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End of Sharing as We Know It

No Ranting

No Ranting!

Everyone’s online now.

It stinks.

I miss the early days of the Internet. In 1989, the Internet was an exclusive club where I could tell all my problems to strangers online. On Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channels, fellow tech geeks would happily read my rants about bosses, relatives or friends. In turn, I’d allow them to vent. Together we whined into the internet abyss yet received no ramifications. Unlike today’s faceless, mean-spirited voters on HotOrNot.com or sardonic commenters on YouTube, chatters in the olden days were authentic. Truth was free; you didn’t have to pay for it with stunned expressions or cold-shoulder silence. It was easy to type out intimate feelings and immediate reactions. The genuine perspectives I gathered in those days were invaluable; they made me a better person. It was a beautiful, cathartic experience.

That’s all gone now.

Back then, there were billions of unassigned numerical Internet Protocol (IPv4) addresses. Today, it’s estimated that the 4 billion Internet addresses originally allocated by IPv4 will run out by 2012. Just like with telephone numbers, we need longer Internet Protocol addresses just to keep things working. Today, to call across the street we have to punch in 10 numbers. Cell phones changed the way we dialed, and the advent of the Internet application called the World Wide Web changed the way we go online. The Web made the Internet accessible. A person doesn’t need programming skills to get online like I did to chat on IRC. Now everyone is demanding their own spot on the Internet. Millions log on to the Internet at least once daily.

People I thought would never be online, like my in-laws, are now on Facebook. My neighbors follow my Twitter updates. The parents of my kids’ friends read my blog (I’m looking at you, Mr. Hunter!). My favorite IRC channel is dead because even we old school chatters know Google sees all. Across the nation, we have stalker-moms who “friend” their children’s connections in social networks. We have Moral Police raids conducted by everyone from employers to grade-school principals using exhaustive (therefore merciless) search engines. It’s as if we’re all living in the limelight, a level of Warhol’s Hell that’s a constant 15-minute loop from which there is no escape.

Despite my advanced level of technical skill, I find no shelter from the scrutiny. My tech friends suggest I start up a new, private account where I feel free to rant. After all, they say, a hearty rant is the soul of the Internet. But Google is the now keeper of souls. Any “secret” accounts would eventually be linked with my main online presence. The people I complain about would see my posts. Clients of my writing services will get bad impressions.

I’ve tried ranting to real life friends; It isn’t the same. All the social mores are in place, all the expectations, all the sympathy. There are no safe places for me to be that boundless, pitiful, carefree college kid typing white letters onto a black terminal screen late into a Friday night. So I stick with the rules. On Twitter, I stay within the realms of psychology and technology or else I lose followers in droves. On my family Facebook account, I dare not get too technical or I face ridicule from my non-geeky relations. Online and off, it’s as if I’m some sort of 21st century Stepford wife, programmed with the endless variants of etiquette that each social situation or website dictates.

Perhaps it isn’t the lassaiz-tongue Internet I miss as much as youth itself. Despite the media focus on sexting, cyberbullying and over-sharing, today’s youth are reigning in their typical indiscretions. 71% of 18-29 year olds have hidden personal information online in order to protect their privacy, according to the May 2010 Pew Internet study. Whatever happened to the old-fashioned freak-out, the bad break-up poetry or the stupid supervisor stories? It’s all quickly disappearing. The Millennial Generation realizes the Web doesn’t have a universal erase button. They are wiser than we think. Yet they’ll never know what it’s like to share safely and without worry. Sure, we’ll still see TMI (TooMuch Information) blogs. I marvel at some of the more famous mom-bloggers who reveal all. I could never do that on today’s Internet. I lament this loss like disco kids mourned the pre-AIDS days of Studio 54.

Where are you in all of this? Do you rant online? Do you share a lot? Why? What happens when you do? Let’s discuss.

-Christine Cavalier

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Cheryl 10 September 2010, 10:10 am

    Wow. I’d like to discuss but have to head to work. Maybe when I get home? Meanwhile, to sum up my initial reaction, I can say this: Yep.

  • Mike D. 10 September 2010, 11:51 am

    *prepares self with the appropriate level of internet etiquette for responding to an old friend’s blog*
    Great post, Christine! I have thought this too, but the ideas never coagulated very well in my head until I read this. Good writing.

    • PurpleCar 10 September 2010, 1:01 pm

      LOL. The ubiquitous “Great post!” move. L33T! 🙂

      Sad, isn’t it? Those early days were the best! But I have to say, as a girl, IRC
      dwellers were the worst. I can’t tell you the amount of shock, awe, and sexual
      harassment I received once they found out I was a girl. Grief, grief, grief. But
      that’s a story for another day.

      Thanks for reading my no-rant rant, MikeyD!


  • Mark Dykeman 10 September 2010, 7:43 pm

    No, I don’t, for a lot of the reasons that you described. By that I mean rant about personal stuff, other people or THE MAN. It just seems like a stupid thing to do.

    • PurpleCar 11 September 2010, 7:24 am

      Yeah ranting online is stupid. But man, it was so satisfying. Especially when
      strangers would validate your feelings. It was like having a whole team in your
      corner, backing you up, cheering you on. But now it’s back to the same old
      lonely state, with sparse validation from one or two family members or friends,
      if they have the patience to listen that day.

      -Christine Cavalier

  • Cavalier92 11 September 2010, 7:46 am

    I guess we’re roughly contemporaries in the Internet Age. I first got on with an account from college and poked around the IRC channels. Later, still in college, I got Netaxs dialup account and monopolized the telephone line.

    The ISp had its own culture and ranting rooms. It was funny to read, but I was never much of a ranter.

    Today though, I do mourn to some degree the intimacy with strangers that we had then. With everyone online these days, the pioneers are lost in the forest of folks who do it faster, luder and better than we could even have imagined back in the early 90s.

    • PurpleCar 11 September 2010, 9:39 pm

      Hey My Cavalier Buddy.

      IRC, man. It must have been then, during those early IRC days, that ranting
      online turned into a right.

      Some people live sharing as a philosophy now, a world view. I don’t get it. If
      one were religious, asking the world for prayers when your kid has drowned may
      make some sense, but otherwise I am at a loss. It could be that I’m solidly a
      generation X member, and we hold on to our privacy like a camel stores water.
      But still, some mom bloggers of my generation make sacrifices in friendships,
      family relationships and professional opportunities to “believe” in the concept
      of sharing.

      Even when I did rant on IRC, I realized only a few people scattered around the
      globe would read it. I felt safe… enough. I didn’t see it as free speech or
      some other inalienable right. Blogging is changing the way we look at the act of
      sharing. The big mom-bloggers are those who’ve been putting out raw sharing
      material for years. They must have some sort of core belief in the benefits of
      sharing online or else how could they keep up? How could they stay motivated?
      And all their children are still young. What happens when their kids are tweens
      or teens?

      Anyway, I get the benefits sharing brings, but now the damage it can bring
      outweighs any good. I hate to replace everyone with Stepford wives like me, but
      I worry this illusion of sharing as a right isn’t leading people into a false
      sense of security, fame, connectedness or any other supposed benefit ranting
      online brings.

      -Christine Cavalier

  • Mari Adkins 13 September 2010, 12:09 pm

    I have a small list of things I absolutely refuse to blog about although I will post about them in private.

  • Pete Prodoehl 30 September 2010, 6:36 am

    There are thing I miss about “the good old days” of the Internet, but then something makes me feel bad about thinking there were “good old days” at all…

    • PurpleCar 30 September 2010, 8:42 am


      LOL, I hear what you say about there probably not being “good old days.” As I’ve
      said before, the sexism I ran into back then was so oppressive I almost left the
      whole tech field forever. Things are much, MUCH better for women in tech now,
      although not at all great. In fact, it’s pretty poor and I advise my daughter to
      stay out of it as a career, but I have to say it has improved, if you can
      believe it. So yeah, “good old days” may be a myth.

      Did I sound curmudgeony? I did, didn’t I? I hate those people! LOL

      -Christine Cavalier

  • Sweetbearies 5 June 2012, 12:41 am

    I think you should share what you like on Twitter.  I lose a few followers now and then, and if they delete me just because I posted about a topic that bores them, then they were not really interest in me in the first place.  I did not get online until 1996, but even then chat rooms were more civil.  It was with the advent of YouTube that I was appalled by the things people actually felt comfortable writing online.  There is a nostalgia for the more civil time before the social networking sites took over.  I actually prefer reading blog sometimes because at least you still get some of that interaction with people who are not in your immediate social circle.

    • PurpleCar 5 June 2012, 2:47 pm

      Hey SweetB

      Thanks for checking in.

      Wow you are so right about YouTube. I had never seen comments like that before. Crazy.
      I need to get back to reading a few key blogs again. I agree, it’s much more satisfying to be a part of a community.