My (online) Generation


I’ve been on this IRC channel (Signal now) for maybe 20 years now, maybe more. We’ve wound up having multiple events where we meet in real life, and I consider them probably my closest friend group; certainly the people I’ve stayed in contact with for the longest.

Today (August 2022) I mentioned to them that I’ve dialed back how often I read the news, and how that’s really helped me, and we came to this sort of group consensus that we’re pretty atypical. Like, most Americans are only dimly aware of what was going on in Washington whereas I have literally lost hair from stress over it.

What I would consider to be my online generation was online way before anybody else. Most of us were using modems to dial bulletin boards back in the 1980s. We remember a time when, in order to get Windows connected to a network, you had to buy separate software, and it was buggy as hell. Most of us started using Linux in the early 1990s, back when only weirdos would consider using Unix for their desktop machine. It wasn’t clear to us that networked computers were ever going to become popular, and seeing things like Facebook take off seem to us like we were the early pioneers.

There’s a lot more to say about what shaped our world, but others have probably written about it more clearly. But I feel like, as the world has begun using the Internet more, it’s probably challenging for highly online people to tease out what “normal” life is anymore. It’s so easy to look at hundreds of millions of people tweeting or posting on Facebook, and think that represents everybody’s day-to-day life, because networked computers have been our entire existence for decades.

I’m not sure it’s good for humans to be in contact with millions of other people; tt least, it’s not something we appear to be able to handling gracefully. Maybe future generations will figure this out, and it will bring the species together in a way the world has never seen. We might need that to cope with what’s coming in the next hundred years. But for now, for people like me who have spent a lot of time online for decades, it’s turning out to be nice to (re)discover smaller communities.