Internet Culture — Good, Bad, or Indifferent?

Originally I was going to give a more formal write up about KDE 4.1, but this topic has been on my mind a lot so KDE 4.1 will have to wait for now.

Since I have had access to the Internet I have understood or taken part in all of the strange happenings of the Internet. I’m talking about things such as Rick Rolling, Leet speak (l33t speak), watching strange flash videos, watching strange YouTube videos, etc. I have also been parts of more specialized Internet cultures such as those people who watch anime, or those who love old video games (such as Chrono Trigger). It has definitely been a big part of my life, and I still keep up on some of the random happenings of the Internet through slashdot and other random places.

However, last night I had the unique opportunity of meeting a fellow who also was into these sorts of things. Now, the reason this was so strange is that my current set of friends [that I live around/with] do not follow many of the random events that happens on the Internet. Further, with some of them, should I even mention Internet references they just give me a look to the effect of “why are you so randomly weird?”. Consequently, I don’t bring up random Internet stuff too often. Though I admit it does come out on occasion (some might argue more than “on occasion” 🙂 ). This leaves me in an interesting position. On the one hand they don’t really care about this stuff so me talking about serves little purpose. On the other hand it basically means that a whole portion of my life is not a point of conversation.

Anyway… back to the person I met. This fellow found out that I was into Albatross 18 and wanted to talk with me at length about it. However, we were at our Professor’s house for an end of the year Christmas party with lots of other people who had no idea what we would be talking about. I opted to play ignorant to all his Internet related references, which were frequent. It seemed as though he could only really relate well to people on this level. Now, I don’t particularly mind toning it down around those who could care less about the weirdos on the net, but this guy wouldn’t even sit down and play card games with us. It saddened me to see this for a couple of reasons.

The first is that I see very much of myself in him, and I totally know how it feels to have everyone ignore you and just think you are weird. All through high school I really could only talk with people who knew about video games, the Internet, and and anime. My friends in high school were all in to that, and to this day I still talk to them over the Internet about these things when I have the time. However, when I came to college there were really no people like that. At least people that I met. Apparently, I changed so much since college that one of my current friends could not believe I had ever been “like that” (that mentality about “Internet people” sort of irks me, but that is another story). In hind sight it would have been nicer if I had broken away from that more in high school as it has since given me a chance to meet people I would not have otherwise. Some of which are now really great friends 🙂 .

Secondly, I think that fellow is going to have trouble making friends for himself. Whether he likes it or not there is this “taboo” sort of feeling I get from a lot of people if I cross over to talking about Internet culture. I’m not entirely sure why. To me pop culture is just as foreign and strange as Internet culture. Yet, folks seem to think the best thing since sliced bread.

Ultimately, I have to wonder how healthy it is for people such as myself to be part of Internet culture. It is great for talking to people online, but these sorts of ways of relating to people don’t hold much weight in the real world. On the other hand, for whatever the reason, I find internet culture much more exciting than pop culture and the things most people talk about. At the end of the day I am still uncertain whether I think Internet culure is good, harmful, or something inbetween.


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