by Byron Sadik
I'm not that old, but when it comes to the Internet I'm somewhere between 90 and 100,000 years old. I've seen the rise and fall of many great empires. When it comes to the Internet, I've seen it all. All of it. I had a 28.8 dial-up modem way back in the early 90's. Never heard of dial-up? It's like riding a really, really slow horse that has the flu (and ebola) and dies halfway into your journey. Then you have to walk back to the beginning and find another horse with ebola to go back on, hoping both of you won't die before you get to see some pixelated breasts. That was dial-up. The Internet version of blowing your Nintendo cartridges, leaving them in the freezer for two hours, and then offering the gaming gods a pint of virgin's blood. Or your own blood. Same thing.
Point is, since the Internet began as a humble military project to build the perfect AI that will destroy… save humanity, it has changed the world. Geeks and nerds, subhuman species who lived on the fringes of polite society, were the first pioneers into this brave new digital world. See, back in the 80's and 90's, being a nerd or a geek meant that you didn't belong. Few people in your neighborhood or school shared your love of Star Trek or Final Fantasy. When Internet access became more available, geeks all over rejoiced and found chat rooms, forums, and newsgroups where they could come together, away from the harsh outside world and be themselves. We could, for the first time, play online video games. Before the Internet, you had to tell someone that you slept with their mom face-to-face after delivering a fatality, like a man. Now you can yell racist insults to people all over the world when you're getting pwned in Call of Duty. And that, in some bizarre way, is a beautiful thing. We shared our innermost thoughts on Livejournal with the whole world. And Flash gave us tools to express our creative sides with animation and games. The Internet was a place for us, and by us.
I'm not gonna lie, it was a scary place. Everything was darker and more shocking, even though a lot of things we take for granted hadn't existed. Like memes. We had them, kind of, but they were much darker and weirder. We didn't have the amiable smile of Good Guy Greg imparting upon us his stoner wisdom.
We also had online games, but they weren't the family-friendly money machines like FarmVilles and Candy Crushes. Back in high school we played games like Club A Seal (hint: it's not a nightclub), and RIP Ricky Martin (self-explanatory).
Away from the eyes of polite society, the Internet was a den of depravity and horror at times, but the best part about it was...it was anonymous. Back then there was no Facebook or Twitter. There were no camera phones then. No selfies or food pics, either. And if you dared shared a picture of something as banal as your duckface or your food, you'd righteously be called an A-hole. Because the Internet wasn't about you, it was about everyone. By removing our identity from the equation it let people say and be who they really are without the scrutiny of the outside world. Information could be discovered and shared. People had actual discussions and said what they felt, without the watchful eye of the social media and the Twitterverse looming over them. It was a dark, horrible place, but we were free.
But something changed in the past few years. More people started using the Internet. A lot more. Broadband was like the automobile of web access and made the Internet easier to use for everyone. And the more people used it, the more they had to be accommodated. Then Facebook came out. Then Twitter. And then, the thing that ruined it all; the nail in the final coffin of the Internet:
Shots fired. Eat it, Apple fanboys.
The iPhone meant that every computer-illiterate airhead could surf the web, take obnoxious pictures of themselves, upload them, and conquer the web with millions of likes with a selfie of their ass or a twerk video. Slowly you infected our world with your narcissistic ways. And now the Internet is centered to our base desires for instant gratification. What we nerds built as a home for ourselves, the mainstream has stolen and used for selfies, twerk videos, pictures of lattes and yoga pants, and meaningless inspirational quotes.
The Internet has now gentrified.
BYRON SADIK is a stand-up comedian and writer originally from Southfield, MI and lives in New York City. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @byronsadik