From Gopher to Twitter, the Internet Fuels Socialization


Before the Barbarian Group VIP party which followed the ROFLcon conference held last Friday and Saturday at Cambridge's MIT, the crew from Our American Shelf Life, Amanda Mooney, Amy Yen, Sarah Hutton, Will Wheeler, laura Nelson, Maria Garcia and Patrick Richardson along with myself, met for dinner at Boston's Sonsie restaurant on Newbury Street.


Between sips of martinis, bites of salmon and appetizer goodness, there was talk of Facebook, Twitter, the origin of Adrants, MySpace angles and why social media really isn't anything more than a shift in the way people use readily available media to interact with others. All of which you will soon see on video.


The crew from Our American Shelf Life examines what it means to "grow up digital" for lack of a better descriptor. If you're 21 years old or younger, you don't know life before the internet. It was always there and it has a prominent place in your life. It's not that it doesn't have a prominent place in the lives of people older than 21 -- but for those who grew up with it, there is no distinction between pre and post internet life.


For me, who is, shall we say, a bit older than 21 and who definitely had a pre-internet life, the internet and the social aspects that come with it have transformed my life in ways I never thought possible. From the day an early model Mac was placed on my desk -- which I thought would have been put to better use as a doorstop -- to three days later when I realized I simply couldn't live life without it, I was changed. I couldn't get enough. I was on AOL before it had 500,000 members. I was into the cool but now obscure things like Gopher and Archie and Veronica and Usenet and telnet and BBSs. Compuserve. Prodigy. Geocities. Even Apple's short-lived version of an AOL-like world.


The most dramatic aspect of the internet for me is its ability to connect people almost as intensely and personally as can a real life meetup. I can honestly call hundreds of people from all over the world whom I've never physically met friends and feel I know them better than my neighbor who I see every day. Singly, that's the biggest effect the internet has had on my life. Among other changes it's made, the internet socialized me in ways I'd never experienced before. Without the internet, I would have no life. OK, so that's a bit extreme but an internet-less life is unimaginable to me.

by Steve Hall    Apr-27-08   Click to Comment   
Topic: Opinion, Social, Trends and Culture   

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Thank you for joining us for such an awesome dinner. As I tweeted earlier to you, our ASL crew grew up wit digital technology but not this explosion of social networks. It will be crazy to see how kids growing up in digital playgrounds like Club Penguin and Webkinz will see the world and the Web.

I also totally agree that I know some people online way better than my own neighbors. You see these people at conferences, finally meeting for the first time offline and it feels like seeing an old friend you haven't seen in a while.

Posted by: Amanda Mooney on April 28, 2008 12:25 AM

Steve! Thanks for a great dinner & conversation we all had an awesome time! And I love the pics (your geeky camera paid off :) Your feelings about being without the Internet remind me of a HYSTERICAL South Park episode a few weeks ago, called Over Logging, in which the country's Internet is broken and everyone heads to Silicon Valley. Seriously, if you haven't seen it, it's a riot, check it out for free at

Posted by: Sarah on April 28, 2008 12:40 AM

Steve! Awesome as always to see you. Aren't you glad we are incapable of getting together w/people w/out getting out the Flip Video? ;)

Posted by: Amy Yen on April 28, 2008 8:42 AM

21? I love ASL, but I think that bar's a little high. I'm 23 and I didn't have AOL until I was 12.

My sister, on the other hand, who's 10? Different story altogether. When she reg'd for MySpace at the age of 8, we had no precedent for gauging whether it was inappropriate.

Posted by: Angela on April 28, 2008 10:35 AM

It could be high. I guess I was assuming back in 1994 when it sort of all began, a person who is 21 today would be 7 or so. Today, many seven years old use the internet but back then, it would be safe to say, not many did.

Posted by: Steve Hall on April 28, 2008 10:58 AM

Steve- i was so pleased to meet you for the first time and hear the voice behind many of my favorite rants. I agree that I know many of my online friends better than my 'real' friends, personality-wise at least. (So far, I've found that in real life, people are taller than I imagine them to be.)

On another note, I'm so glad we have John on the ASL team- at 13 he's giving us a glimpse into the digital experience from the perspective of someone growing up with social media.

Posted by: Laura Nelson on April 28, 2008 3:51 PM

My first computer was the Apple II/c and I have never been the same since. So glad my parents pitched in right when everything was starting.

Posted by: Patrick Richardson on April 30, 2008 12:17 PM