It was during the age when everyone knew it unwise to share real names and information anywhere online. Some of the wisdom driven by overly anxious boomer parents while most was basic common sense precaution. Privacy by default. It was the internet I remember hopping onto multiplayer skirmishes or perusing forums back when they were populous enough that refreshing the page would always yield new topics and posts. Slinging insults was more of an expected greeting to anyone who hadn’t yet become a regular in a haunt. And everyone had thicker skin because of it.
Normies did have a presence, but it was the inverse of what we have today, with them being confined to a select few spaces while most of the web was wild and free (hostile to them) territory. And the tables turned only because we failed to gatekeep. If the appearance of that term has riled some nerves consider that it might be because linguistic spellcasting had been done on gatekeeping. Somehow it attained a negative connotation. Accusations of gatekeeping are used by crybullies in order to shame communities into lowering their guard for entry.
The first failure came to pass when socialization became a fixture of the web (2.0). And I don’t mean socialization as in commingling with others, but the glossy faux corporate social which managed to infect also gaming around that same time. The idea that one must maintain a “presense”. Features that would always be online, and inform others when you were on and what you were up to. It arrived in the trojan horse of MySpace, which was innocent enough in its intentions, and later FBIbook. The whole thing has since devolved into an entire sphere which normies dubbed “social media”.
This made the once scary web palatable to those with more fragile sensibilities. Once they had everyone trained up using the same identity across different sites (or even their real identity), then came the like buttons, the cannibalization of feeds and feed readers, and the salivating corporate interests seeking to tend their new flocks.
The second failure occurred when the web began getting turned into television 2.0 as the new place to consume video media. Video streaming increased accessibility of brain candies to lazy sacks of shit everywhere, with Netflix accounting for a significant share of all internet traffic not too long after (and it’s much worse today!). It got to the point where there were even ruminations about ISPs prioritizing certain paid corporate client traffic as bundled packages, much like the cable television model.
The third and probably most significant gate to fall was in the introduction of the little tykes shiney buttoned brainlet slabs we call phones arriving at their “smart” formfactor. Now, any fool who has only platform literacy can sadly inhabit the once great spaces of the internet. I would pin this downfall at around the time mobile browser share first eclipsed major desktop browsers, so some somewhere no later than 2013.
Now, as the dominant group, everything has bent to cater to the tech cattle. And this is why attempting to shame people over gatekeeping misses the whole point of filtering who can participate in something which requires as much careful consideration as do computers and the internet. People who gatekeep foresee the strain on resources or even their way of life that occurs when herd mentality gets to decide the standard for everyone.
It might only be a pipedream today, but I maintain that the only demographics that should be allowed anywhere near the internet are those who; can install, repair & upgrade computer software and hardware, who have at least a basic understanding of terminal and scripting, can distinguish between local processing and remote processing, and have generally configured their own devices and networks - basically what “power users” should have been had the 1980s-1990s timeline of home computer use been allowed to flourish unabated.