I made my first friend on the Internet when I was 14 years old. It was over a service called Quantum Link, which later grew into a little company, that I know you’ve heard of, called AOL. Chris lived on the other side of town from me, and it was odd to actually meet someone from your local area in a chat room. We exchanged phone numbers one night and called each other once a week or so and talked on the phone. We met at the mall downtown a couple of times, mind you this was in the late 80s and early 90s. I don’t think my parents thought there was a chance I would meet a pedophile over q-link. So Chris and I met. He wasn’t a creep. He was everything he said he was and I was nerdier than I said I was, which he already knew and was okay with.
I have nothing but happy memories of my friendship with him. When I think of him, I think of him meeting me at the entrance to the mall with his arms wide open to hug me so hard that I couldn’t breathe. He introduced me to one of my life long loves, alternative music, he’s the reason I know who Tony Hawk is, otherwise, I probably wouldn’t care. When I look back on that friendship, which lasted until I got married and relocated out of state, I smile. Our feelings for each other were completely platonic, but our friendship was very special to me. He was someone who taught me the importance of being myself, of loving what I love and doing what I love. My parents always encouraged that, but Chris showed me why it was important and how something that I thought was optional because other people might judge me this way or that way, was actually not optional at all.
Chris and I never reconnected. It’s been 17 years since the last time I heard his voice. Not even through the internet have we found each other again. We’ve certainly had plenty of avenues opened for us though, IRC, ICQ, AIM, Yahoo Messenger, MySpace or Facebook. Dude, if you’re out there reading this right now, I miss you and would love to hear from you again. I really want to know if I’m right about what you think of Green Day.
Thinking about him this morning came about from a conversation I had on twitter about Google+. Everyone is talking like Google+ is going to be the next Facebook and it’s so amazingly awesomely awesome. That brought up conversations about how Facebook was the new MySpace and I pointed out that I’d never used MySpace because I didn’t understand why it was cool to have a web page that looked like 1997 was calling and wanted its web design back, when the year on the calendar said, “2007”.
That got me thinking about the evolution of the Internet and how this service or that service appeared and changed the game, which got me thinking about larger concerns, because this is where my mind always wanders. “What will they say about Facebook in twenty years?”
This train of thought led me back to us and our place in all of this.
Wait a second and dial that thought back a notch or two. I wasn’t thinking about the whole human race. I’m talking about those of us that are Generation X.
We are living in interesting times! My GOD! The things we have seen!
We have watched the world transition from being primarily dependent on transportation to keep things moving, to being primarily dependent on a computer network to keep things moving. You’ve all seen that episode of the IT Crowd by now, and if you haven’t, here’s what I mean: Jen Introduces The Internet
The panic that ensues here isn’t that wrong! Can you imagine what would happen if the whole of the internet just up and went kaput!
Well, of course we can! Gen Xers know that everything would be just fine because we would go back to 1985 for a few hours and we’d plop down on our butts in front of the television and reminisce about The Transformers and GI Joe, then whatever geek was responsible for cutting that major pipeline would find a work around, and we’d go back to Facebook and Youtube.
I’m not sure that the Millennials, my children, understand a world without the Internet. The internet has been there for as long as they’ve been alive.
And the more I look back on my life and how I got my first computer when I was 13 and I signed up for my first internet service at age 14, the more I realize that I am very much like my children. I am one of the younger members of Gen X, my husband is also a Gen Xer and is 9 years older than me, and he remembers the 70s. I was too little to go see Star Wars in the theater then, so his perspective on this whole scene is even more unique than mine. He actually understands how the technology came to life. He watched as the internet was built, which was something I did not see.
Either way, I think I know what they will say about Generation X when we are old. I suspect it won’t be that different from what was said of my grandparents: “Man did they live in an interesting time in the world.”
And we really are. The internet has changed the world and we have been here to watch it evolve. The 20 somethings and Something-teens take it for granted because it’s always been there, but we got to see the thing that made their lives what they are, be born.
How cool is that?