The internet is changing so fast that there are already people in their thirties looking longingly back to another era. French-Moroccan journalist Marie Le Conte wrote a 300-page book to lament these changes. her title exhaust. How one generation shaped the internet, destroyed it and survived it (Currently in English only). Le Conte analyzed the changes in the Internet between the first two decades of the twenty-first century.
The result is a useful cultural history for the web: “The Internet is like a cool old bar. You discover it by chance, you see it great, you tell your friends, they tell, the drinks get more expensive, you fill up every night and you feel it was great because hardly anyone knows it,” he writes. Now she’s still at that bar, having fun, but she’s sitting in the corner, alone.
El Pais spoke by video link with Le Conte, who has been living in London since 2009, where he works in political journalism. He started his online life revolving around blogging about music indie. The network has become an anonymous place to find friends, some fame and even sex. Today, this chaos has vanished in favor of algorithms, influencers, and passive consumption. All this does not mean that Lou Conte ran away. The Internet is still “my home,” he says, but it is no longer an intimate and cozy place, but rather “flat, boring, and lifeless.” The internet was not a reality and now it is. In his interview with this newspaper, Le Conte explained some of the most important points of his book.
I have a new book coming out on September 1st! It’s called Escape, and it’s about being part of the first-ever generation that grew up online, at a time when the internet was new, modern, and ever-changing. https://t.co/l4N8PgYlRX pic.twitter.com/63bsnWPW6c
– Marie Leconte (youngvulgarian) June 8, 2022
1. Nostalgia for nerds
“I defined two periods of the Internet,” Le Conte explains, “In the formative years, it was a place for people who weren’t very savvy in real life: they were very weird, they didn’t have a lot of friends, and their hobbies were weird.” Le Conte was included. On that list: “So we all ended up in that different space because in real life we weren’t doing very well,” he adds.
Those years were for a little boy born between about 1985 and 1995. They were the ones who shared adolescence with the network, which was created in 1989. It was already a popular place, until Amazon, Google and Facebook were born, but life was in forums and blogs that were also read only on the home computer.
In the second decade, everything changed: “Phase two probably started in the early 2010s. That’s when literally everyone joined us. Suddenly he spends all the time Online It just became quite normal,” he recalls.
That was when they “invaded” the pub. Being online is no longer special. This distinction between digital and real has been reduced to zero: “Real life and the internet in early 2020 finally merged into one world,” he says. Everything that happens or is said on the Internet is really real, has consequences at work or in private life and is forever linked to your identity.
2. Lucky Teenager
One afternoon in 2007, at the age of fifteen, Le Conte had a completely “boring” experience of the twentieth century. He organized a concert with small bands in his hometown: “What we did was basically to my father’s dismay by printing a lot of brochures on his stamp. Then we went to distribute them to the colder parts of the city. At that time it was still the only way to spread the word.”
This “streaming” era of porn was a bigger change than the internet in general
Le Conte’s fortunate upbringing witnessed the last breaths of the previous era. Then, too, they were young enough to use the Internet as a controlled lab for adolescence. First, they were anonymous: “We had this endless ability to reinvent ourselves. Due to the prevailing culture at the time, you didn’t use your real name online, but you could also use different nicknames on MySpace and in the Messenger Forum.”
And second, anonymity meant that the distance between digital and real life was enormous. Nothing flinched on the other side: “I did a lot of stupid things online when I was young and got into a lot of stupid fights. None of them made it to the real world.”
Another physical feature was added to these two online features: the iPhone did not exist yet or was barely developed. The internet was something going on at home: “I already had a cell phone and could text. But I didn’t have internet. This, in hindsight, seems to me the perfect balance. This is a world I really miss: having almost everything from the internet, but also I leave it behind when I leave the house.”
3. The porn was frozen trout
Perhaps the chapter on discovering sex and porn is the chapter that best illustrates this leap between the internet and the current one. At the age of twelve, in 2003, Le Conte and a group of friends played a contest “to find the strangest pornography on the Internet.” It would be impossible to describe the results today in a newspaper. But while they found videos showing frozen trout, men dressed in pterodactyl costumes (from the waist up) and a rotting sheep’s head (Le Conte won that).
Lou Conte remembers those discoveries as something positive for his coaching. She helped him discover this world with the help of his mother who answered any questions he had. It didn’t seem like a terrible effect.
But while writing he changed his mind. She had once been choked as a sex toy without her explicit consent. “The chapter had a positive conclusion, but I looked at the data and saw that I couldn’t pretend that was a good thing. I’m sure it’s not just suffocation, it’s very extreme events that are becoming common.”
Le Conte also sees a generational divide: “When I was a kid, porn was everywhere, but it was in pop-ups, pictures, or videos that took a million years to download. Whereas if I was five years younger, all of a sudden it was all porn.” This era flow For porn, it was a bigger change than the internet in general, because sex has always been on the internet throughout history. But now it’s all about size,” he explains.
4. The arrival of the handsome and when everything changed
The porn expansion was just a show. But Lou Conte sees many progressive moments that are hard to pinpoint: when we all moved to Facebook, when Tumblr ceased to be a niche network. But the key was more when it was bloggers They gave way to the powerful. On the move, Le Conte has a detailed theory: “If you were a blogger, you did it because you liked sharing your life too much and making friends. Online. While influencers want money, they want success and fame in real life. It illustrates this change in internet culture: from wanting to write my thoughts and get some followers, to basically failing if big fashion brands don’t send you thousands of dollars worth of clothes.”
It was as if the Internet became the typical American movie in high school
But his most accurate hypothesis about the time when the internet became the real world is “the time of the arrival of handsome men.” There are studies that show that attractive people have more enjoyable lives. It’s in the data, I’m not inventing anything,” he asserts. In the beginning, in the pre-Instagram network, this spread was not there. “The advent of Instagram represents this change: ‘Oh my God, we’re doing it again, we’ve reinvented’ That beautiful people are popular.” “They are men and women, and they are really beautiful and boring, and it was as if the Internet became the typical American movie in high school.”
5. The algorithm is like my cat
Le Conte wrote, “People 10 years younger grew up in an internet I don’t recognize. I was talking about it with a friend recently and it just felt so much older.”
She uses Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and most other popular apps, but has set TikTok as her limit: “I don’t like it. I’ll never get TikTok on my phone because I tried and I hate that it doesn’t let you search or see what you want. It’s a fully paid algorithm. It’s frustrating Very. I am human. You can suggest things to me, but you cannot dictate what I see.” The most common use of TikTok is not focused on the people you follow or on specific favorite topics, but on what the algorithm decides.
Lou Conte doesn’t want to decide her TikTok algorithm. Instead, in the book, he explains how algorithms recommending ads or other content came into his life. As a native reader of blogs, which relied mainly on your will, I see algorithm-driven recommendation engines as an unnecessary, albeit nice, addition. For Le Conte, his algorithm is “like a pet”.
“I realize there are people in Silicon Valley who want to control my movements to sell me things, but they are remote and irrelevant,” Le Conte wrote. “My algorithm, on the other hand, is small and it’s here with me; I preferred my online life when I was alone and could decide everything, but they didn’t give me a choice. Now I have a partner on my travels and I take it personal when they don’t care about me, which they often do.” He adds that he is like his cat.
6. But the Internet is still my only home
Le Conte did not take advantage of this rhetoric to abandon the Internet and focus on the real world. He can’t. His home is still less fun but unique. “I still really enjoy basically spending all my time on the internet, although it has also improved my life in the real world. The tension for me is between the fact that the internet is no longer the home I used to feel, but at the same time it’s still my home and not There’s a better place to be, I guess.”
“As a space, it’s not as fun and liberating as it used to be, and now it’s shrunk more, it’s flatter. But it’s still, at least for me, something that has a positive impact on my life,” he adds.
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