Breaking up with Social Media - Part One - Falling in Love

I am quitting social media. Well, I am not quitting social media, but I am breaking up with Facebook.

This probably does not seem like a big deal to you. Facebook is, after all, a pretty vapid site just full of fluff and no real meaning. However for me this is kind of a big deal. To understand this you would have to understand who I am. If you only know me from modern social media there is literally no chance you have any idea who I am. This is actually part of the problem.

Let us go back in time, to when this all started. Let me tell you a story about the first love of my life,and why I must purge this love from my life.

This is the story of how I fell in love with the Internet.

I think I was around the age of 12 when this all started. I don’t remember exactly how old I was as memory is fallible and I don’t want to commit to a specific memory as somebody would probably present evidence that makes me look like a liar. So let’s go with “around” 12. At the time I knew what the internet was already as I was a home computer native from my years of playing games in DOS and tooling around with QBasic. Windows was first becoming popular and with it we started to see web browsers become a thing. In these early days the World Wide Web was nothing like it is now. You could only achieve some basic text and sometimes a few images on a site. You really did not have user accounts, or any real way to interact with a website back then other than passively reading the site and clicking on links that took you to other sites.

One of the earliest web browsers I had used. Yes that is about as complicated as websites looked back then as well.

One of the earliest web browsers I had used. Yes that is about as complicated as websites looked back then as well.

There was no search engine that would help you find things, you kind of just had to know how to navigate yourself. Instead of search you had directories. Sites that would compile lists of hyperlinks that they found useful or compelling, and many times these directories would link to other directories and the sites you found on them would link to even more stuff. Me and other nerds of the time look back on these days of the internet fondly as the “wild west” days. Mostly because the internet was so new and small that nobody gave a crap what you posted online. If I wanted to rip a CD to my computer in glorious .wav format (this was before mp3) and post it to a server I could do that (not that I did because geocities/tripod did not give you much storage space for free back then). No company was going to send a take down notice or even care that the CD was freely available to download, there just was not enough people that would even know how to download it to make it worth their trouble to pursue.

The internet was rough at that time, but it was also honest. In those early days you were on the internet mostly because you were an academic who used it to share information with other academics or you were a computer enthusiast desperately wanting to try the hot new thing. I was in the latter group, I loved computers and religiously read every computer magazine I could get my hands on. The more I read about this magical new world wide web the more I wanted to dive in. I finally got my chance one day when my school took a field trip all the way up to Lansing (I grew up in a small town outside of Lansing, so the city felt like a huge city to me back then) to visit Lansing Community College. I saw a computer lab in the library and spent almost the entire trip just browsing the web for the first time. It did not take me long to find websites devoted to my other love of the time, video games.

I was hooked, knowing that there were people out there posting new stuff about video games every day and going back home knowing I would be stuck with just magazines to get by on was devastating. For a while after that first encounter I would only interact with this new network occasionally in libraries or the homes of friends from school. It was just enough contact with the web to make me salivate for more and daydream about being able to connect again.

Then Windows 95 was released. This was a big deal for the internet as it was the first version of Windows to be packaged with a web browser and be specially designed to make it easier for the every day non-enthusiast to get online. The internet started exploding with new content and I was still just watching from the sidelines as it all was leaving me behind. I did not have to wait for too long, however, as when more and more people began to purchase home computers not having one made other people feel like they were not keeping up with the Jones. Thanks to that in 1998 my mother finally purchased a home computer for herself and my life was about to change forever.

Continued in Part Two…