You’d be hard-pressed to avoid the waves of nostalgia that encapsulate some areas of the Internet. Many forums and sites exist to dwell on the early days of the Internet, where users claim that the early days were special due to a stronger sense of community, discovery and all around fascination.
But is this true?
In some ways, yes. Before social media, users only had outlets like instant messaging, email or video games to discover others and bond, and to some, these methods were more personal than going onto someone’s Instagram profile, where their whole life is displayed to everyone.
So why am I going on and on about the old days of the Internet? Am I just an old man ranting about the “good ole days” and yelling at these kids to get off my AOL lawn? Fortunately no, I was just reminded of the old Internet community due to the release of Classic World of Warcraft, the version of WoW released back in 2004, give or take a few graphic upgrades.
The release of Classic WoW has sparked up debates about how WoW was better in 2004 due to the community, sense of discovery and overall fascination with the world–the same reasons users give about missing the early days of the Internet.
But do people really miss the old days of the Internet, or is it all a bad case of nostalgia prescribed with a pair of rose-tinted glasses? I want to use Classic Wow as a way to demonstrate the early days of the Internet and the reasoning behind missing them.
A Sense of Community
There is truth to there being a stronger sense of community in the early 2000’s.Due to limited ways of reaching out to people–no social media, Snapchat, etc.–users were forced to step out of their comfort zone. In Classic WoW, if you needed help, you had to open up the chat and ask for it. If you wanted long-term friends on the game, you had to seek out a guild or party members; there was no matchmaking or Looking For Group(LFG) sites. Everything was more personal.
Sure, on a larger-scale, users are grouped on a couple of social media sites and are given various ways of communicating, but interactions feel a little less personal.
A Sense of Discovery
The early Internet was anything but a wasteland and finding something new and weird was a given. Discovering something new was fun and sometimes a little disgusting. However, it made the Internet an unpredictable madhouse of fun. Who knew what you were going to find? Though, let’s be honest, what you found is probably a virus; the early Internet was filled with scams and viruses.
But there’s still a lot to discover, even if it’s a bit more obscure. To keep up with the example, current WoW still brings new content, even if none of it is as fulfilling to find as Classic WoW. There’s truth to the sense of discovery being stronger on the early Internet, but it’s not as if it’s absent today.
A Sense of Fascination
Overall, the discovery and community led to people being fascinated with the Internet, but this fascination was fueled primarily by the Internet being new.
Think about it. Anything new will be met with fascination and curiosity, and a community will build itself around it. However, as it becomes more mainstream and widely known, more people dilute the pool that is the userbase. Sooner or later, it becomes the norm, such as the Internet, and by extension, WoW.
It happens to every new product. VPNs are becoming more popular now, but they used to be a niche product. WoW became mainstream, and now it’s harder to become as fascinated with the game back when it was new. Nostalgia plays a part in the glorification of the early days, but it’s mostly rose-tinted glasses.