29 July 2009

The Internet: Then and Now

Or, How My Longest Lasting Addiction Has Changed Over the Years

Way, way, way back in the fall of 1995 I moved into a dorm that just happened to have a tiny computer lab on its ground floor. Now, when I say "tiny" I mean damn near minuscule. If my memory serves me, and there's no guarantee it does, I believe there were three or four computers crammed into a glorified closet. One thing I do clearly remember is that there was a two hour time limit for computer usage that was tallied on a sign up sheet. I must have signed that thing a thousand times before the internet got the better of me.

Before I moved away from my little hick town, in which I now live in again, I knew about the internet. I knew it existed at any rate. But I didn't really know what it could mean to me personally or what dangerous fun it could be. But that all changed soon after I discovered a little thing called ISCA. I don't remember what it stood for exactly but I know it was a service out of an Iowa university and it allowed users to talk in real time with anyone else who happened to be connected to ISCA. It was a chat room before they were called chat rooms.

It was such a rinky dinky thing compared to what we have now. There were no smilies, no wallpapers, no graphics, no pretty at all. There weren't even fonts; it was in MS-DOS style for shits sake! It was cuneiform compared to the high falutin' chat rooms around these days. But it was great; it was amazing! I remember for weeks tallying up how far away my chat buddies lived. Here's one from Florida! This guy is from England! Holy shit, this one is from Australia! It was mind blowing, it was awe inspiring and it was fun as hell. But it was also addicting.

Those last few weeks when it got really bad I lived my life in two hour periods. I'd be online for two hours then go eat, shower and perhaps sleep a little for two hours then right back to the internet for two hours. And I did this round the clock for days and days and days. I was hooked. I walked, talked, thought and breathed the internet as I knew it. I was addicted. Obviously, I didn't go to class, wasn't doing schoolwork and barely managed to keep my part time job at Burger King. It got so bad that I had no choice but to withdraw from classes before I had a GPA full of Fs.

That experience taught me a valuable lesson. Or, at least, it forever burned away my immense desire to chat online. I can count on one hand the times I've entered a chat room since then and I don't miss it a bit. In fact, I don't know how I ever enjoyed it. When I look back I think it must have been the fascination and wonder and glory of it all that really hooked me, as opposed to talking with strangers about usually mindless teenage crap. I'm such an anti-social hermit with no tolerance for small talk, i.e. bullshit, that I can't imagine having anything in common with that girl of eighteen.

And, just as I typed the above I realized that was nearly half a lifetime ago. My life can be divided between pre-internet and addiction to internet. After I went back to school later that school year I learned that the internet was much more than chatting. There was this wonderful thing called Netscape and it was wonderful! It was better than ISCA! I could find anything about anything! There was news from all over the world; there were trivia games; there was porn! I remember I was working in the English Department as an office assistant and on my mail slot someone had put a sticker that included my name in the form of a web address. I was a junkie discovering a new, updated and much more highly nuanced form of my preferred drug.

Coming soon: How the Internet Ballooned the Pagan Community, including discussions of techno-pagans, millions of cheesy pagan graphics, fluffy bunnies talking out their asses, the anti-fluffy bunnies talking out their asses and other fun and fascinating bits.


Maebius said...

this post brings back memories! you see, my first attempt at college in 1995 WAS a GPA full of F's. I managed to take to the computer technoligy habit and quickly became an aide in the PC lab, teaching myself programming and hanging out on two MUDs (PernMoo & FurryMuck to be specific).
Since I had the job of closing up at night and locking the door on my way out, I found myself locking the door quickly enough at the scheduled time, then actually Leaving sometime around 3am each night. Of course this meant morning classes were merely a dream. *sigh*

It's funny how that burgeoning technoliogy and social contact from "beyond the state" grabbed hold of so many people so fast and so firmly! If only we could direct those addiction energies to a useful cause like clean energy or gardening. :)

Griffin said...

Hmm, isn't 'I was a Teenage Internet Junkie' a B movie?!

It's done the same to me. Every morning I check my email and have a look on certain websites/blogs. It's very nearly as dangerous as my serial book addiction and that's REALLY dangerous!

Griffin said...

Hope all is well with you Livia. Do email me if only to say you are ok. I carnelpit, I worry about you!

Livia Indica said...

Hey Maebius, I never learned anything about programming but I do know a lot about staying up for hours on the computer. It can be so much more fun and interesting than offline life. Thanks for stopping by.

Griffin, no worries my friend. I'm here and doing mostly okay; I've just got a lot on my plate these days.

Griffin said...

Phew! Glad to hear you're alright. Take good care and don't do too much will ya?!