It’s been a strange trip since the internet arrived. I remember the first time I saw the internet in about 1993 on Marine Corps Air Station New River – Corporal Hansbury showed me how he could use his computer to talk to base ops and how he and the duty NCO there would exchange jokes over a chat relay. I thought it was neat.
In 1996 I used my first cell phone at the radio station I worked at. In 1997 I got a Yahoo email account. By this time it was pretty normal to prep for our morning radio show using an ‘online’ service. Around 1998 the internet was really blossoming.
I was in my 20s. My favorite writers were irreverent and anti-pop-culture. I was convinced that the best way to get people to see the real vulgarity in the world was to shock them with vulgarity. I even wrote a song called vulgar. It was all about how words weren’t vulgar but the world was with pollution, war, wage slavery, and other ugliness. It was a pretty good song – but not one that most people want to listen to. I discovered chat rooms. I became a troll. For a little while. It was fun to bait people and then torment them. It was awful – now that I think of it. At the time – it seemed harmless – it seemed like it was just playing with a computer, not making someone feel bad. It took me a while to realize there were real people on the other end. It was about the time of Friendster and Napster and MySpace that it hit me. I started meeting people through the computer. That made a profound difference.
Too bad I got so lost in that perverted form of winning. There’s a lot I could have done during that time as the internet grew. Instead I developed a blog called fukn.us Fucking Us. I started an online bookstore called Fukn Books – silly move. I thought I could be an acceptable form of offensive. Offensive was a way I shouldn’t have tried to go at all.
The truth is – I’m mild mannered. I’m polite. I’m nice. Perhaps unbelievably, I’m a bit of a prude. Maybe that was what I was fighting all along. I don’t know. I think that’s the problem with trolls though.
Like me – they hide behind a screen trying to project themselves as something they are not. They use false names and false avatars. Maybe they are really creeps – but my gut suspicion is that they are mostly just frustrated people living in this artificial world of ours with all of its artificial boundaries and weird invented rules. Here we are – advanced fire making primates quickly building the walls of our cages higher and higher. I like to think I’m fairly intelligent – but when I try to comprehend the difference between 1993 and 2015 – I’m not sure that I can. I lived it, but I don’t think I really understand it. I know I’m not alone.
I used to think that my grandparents saw the greatest changes in human history. They went from horse drawn carriages and telegraphs to men on the moon and broadcast television. I feel like I may have already surpassed them. I lived through the last years of independence from electronics. Those days are gone now. The days of kids freely playing in neighborhoods.
A friend came in my shop today. He’s a holdout on technology. Doesn’t even have a cellphone. His car broke down two days ago 12 miles from town. No one stopped to help him, not even the police. He had to spend the night in his car then walk back to town in the morning. My aunt and uncle talk to their adult children every day – when my cousin didn’t answer her phone over 8 hours – they called the police. It turned out she was hiking. When I was a little kid – we were frequently out of contact with our parents for 10-12 hours every day we didn’t have school.
I’m rambling a bit – I know it. It’s all connected though. I’m not defending trolls – I don’t like them either. I’ve got a friend on Facebook who seems to still be stuck in it – he’s still single, doesn’t have kids – maybe that’s a part of it. He’s a nice guy, but he always responds to things with lots of vitriol and f-bombs- looking for a reaction – I think, but then again – maybe he’s not the nice guy I remember anymore. Maybe he’s unhappy with the world and where he is in it.
I’m tired of being unhappy with the world and where I am in it. I’m tired of being pissed off and bitter about life. Actually, I’m happy with life. Life is interesting and fine. Maybe that’s why things are starting to be more clear. I hope so.