Internet inspires interesting trends

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Jonathan Gholson, Staff Writer

Even though it has only been about 20 years since the World Wide Web launched, I could go on about how the Internet has potentially started a new Renaissance—what with our new ability to instantly share news, art, and, in the words of Sir Arthur C. Clarke, “bring the accumulated knowledge of the world to your fingertips.”

But, instead, I want to talk about “cyberculture” – the various vocabularies, collective understandings and behaviors fostered by the Internet community.  They have begun to permeate into the “real world” and there are some implications that go along with that.

Just like the real world, there isn’t a dominant culture on the Internet. While there are many phrases, image macros, in-jokes, and abbreviations commonly understood by several online communities, it would be silly to say it’s all the same.

Individual communities will have their own cultures based on the collective interests of their members. Do a quick Google search (a prime example of how the Internet’s culture has permeated our culture) if you want to find a variety of examples.

Chances are, if you’re a student of IWU and have a Facebook account, you’ve seen the “University Meme” page for our lovely school full of image macros we can all relate to. And chances are you’re also familiar with terms and phrases such as “troll,” “rickroll,” “u mad,” “cool story bro” and “FFUUUUUU.”

I’ll bet a few of you cringed reading those. Don’t worry, I did too.

These terms are popular amongst young adults, mostly middle-class and fairly educated, in English-speaking countries. This is why I’m able to write this and most of you can follow along.

These phrases derive most of their humor from the feeling that the audience is “in” on a joke.  The really interesting bit, though, is that these “in-jokes” are shared among millions of people. They are “mainstream” in-jokes.

What makes things even weirder is that, just like traditional in-jokes, people are able to bond with each other using these as well. Complete strangers who may share nothing in common outside of their understanding of these Internet jokes will suddenly develop feelings of camaraderie upon meeting for the first time.

The Internet is already weird enough with its ability to mix anonymity and fraternity with these mutually understood concepts, but bringing it into the real world muddies up the whole thing even further.

I’m not saying the sudden melding of these isolated online cultures with mainstream culture is a bad thing. The purpose of this article is to bring this squishing and squashing of online and “offline” cultures to your attention. Whether or not the Internet should stay on the Internet is not something I care to worry about.