I may have mentioned a few times on this blog that I’ve been online for a long time now. 34 years and counting as I write this post! And I’ve been in online communities since before most social networks today were even a thing. And in a few cases before the World Wide Web was a thing.
(Hello to those who remember any of the many BBSes, online services & Usenet newsgroups from back in the day.)
One common link between most of those communities has been that, at some point, I’ve moved on. Sometimes the neighbourhood — the site or service where we gathered — had gone downhill. Or worse, the neighbourhood would be soon demolished. (Usenet definitely falls into the first category, alas.)
But sometimes the reason for my departure was that I had changed, or the community had changed, and the connection wasn’t there any more. This tended to happen one person at a time. A door-slam departure or sudden radio-silence. Or a revelation that showed them to be a very different person to the one I’d met. Once that happens enough times, the common bonds that tied me to that group unravel.
Now that I ruminate about it, a lot of the unravelling happened because we’d all tried to stay in contact on another platform. Across more than one platform jump, in some cases. That, in itself, started the process of unravelling those connections. The need for Real Names may have been an exacerbating factor, along with the tendency of some platforms to encourage oversharing. Then the march of time does its thing, and before long I’m struggling to remember why I was friends with them.
(Sidenote: my autism no doubt played a part in my reactions to these events. I’m as guilty of door-slamming or radio silence as anyone. I regret that in some cases, but suspect that I’d have left in some manner or other.)
I’m not sure what the moral of this story is. That the only constant is change? I’m grateful for the few friends I’m still in touch with, and the experience I gained from being in those communities. Perhaps I’m a better judge of character now as a result.