I think there is actually a very small percentage of people who truly remember what the early internet was like. I'm talking 90's, early 2000's -- before smartphones, before social media, before wifi.
The older generation at the time was too "ancient" to fully understand it. They were still figuring out what e-mail was. (Remember when it had a hyphen?)
The youngest generation was still in diapers.
It was the youth generation -- those who were preteens, teenagers, early 20s -- the Gen Xers and Millennials of today. My people.
So, what do I remember about the internet?
It was like a brand new world, where you stumbled upon these random pages with just text and photos -- most of the information being really strange and questionable. I remember going through a phase where I was really into Wiccan stuff, and I remember those cheesy Geocities pages of definitions and incantations. When we were writing papers at school, at first we weren't allowed to use any sources off the internet, because they weren't credible. By the time I left high school, we could use some internet sources -- but we were extremely limited to a certain number and had to have books or other resources as well.
There were also less things on the internet -- and somehow everyone found them. I think it was just by word of mouth. There were the same chain letters that circulated in your email -- you know, if you didn't pass it on, you would DIE! Oh man, the fear that permeated in my middle school circle of friends -- was it really true? There was also my favorite -- the Hamster Dance -- that glorious, one-page of a site with that dumdumdum music and those 16-bit hamster graphics just lined up in rows, and slowly turning around to the music. My friends and I "learned" that dance and danced it in person all the time together -- yes, even at school dances (we were so cool.)
The internet back then was very small. When you signed onto your AOL (or AIM if you couldn't afford the full service -- though all those free trials could keep you going for a while), you just had your group of friends (all from your everyday in-person life, too) and you only chatted with them. Unless you ventured into a chat room, which was ALWAYS sleazy. A/S/L, anyone?
Also, your timeframe on the internet was very short. We all used dial-up modems, that were connected to the phone lines. The landline phone line. People didn't have cell phones then - at least not the average, everyday person. So, if your mom needed to make a phone call, you had to jump off for a while until she was done. Or someone would pick up the phone to make a call and it would kick you off. Oh, the fights I got in with my brother over that! Also, people couldn't call your landline if you were on the internet -- so if you were waiting for an important call (like maybe that crush of yours who said he might call you after school), you bet your butt you were keeping the landline open!
Today, we've gotten so used to instant gratification of the internet. Just pull out your mobile phone and boom, there it is. There was this simplicity back then of it being an only once in a while thing -- something special, but not really holding that much weight over reading a book, hanging with your friends, or playing a basketball game.
I miss that ability to just step away and turn it off. To say, "Bye, internet -- see ya tomorrow!" - and then just go do something else.
I think that was better for all of our souls back then. I'm trying to get back to that world. I know we're out of luck for that existing nowadays in our society as a whole, but at least I could live that way in my everyday life.
Part-time internet. I like the sound of that.
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