Community//

10 Years of Growing Up Online

Many moons after Y2k and B2k’s “Bump Bump Bump,” we had a heyday of online communities which built up our body of online experience. This is an anecdotal reminiscing of how we’ve changed with the times and what has remained consistent over the years. Depending on how old you were when AOL Instant Messenger was the exclusive way […]

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Many moons after Y2k and B2k’s “Bump Bump Bump,” we had a heyday of online communities which built up our body of online experience. This is an anecdotal reminiscing of how we’ve changed with the times and what has remained consistent over the years.

Depending on how old you were when AOL Instant Messenger was the exclusive way to connect and communicate with people from your desktop computer at home, or your neighborhood PC Cafe, the next few lines may harken some nostalgia or draw a blank if you weren’t born yet or too young to know what it was before it was replaced with something else. In either case, the times haven’t changed as much as we may think. The core reasons that keep us connected are still the same—they just come in different packaging every few years.

  1. We want to express ourselves and share what we do and what we like
  2. We want to belong and connect with people who share our interests
  3. We want to keep things private with our inner circle or share it with the whole world

It wasn’t really a simpler time back then, we just had different options to express ourselves ranging from Angelfire or Geocities sites to Xanga, LiveJournal, internet forums, and eventually Myspace profiles. I laid my soul to bare through many Xanga posts comprised of spoken word raps while listening to Common’s Electric Circus or Like Water for Chocolate on repeat. No matter the platform, they contained at least a few vague posts about the ennui of growing up, relationships, and also featured quotes, song lyrics, and songs we were listening to on Winamp which we thought encapsulated who we were.

The rise and fall of these platforms had as much to do with their ease of use as with the popularity of each one with our peers. The eyes and interaction with what we put out there guided our choices to what we used.

The gateway to our online selves started with having to sit at the computer after school or work and eventually transformed into 24/7 access through data plans and WiFi hotspots that grow more accessible each day. After 10+ years of navigating through the waves of online interaction, the core of why we’re more plugged in more than ever has remained the same. We can do more online which makes us want to share more and talk to each other about that.

As I get older, I’ve had my back and forth with the positive and negative aspects of being plugged in online, but the reality is that we’re living in a time where ideas, feelings, and creativity can spread as fast as the keystrokes of a keyboard or haptic thumps of the thumb on our phones. It can be a gift or a curse, depending on how it fits into your lifestyle.

The platforms will come and go, and we’ll grow nostalgic for seemingly more simple times, but take a step back and you’ll realize that core of it begins and ends with a desire to connect and belong in some way.

Thanks For Reading,

Hai Truong

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