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The Internet Files - Day One: 1998.


"Not exactly an iPad"

Early seasons of the X-Files were a source of pleasure. Then they became popular. As it grew, I felt the networks slowly labouring each episode with predictable clichés and soap-opera side-shows, to appeal to a mass-audience. Eventually, I stopped watching; it really wasn’t mine any more...

Fifteen years ago, the internet was a different animal to what we have come to know and accept as standard online fare in the 21st century. This wasn’t an age when intellectually retarded teenagers trolled tribute boards with endless streams of rape and cancer jokes, from the comfort of their own pocket. Or where fartknockers possessed the ability to abuse a photo of a legless spastic by slapping It on his Facebook wall, then suggesting you are a heartless bastard - who belongs to rot in hell, for failing to produce a like for said spastic. In 1998, the world-wide-web was a million miles from filtering its way into the minds and hands of the masses. It was a tool of thinkers, architects, and philosophers. By all accounts, the biggest difference between the internet then and now, was that back then? The internet – much like the few who used it, had dignity.

You see, in the 1990’s, only genuine geeks possessed or even knew what the internet was. It wasn’t like today, where the notion of being a geek is deemed viably cool, and venturing online is as part a daily routine as taking a piss. This was when geeks spent hours in their bedroom, lacked any kind of social life, and wasted their sad little lives staring at a screen; either jacking off to doctored images of Jennifer Anniston - or waiting six hours to download a five second clip, of Ringo Starr telling everyone Paul is dead, backwards. 

At least, this was the general perception sold to the masses. In truth, the rare breed of internet user in 1998 used the tool for education. They would search for what at the time, was minimal yet factually accurate information, about a topic which interested them. Have basic global conversations with others online, purely for the sheer thrill of talking to someone in Australia in real time. Read information on upcoming movies or wrestling events, and generally engage with other software and hardware hobbyists who owned a 56k modem, about life and all its glories. Much like the early incarnations of the Olympic Games, purity was much stronger; the user base were there because they wanted to be – not because social evolution offered them the option to either use it to grow, or abuse it out of ignorance.

Perhaps the biggest difference, however, is a more apparent one. In 2013, for every solitary, intelligent person seeking information or a rational discussion about a subject of interest online, there seems to be 100 trolls ready to destroy these attempts at learning about the world. You know the type; small brain, inadequate in real life, so makes up for it hiding behind a screen. Decides to destroy anything positive because intelligent conversation hurts his brain, and so forth. Today these arseholes dominate the web, and it is they who spent the noughties corroding the purity of the internet. In other words, the inmates took over the asylum; while those who built it’s original walls and structures, have to watch as they rampantly burn a technological Picasso - like a dog pissing on a cashmere rug, I guess. 

In 1998 it was the direct opposite. There would be one troll – who was never malicious, in relation to the 100 normal people attempting to progress the web forward; easy to shrug off and ignore. Users back then were smaller in number, but greater in sophistication, natural intrigue, and – perhaps the most important factor, respected the powers of a form of technology, each new generation react to as a given created by nature; as opposed to a gift cultivated by man. 

The internet was always going to explode. It was always going to lose its purity, once the greasy, existing-by-numbers mindsets of the masses figured out how to type an email, or download porn. By this point, it would only be a matter of time before corporations, the media, self-important celebrities, scam-artists - and everyone in-between, would dictate the direction of a once pleasant online party. Fifteen years later, it is virtually impossible to have a discussion online without some moron trying to ruin it, or create a reasonable conversation, without a basement dwelling Morlock embark upon racist, homophobic, or general hate-filled nonsense. I miss how it was; much simpler, less nasty, and felt like belonging to the intelligent and well-meaning.

I never finished watching those final seasons of the X-Files, I just couldn’t; imagine Sideshow Bob trying to force his way through MacGyver, and you may understand. I still use the internet; after all, it has a whole other wonderful side to it. But sometimes, I do wish it never became as popular as it has. Then again, if it hadn’t? Hardly anybody could read this article; especially all those cowardly hate-mongers I have never even met. And much like the day of the 56k modem, the day of the troll, will not last forever…

Lee.

2 comments:

King Stelious said...

This is mostly how I feel about the internet now, however I have found there are particular places you can go where the masses don't venture, the only problem is you get some dumb teenager with a macbook going there thinking he is all different and cool and simply ruins it for everyone else with his stupidity... The internet, I feel, has too many dumb users. I liked this blog, it highlights how purity is generally lost over time with anything

Lee Gunnell said...

This is the problem faced with anything pure or well meaning. All it takes is one arsehole to come and along and ruin it. The Internet is stilll finding it's place in the world, I think.