I Often Feel Like a Time Traveler From The '90s

Aug. 15, 2022 [technology] [phones] [proprietary]

A recent fediverse discussion had me ruminating on how the face of the internet, and tech in general, has changed drastically as it gets molded by powerful interests. For any generation Z who might not have been around to experience the web as it was in the 90s or aughts, I wanted to share a few key changes I have witnessed not only as time flows on but also since I’ve remained well insulated from the larger shifts unlike so many others. The change just in the last few years has been atrocious, but in cumulation with the previous decade or so there has been a remarkable decay. And that’s exactly how they get us, with a slow boil.

First, I should explain where I’m coming from. I refrained from participating in many of the web2.0 developments like Twitter and other things which have now fallen under the umbrella of social media. I grew up without cable television and so never took interest in keeping up with shows that dominated the culture of my peers. Circumstances left me without a phone when those around me all were learning to structure their lives around mobile connectivity. So I never really used a shartphone (the one that was eventually given to me remained mostly unused and ended up with a drill bit going through its ICs once I decided to ditch it). I share all this to illustrate that I’ve never followed the curve with the rest of millennials. I’ve lived on a technological island for the last twenty something years.

Here are some developments which bewilder me.

  1. Everyone now uses their real names and images. Whatever happened to that old wisdom of never share your real name with anyone online?

  2. The infantilization of communication through emojis and reactions. And video format has now been reduced to minute-long clips, courtesy of mobile zombie applications.

  3. The default expectation to use other people’s computers instead of your own. People don’t even store their own files on their own hardware anymore, apparently?

  4. The term “social media” itself. I’d first heard it in 2015 and found it eery how everyone else just knew and that it propagated so rapidly. My time in gaming taught me that anything using the term social was always a harbinger of the coming destruction of said thing.

  5. Web culture now seems to mimic a huge coloseum with forced spectator participation, people are dragged to the ring and slaughtered.

  6. Television 2.0. The web was supposed to be the world’s virtual library. But, for many, it is just the latest incarnation of television. How many just churn through videos on their scrying mirrors day in and day out?

With only a few exceptions, each new web technology is increasingly more decadent than the last. I can only imagine how bad things are going to be five or ten years from now. Please take me to the time machine. I want to go back.