When was the last time you had fun on the internet? I asked about this in a Krautreporter community post a few weeks ago. Actually a very naive question, because social networks, video platforms, video games, learning opportunities, podcasts, music streaming providers (the list could go on for a long time) are pushing users towards fun – like a digital funfair!
Nevertheless, time and time again I find myself in a bad mood on the Internet. For example, when I open Twitter and get an offensive tweet. Or when someone misinterprets a tweet (on purpose) to cause a storm. Sometimes an article that I read online is enough. Then I often just want to throw my laptop (or cell phone) out the window. But I’m always content with closing the card, putting down the phone, and thinking, “Hey, I’m not in the mood anymore.”
Please don’t get it wrong. I love “Internet” as a land of unlimited possibilities, it is the basis of my work and enriches my life enormously. I can lose myself for hours in online games, I am fascinated by Internet communities and I cannot imagine walking without Spotify. Do not miss the opportunity to praise, explain and even defend Internet phenomena, for example in this text.
Before, everything was better, right?
But still: At times when I am irritated by toxic comments, completely derailed discussions, right-wing extremist troll actions, fake news, and sometimes just banal, non-creative content, I remember my youth on the Internet and how much naive fun I had. I’m thinking of chatting on Knuddels or U-Boot (the forerunner of today’s social networking platforms), reading the first bash.org post and breaking rocks in crazy browser games at the same time. Yes, it sounds like a typical nostalgic song where everything was better. But it shouldn’t be like that. The internet was no better then.
There are even studies that show that many negative structures were just as widespread: for example, the actions of trolls and the unfettered nihilism that plays with right-wing extremist images. I remember the dehumanizing mockery of a handicapped child and the mockery of an old man connected to an oxygen cylinder. And rape. And violence against animals. And greasy shame. And homophobia. And racism. And pedophilia. The internet was then a space for middle-class young white men who took it all as a cynical joke – even if there were bright corners with harmless, creative content, of course.
I’m afraid of the internet – don’t I just know the rules of the game?
So where do these waves of nostalgia come from that catch me from time to time? I found an explanation in the article on Internet anxiety, i.e. feelings of anxiety when surfing the Internet. The authors write about different levels of identification with the Internet. What they mean by this: Just as others identify with basketball, for example, because they can talk (and move around) according to the rules and contexts they understand, so I identify more with the Internet when I can master it. A basketball player knows how many steps he can take with the ball, what the “vanishing jumper” is, and can therefore exchange ideas with others. To do this, I can get information from the Internet and know what I shouldn’t click on. I’m pretty sure I’m treading on the internet pitch.
Unfortunately, my internet socialization took place over 20 years ago. Only with hugs and custom HTML pages. The rules of the game have changed enormously since then. Suddenly my knowledge is only worth half as much. First of all, because suddenly everyone is on the Internet and has the appropriate knowledge, or at least thinks they have it. Secondly, because my confidence in my footing has decreased. I can only shake my head like an old man about some of the TikTok trends. And the amount of hate and anger that pours out scares me.
Four golden rules for more fun on the Internet
But I don’t want to be anxious on the internet, just have fun on the internet. So I made four rules for myself, because playing without rules is anarchist nonsense! And today I share them with you:
1. Nostalgia sucks
Of course, I can enjoy the new version of Winamp Music Player (but not use it) and celebrate the dusty memes. But part of the internet truth of the late ’90s was the far-right Thule network. So not everything was better before, I just understood it better.
2. Sharing is fun
Even if nostalgia sucks, I was happy to share most of the web content. I don’t know why I stopped, but I should start over. That’s why this newsletter is now available!
Dandelion did it, this tweet it took him into the digital age. Going out into the fresh air helps avoid digital burn-in.
The visionary times that the Internet has been promising for some 30 years are still ahead of us. Example: I wanted to create an illustration for this text and used the Midjourney AI (thanks for the inspiration for Grzegorz Schmalzried at this time!). I think the result is pretty cool and I played with different AIs for a few hours – and had a blast!
Editor: Lisa McMinn, Final Editor: Bent Freiwald, Graphic Editor: Philipp Sipos, Audio Edition: Christian Melchert