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Thoughts on The Internet Going Into 2023, or, What The Fuck Is Going On and Why Are We Letting It Happen

My History With The WWW

When I was a small kid (let's say 20 years ago, 6 years old), the Internet to me was mostly Yahooligans and like, educational websites. The kind of website where you'd think, "I wanna learn about lizards", and you'd find a veritable fucking encyclopedia of lizards seemingly run by one person working for a zoo just for the love of the game (the lizard game). Bespoke .gifs, interactive Flash elements later on if they got fancy. That was fine for a while but after I learned all I could about lizards and things, I thought "Does this Web have places that... aren't curated by Yahoo?"

IT FUCKING DID . Too many to list. Shout out to Kitten Cannon, the most transgressive thing I thought I'd ever see in my life. Many pleasant afternoons after school but before my parents got home were spent on all sorts of silly Flash games. One thing I discovered early on though, let's say 2005, changed the way I used the Internet entirely--

GAIA ONLINE (No, seriously)

For those unfamiliar, Gaia Online was (is? edit: wow it is ) a virtual world with little anime guys you clothed with items from a digital Hot Topic. Every store you used your gold in was basically a little Hot Topic. Everything was either anime, emo, or a combination of the two. It was perfect. The gold you would get by playing games, exploring the world, and trading items on the marketplace (don't get me started on this; an entire post could be written about the market crash). The other way to get gold? Posting on the forums.

That's right. Gaia Online was my first forum I actively participated in. I think the first forum you lurk on and eventually join says a lot about a person, far more than any horoscope could. Take what you will from the fact that my middle school RP threads still probably exist on a website whose virtual economy imploded due to something called Flynn's Booty (I said don't get me started ). I had anime and emo all over me and I was discovering how to not only interact with people online but how to discover myself in the process, as corny as that sounds. I could get into the whole thing with the childhood and the et cetera, but suffice to say these forums helped me during a very difficult and formative period in my life. They also sparked something in me that has yet to die--

The Poster's Drive

Every poster knows what I'm talking about. You simply gotta post. This can mean many things and take many forms; there have been posters walking among us for centuries. Some of the largest figures in history were posters. Karl Marx... James Joyce, uhhh, Martin Luther? Yeah. All of them posters. Ancient cave paintings are posts made by people who would've killed each other with rocks for the chance to join a forum like I did. How lucky I was; I didn't realize it at the time, but I had discovered my Poster's Drive at the end of the golden age of forums.

I try very hard not to sink too heavily in the comforting quicksand of nostalgia but you're reading this longform blog post on my Neocities website, so clearly I don't succeed in this too much. But I like to think my nostalgia for the forums era is reasonably well-informed, not too colored by rose-y glasses. Gaia Online had fierce flame wars and bullying problems, and once I branched out to other more mature forums I saw even more... behaviors . You know the ones. But at least back then, the spaces we were on had moderators who were also part of the community! Moderators were posters too. They had the Drive (most of the time). They got it.


I probably don't need to tell you about the rise of social media, right? Please tell me you know what happened. When I first discovered this social media stuff, it was called MySpace. It was sort of like forums but my friend Tom was there. You probably met Tom if you were there too. Anyway, I was on there far too young, just surfing around finding any old thing to do with an increasing lack of supervision. There still felt like there was a million things to find and play around with online. I landed on MySpace specifically because this was when I was starting to really get into music. I found so many bands, most now completely lost to time and data loss, and started building my first prescence on a social network.

Even at the time, I knew this was a whole different beast compared to forums. Those could technically also be considered social networks, but social media is its own seperate thing, I think. I loved the immediacy of broadcasting my thoughts in a blog post. I loved how, rather than the focus being solely on the conversations like with old school forums, it was more about showcasing yourself and your friends. Plus the whole concept of friending or following or whatever the particular site calls it, nothing like that really on forums. At the time, these seemed like obvious advantages. Now, as you might've guessed, I don't feel like that as much. I regret being part of the largescale migration from smaller, better moderated spaces to corporate data silos where there are sinister reasons for why the service is free. MySpace to Facebook to Tumblr to Twitter. Many years spent connecting and disconnecting from so many bits of communities. I thought I was "building" spaces for myself on these platforms.

While I can't deny the personal positive impact of being on social media, the meaningful connections and creative/professional opportunities were incidental to the actual structure of whatever corporate nonsense I was feeding my data too. The negative impacts increase on a near daily basis, however. The past 2 years I've grown increasingly bitter about being on Twitter, my main social platform for the past 7 years. 7 years? Jesus christ. 7 years of quote tweet dunks, Main Characters of the Day, hateful reply guys, other guys pretending you're the guy they invented to get angry at even though you're not a guy and you didn't even DO anything!

Real people who will die some day will log on & willfully misinterpret things I say just to have a reason to yell at me. That thing I mentioned about MySpace losing data? I wrote an emotional, heartfelt thread about how great of a loss it was for the company to have wiped years of their own history last year; I became a target of a spontaneous Twitter firing squad because I was being cringe??? Or something?????? People got very, very mean about seemingly nothing at all. It was really upsetting and soured me on the entire fucking endeavor. Not like I was thrilled by it 100% to begin with. Twitter was built, over the course of many years, to facilitate that kind of horrible interaction very well. It wasn't nearly this bad when I first joined but the framework for it was there. A system is what it does and right now all it does is piss me off.

I'll miss the thrill of shooting off my mouth 140, and then later 280, characters at a time to thousands of similarly deranged losers (and let's be honest I'm not leaving the site entirely until the servers explode), but I need to wean myself off as much as I can. The New Guy fucking sucks and it's all anyone tweets about anymore. You know an online community is dying/dead when all it does is talk about itself. I GET IT though, the dude well and truly sucks. Seems unfair to feel the need to leave a space just because the worst poster on the planet bought it. But I should. We all should. Thankfully, like I said, it's really not important to my main goal online: Always Be Posting (and connecting with people in meaningful ways).

New Leaf Turnin'

SO, that brings me here, to this website. This blog, this post, this very sentence you're reading now. I don't have all of the answers for what needs to be done for the Web as a whole. I know we need less capitalist meddling but hell if I know the way to go about that . But I know I needed to do this. I needed to slap some HTML together and build a space that won't be bought by a right wing billionaire with a desperate need to be both in charge and liked. Neocities seems like a solid host and if that changes in the future? I'll take my HTML and slap it on a server I host.

I'm tired of building fake online spaces on shifting sand. I want to open my window and scream "I'M MAD AS HELL AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE" and wake everyone up in my neighborhood and tell them all to make a webpage and they'll take me to jail for disturbing the peace and I'll break out of jail with the power of friendship and solidarity. I want to make a webring full of all the nice people and tell them that things can just be nice forever if we work towards keeping them that way.

There should be more websites. I hope you'll make some with me.

Nicky Flowers - 12/18/2022 - Keep Circulating The Tapes (and the RSS Feed)


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