast one of these days.
And as always, get off my lawn.