When I was a kid, I changed schools. It’s pretty standard life stuff, but I didn’t like it; I was removed from a social circle I felt very comfortable in and thrust into a new one where I had to start over with zero established relationships. After that, the next year, it happened again, and I had to start all over from nothing a second time. Maintaining friendships outside of class didn’t feel possible back then.
I think the first online community I signed up for was the Starseige Tribes forum I frequented when I was younger. Having once used the Internet solely for email and games, in my new-found offline loneliness after school, a burgeoning awareness of online communities occurred, particularly ones tied to the games I played. Forums soon became a sort of social safety net for me, something I could always turn to when there was nothing else to do.
I never really cared about being known within the communities I frequented, so I had no qualms with routinely shedding pseudonyms — most of my usernames were short-lived, existing solely for a hundred or so posts on a forum, while in the games I played, I used completely different monikers, ones that often changed; there was no real reason for me to keep using aebl instead of czi when shooting robots in the face with laser guns.
As I grew older and further developed my understanding of this world, nihilism resounded with me. I was still young, however, so I applied myself and those beliefs in particularly childish ways. An example of this can be seen with how I used Something Awful, which was probably my first large, general, non-game forum. As my social circle at the time was predominately other young Internet users, I developed a taste for snark and sarcasm, two things that Something Awful had in abundance. Something Awful was also home to a particular breed of Internet user who posted nothing but ironic absurdities, burns, and jokes, often about themselves and others. For a while, that was me. It wasn’t all that I did, but it was definitely me.
Come college, I was still an idiot online, but I got involved with the local punk scene and began to genuinely mature as a person. I found a social group that aligned with my core beliefs, but unlike my online circle, they didn’t harass each other for fun. Probably related to that, I began to find my sense of humor puerile, and today, despite still being fairly sarcastic about the absurdities of life, I definitely now find a kind of detached irony repulsive in others. Reading some of my old posts from back then, or listening to recordings, is uncomfortable; that person isn’t me.
We’re all imperfect, reaching out and moving towards the people we think we’d like to be; when looking back at how we once were, some of us may attempt to distance ourselves from our shadow, because our past may be even further from our ideal self than we are now. I used to be worse, but that once being worse is why I am who I am today, and I accept that.