My friend Derrick and I were talking about that moment when you stumble into some dark crevice of the web and realize that the internet is not as wonderful as you once thought. And we weren’t even talking about the comments sections of most major news outlets.
I’ve had an online diary/blog/whatever kind of presence on the interwebs since the late 1990s. So that’s — what? — at least 15 years? And I’m not even counting my Prodigy account in ’94 or whenever. And I can remember some of those early moments of total disillusionment. I mean, not enough to scare me off the web…it’s sort of like your weird, drunk cousin. You know you’re going to run into the weird, drunk cousin (WDC) at every family gathering. You will have to endure WDC’s wine breath as WDC confides some deeply personal (and borderline disturbing) information that WDC has been DYING to tell you since the last wake/wedding/birthday party. But you don’t STOP going to these things just because WDC is going to be there. You go because there’s also a high probability of cake, and cake will always trump WDC. Right? And so it is with the internet.
But I remember the first time I encountered chatroom acronyms. I remember venturing into the terrifying realm of Angelfire-hosted goth websites, navigating their spinning ankhs and dripping blood bars:
I remember my first “flame war,” with a creator of one of those said goth websites. I remember the deep shame and remorse I felt as a result (“I’m picking a fight with a kid in a Christian Death tshirt…what the HELL is wrong with me?”). I remember realizing that ANYONE could publish their terrifyingly execrable poetry for all to see. I remember my first internet “stalkers.” I remember the guy who kept sending me pictures of himself with his cat. I remember Numa Numa. I remember goatse. I remember MySpace.
But none of these things have kept me off the internet. I began to feel as though I was becoming jaded. I’d seen so much over the years. Once I’d seen Cryptie, I reasoned, could I really be surprised by anything anymore?
Never underestimate the vast universe of WTF?! that is the internet. Because one evening (the eve of my 42nd birthday, if you want to get precise), I was confronted with a heretofore unprobed dark corner of the web.