Home / Meta / Rants / Why Internet Manners Changed
This is a favorite rant of mine which means I naturally had to include it.
I realize that I've started to sound like an Internet old grump who starts out all of her sentences with the phrase "In my day..." and quite frankly I don't care. To be honest I think I've earned it. Maybe not as much as the early Net geeks who were making waves with this back in the 1970s but for my peers I'm amongst the tech oldest and thus I'm going to offer my opinion on it all.
Basically, the Net got too easy.
Back when the concept of the Internet was first starting to take off as an idea that would be sold to people's homes (prior to the phrase "World Wide Web" becoming a household word) you had to first cut your teeth on technology in order to get anywhere. Time had to be spent learning how to use programs - most of which were text-based and so absurdly non-intuative it was often suspected that many were designed purely as a practical joke - before you could really get in and talk to people.
The function that this provided was a time-delay. Becuae your first Net efforts were learning how to actually get anywhere there wasn't much damage you could do with what you had. Thus those with experience knew to cut you some slack until you got your feet wet while you, in the meanwhile, had plenty of time to observe what other people were doing and learn from their example.
Which isn't to say that it was perfect, of course. Just that there was a learning process which helped matters considerably.
That's much different now that we're years later. While a geek like myself can be very happy at all of the new and nifty programs out there I do lament the fact that all that's needed to get onto the Internet these days is the right program and one of those novelty birds that bobs its head up and down (for clicking the mouse).
I am not so much of a techno snob that I think it needs to be difficult to be worth doing. I want the Net to be easy enough that my Mom can learn how to use it and email me. However, an unfortunate downfall of this is that we've lost our time delay. The time it takes to get to the Internet today is limited to how long it takes for your modem to connect and your browser to come up. After that you're let loose to do whatever damage you'd like with no one really to stop you.
And it's comforting to know that I'm not the only one who thinks so. One of the March 1999 issues of Entertainment Weekly had an entire section devoted to the concept of how the ease of access plus the increase in users has brought the level of discussion on the Internet down considerably. They also commented on how many of the older Net members have responded by retreating to web boards and mailing lists, which I think is something we all can relate to.
Which is a shame. The lowest common demoninator shouldn't be the one to decide how things will be, yet it seems like that's the way it is. What I wish is just for a way to bring back that learning time. A method by which people could earn their stripes before being let loose on the Net. Not a way to force people to behave in a certain way - god knows how many of us left Usenet because of people like that - but just a way to help people learn the different methods of communication out there so that when they made their choice on how to behave at least it was an informed one.
Just something for me to get maudlin about.