I sent my first email in 1986. I wasn’t impressed.
My second email was sent in 1993, and I’ve been online pretty much continuously ever since. I remember when the internet was text-based. When Yahoo had a “what’s new?” feature that would list the two or three dozen new websites that they’d located during the previous 24 hours. When photos would load one line at a time. When I had to tell my students that they really ought to consider getting an email account since it was free through the university and they might find it useful. When searching meant Lycos and Google was new.
I started my first blog in 1999, when nobody really knew what to call them, and I’m still here blogging away in 2018 when nobody under 30 remembers that such things exist.
It’s been a while.
I’ve learned a few things during my time on the internet – oh, yes indeedy, I have. Some of these lessons have sunk in over time, and some of them have revealed themselves in blinding flashes of inspiration and some of them have more or less done both, which is an interesting trick. I can’t claim that these are particularly unique lessons – there’s a lot of people online, and even if only a small part of them are actually paying attention that’s still a lot of people, the math being what it is.
So, a few things the internet has taught me, in no particular order:
1. Nobody really remembers mathematical order of operations anymore.
2. You can argue about politics all you want, but mention how many spaces you should put after a period at the end of a sentence and may the deity of your choice have mercy on your soul.
3. There are a great many people on this planet on whose hands time weighs very heavily.
4. There are also a great many people on this planet who have insane amounts of talent. Sometimes they even know what to do with it.
5. Rule 34 is alive and well.
6. Technology follows the same curve as everything else: far-off dream, cutting edge reality, new plaything, relaxation device, utility, chore, sinkhole. Right now the internet bounces between the last four for me, with differing emphases on different days.
7. The high school reunion business is pretty much dead since social media has largely replaced it.
8. If you remember what high school was like, therefore, you may find social media makes more sense.
9. Suddenly everyone’s an expert on grammar.
10. Eventually the jackals take over and this is why we can’t have nice things.
11. Along the arc between rise and fall, you can still find good people and real communities. You just have to seek them out.
12. There is a difference between information and knowledge, and an even bigger difference between knowledge and wisdom.
13. The world can be a very small place with the right technology, and this can be a lovely thing. Most of the time.
14. The Enlightenment dream of perfect communication leading to peace and harmony among humanity has pretty much conclusively been disproven. So much of what allows people to get along, it turns out, is their misconceptions of each other.