It’s time to walk in my shoes a little bit. Picture this: You’re 12-13 years old, and you have literally zero friends, outside of a few friends your controlling parents arranged visits with. You’ve been homeschooled most of your life, which is almost guaranteed to leave you as a social failure for the rest of your life, and the years you spent in physical school made you learn some hard lessons, like that everyone in real life has high standards and will shit all over you behind your back if you come off as a failure socially. Deep down inside, you’re craving the “normal life”, and yet you’re not getting a single chance at it. If you were given a chance to have friends, you’d jump at it.
This happened to me back in 2007, when I was given for Christmas a laptop. The laptop? A Compaq Presario F730US, a laptop that was a nice deal when it was new, until 3 years later when the GPUs would fail. Most were covered by a class action lawsuit, but it just so happens that mine wasn’t. Whoops. The laptop and its fate were almost like an omen, an early warning of things to come.
What I did with said laptop was what most teenagers did with their laptops. I downloaded roms and emulators, finding ways to make them “run faster”. I downloaded pirated games, bumping into the weak GPU of the laptop. And most importantly, I downloaded the first chat client I used: mIRC. I posted on IRC channels and forums about Pokemon, something I was really interested in at the time. I could have used my laptop to learn something like programming, make music, or play around in a pirated copy of Sony Vegas to make YTPs, but you don’t tend to do a lot when you have zero ambition thanks to your directionless parents (who only have one idea of direction: “hey you’re smart with the computer thing you’re so gifted I think you’re gonna go far and be the next Steve Jobs”) and having nobody around you willing to help you learn something of value.
So there my descent began. I joined IRC channels and forums, and I didn’t become well liked on IRC channels but I didn’t give too many fucks, until the teenage angst mixed with early signs of depression kicked in, and I started to get disliked, before I managed to spin being hated on shitty forums around into fucking with them and YouTube at once, and I ended up getting tons of YouTube views for that reason. When IRC wasn’t cool anymore, I bounced around on more chat platforms than you can point a stick at. MSN, Skype, Xbox Live messaging, Discord, Telegram, Xat, and there’s probably a few more I missed somewhere.
Along the way on the sidelines however, I began to learn quite a bit about making friends online, along with the hard truths, the truths that made me ask, why wasn’t I like the other kids?
“There’s a reason it’s here”
A few years ago, I volunteered and later worked at a recycling center, where computers came in to either be resold or scrapped, and I got a lot of computers that way. One of the phrases I learned from one of the longtime guys there was “there’s a reason it’s here”. This usually applied to computer junk, as especially if it were newer it’d be broken or something. At the same time, the things that came through the recycler were stuff a bunch of nerds with hoard piles or teens who wanted to have hoard piles of old tech would jump at the chance of getting, and I learned there you couldn’t take the whole recycling center home, you had to essentially pick and choose (and there’s still some things I regret not jumping at the chance of getting, stupid me).
Of course, there was plenty of junk I skipped because it was in dodgy shape, which is still good enough for kids on the internet to scream about. “OH MY GODDDD GIMMIE THIS I WANT THIS SO BADLY PLEASE” even if it would have popped turning it on. The same goes with comment sections about cars, “oh my god I need a ride” even if it had frame rot not shown in the video, rendering it a parts car.
However, over time I began to learn it meant something else too, and the phrase “there’s a reason it’s here”, along with “you can’t fix or save everything” began to take on a more metaphorical meaning with me, as I went through what I did on the internet.
One of my longer time friends online I met in some contact dump group, or something similar like that on Skype. Being somewhat known on YouTube led to everyone knowing my Skype ID, and it led to some interesting calls, and so I ended up in a Skype call with some interesting people one time. Anyhow, one of the reasons he was my friend for so long is the interesting stories he’d tell me, both about the chat groups he was around (one of which seemed to have deep ass lore), and about the nutty shit that went on there. One of the most important things he said that stuck with me is that nobody he knew on Skype had a normal childhood, and that a lot of his friends had nutty parents.
This stuck in my head, and I would keep thinking about it over and over again, the more I got to know people on more than just the surface level. After all, people online are like buying junk on eBay, it might look nice in the photos but take it apart and you’ll see damage, problems that popped up over time like bad caps or leaky batteries, and sometimes even rust that didn’t work itself to the outside of the case yet. If you talk to them once a month for 20-30 minutes during this time, they seem like cool people. The more you talk to them however, the more their flaws come out, like when you stress test a product or actually use something for the first time in months and it completely blows up.
That’s when the problems come out. The mental illness, the depression, the episodes on Discord calls, their negative qualities, the fact that their friend circle is even worse than yours. Sometimes the problems are elephants in the room, getting in the way of voice chats, while other times they creep out slowly, only rearing their head when you go from being close friends one day, to you being blocked and removed on every platform with no way of asking what you did wrong. Sometimes you can tolerate it once in a while, knowing they’re cool on the 9 out of 10 days they don’t need to be wrangled, but during that remaining day you end up asking yourself, why are all my friends like this?
And that friend I mentioned who you rarely talk to? Well he’s even worse off, and I’ll get to why soon.
“Communities” from hell
Internet friendships can be fragile, but is it any wonder they are? Think of it this way, a lot of nerds are all cut from the same cloth, and not long ago I wrote a post about how these nerds love to live their lives through escapism. The people who do this also tend to be broken individuals, who can project their problems onto everyone around them. Not surprisingly, thanks to the nature of the internet, this also means friends are disposable, and thanks to the nature of the internet today everyone is fighting with each other, and willing to dump friends for their “cause”.
This eventually can take its toll on someone who’s already having issues, to watch all their internet friends dump them for stepping out of line when the mob’s already decided its opinion on whatever the big topic of the week is on social media. The other day, one of my friends became super cynical watching some people he’s known online since around 2014 at the very least either ditch him for stepping out of line and disagreeing with them, or only talking to him for the sake of roping him into arguments for the sake of it.
So what changed between 2014 and 2018? Well, the rise of identity politics, social justice, and that sorta deal. Pronouns went from the fringe corners of the internet to something you find every soy-fueled wreck using on Twitter, and social media told them to be paranoid. With mass hysteria and delusions, the internet told social media that police under Pmurt’s AmeriKKKa will aimbot every single POC LGBTQ++ individual who walks out on the street, similar to GTA cops or the average campers on an Infinity Ward Call of Duty title. In 2014, these people were mocked by the likes of Common Filth or MisterMetokur (who went by Internet Aristocrat) and now they’re everywhere.
Unsurprisingly, they also have a habit of throwing you under the bus if you don’t not only support their causes, but act exactly like they do opinion wise with their causes. Step out of line politically and you’ll get blocked by some and lose followers on Twitter (See why I dumped my Twitter? It’s a liability.)
Anyhow back to earlier. One such example of a former friend he had was this guy who used to shitpost and all. Over time, he became more and more far left to the point of worshipping communism. One day on Twitter he had a disagreement with my friend over communism. He mentioned his family fled communism, and his reaction was to call him names, before blocking him on all his accounts, both his main and his alts. Just another day on Twitter.
As for my experiences well, I have two. The first one is better left for another post on another day since it’s a good tale on why you should never get sucked into a community, in something that felt like a Depeche Mode song he dodged a community full of toxic abusive people only to get drawn into another one like that a few years later (but not as bad as the one he dodged). The other one well, I knew someone I barely talked to who was quite a cool person, at least from what I saw from him (when I talked to him like once a month for 20-30 minutes since timezones were as far as you could get).
He had some…weird interests but seemed to be a chill person. I mean I’ve met plenty of eccentrics online who are chill to talk to, at least from a distance. He was also into some of the same things I was, and last year I decided to get to know him a bit more. I learned some things about him, and he also claimed he could put his political views (which were differing from mine) to the side.
A few months later, I learned that he had issues with letting things go and one time he got worked up over minor things to the point of making suicide attempts, and he took constant internet breaks. What set off alarm bells is when he started linking me Unicorn Riot (think like the left wing version of The Daily Stormer, except they’re left wing so they’re not being kicked off the internet) not long after saying he was putting politics aside. Lately convos with him have been him trying to start arguments with me, and that’s it. Nothing else, not what games he’s played, not his life, nope nope just something on the internet.
With friends like this (and imagine if all your friends were like this :V), I can see why my friend was jaded as fuck about the internet and making friends online. It’s a hard pill to swallow, that online you have to deal with lower quality friendships than in real life. You’re always going to be dealing with the fringes of society, the ones who couldn’t make it elsewhere, especially as the mainstream part of the internet rarely interacts with the fringe parts nowadays, and when they do it always results in a Vice or Buzzfeed article.
And this led me back to asking the same question I had been asking earlier. Why did I end up with a friend circle full of issues, was this just fate? Why was I never like the normal kids? Why did I never have a normal group of friends? There’s no time to ponder or dwell on it though, since you just have to accept that as a problem with internet friendships, bite the bullet, and move on as depressing as it sounds.
As for what lessons you can learn from this? Spend your time on the internet learning something, learning skills in front of the computer, and skills that’ll take you places. Don’t pee around on the internet trying to make up for your lack of a social life because it won’t help anything. Learn programming, learn something that you can make into a living because do you want to end up as an internet addict making nothing of worth, or as a successful man? After all, you’re only as good as your friends are in life.