The Old Internet

“The best thing about the old internet…” was the start of a brief rant I heard on a recent episode of Chapo Trap House, followed by a recount of the era of online that existed between 2000 and 2005, heavily influenced by Blogger Culture and before social media had really taken off (MySpace existed, Facebook was in early development).

The Old Internet, to me—someone roughly 5-10 years older than the guys on the podcast—is the one that existed from 1995 to 2000, during the Instant Messenger era—first with ICQ and then with AIM. Netscape was the main browser and message boards had replaced Listservs as the popular discourse method. Blogs existed but the internet, as a whole, was considered to be a handy but unnecessary alternative to the physical world.

But during this time, the people on those message boards and messaging services called The Old Internet the version in the early ’90s, comprised mostly of IRC and the most basic of pages on the web itself. Kids Like Me had it Easy and all that.

Nothing has really confronted our day-to-day relationship with time the way the internet has. When I was in sixth grade, any kids that talked to someone at the high school was cool. Anyone who still hung out with fifth graders was a loser. Now, at 36, it’s more than likely I read the opinions of high-schoolers and fifth-graders alike whenever I check out a random basketball highlight on /r/nba.

Jobs can now reach you 24/7. The person you are online arguing with may actually be half—or twice—your age. Thousands of years of human history where social classes are largely defined by age and nobody is considering how we’ve seemed to switch our internal notions of time to technological development as well as literal personal and physical development. Even while listening to a podcast hosted by people not even a decade my junior, and they speak about the online world from a point of reference so foreign to me it’s sometimes barely recognizable.

It’s hard to predict what comes of this, but when I think of the complete collapse of our psychic reality, it is this concept which strikes me most. A lack of understanding between generations is nothing new, however the equivocation of those voices and the general social interaction offered by the internet is. There’s this entire intangible, natural division between people as it pertains to place in time which has collapsed in on itself with the force of a dying star. What happens in the aftermath is anyone’s guess.

posted at 09:00 on 13 November 2019 to Commentary

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