For many, the Internet seems like a miserable place to hang out and engage. I'm here to tell you this is nonsense and that you should look beyond the mainstream narrative out there!
There are many definitions for the word culture. Some dive into the meaning of art and how we interact with it, while others focus on the social aspects. For the sake of this article, I’ll use the following definition:
Culture can be defined as all the ways of life, including the arts, beliefs, and institutions of a population, that are passed down from generation to generation.
But why write about the culture at all? Who gives a fuck?! Well, Internet culture is one of those things you often read about but need help understanding. These days the term has a bad association with extremists, toxic influencers, or hate speech online.
This article aims to highlight what the Internet community and culture are all about and why I feel it’s necessary to understand the subtle differences in what’s being portrayed online. All of our lives have become more digital, and things like memes, GIFs - pronounced with a hard G, by the way - or links to social posts are things we engage with daily.
As someone who grew up on the internet, my first interactions were just after the dot com bubble burst; I take great pride in calling myself an Internet kid and hope this article is helpful for people who still struggle.
Whether you engage on Twitter, Telegram, or any comment section online, it’s important to understand what people say. If we meet in person, it’s easier to see what the other person is expressing. Most would say this isn’t possible online as we often lack context.
I’m here to say this is only partially true! If you’re texting with your girl or boyfriend, there might be some lack of context at times because it’s harder to express feelings via the written word. But guess what? There is a solution to this; Just video call them!
However, this couldn’t be further from the truth for other online engagements. The Internet language has evolved over the years. Back then, you couldn’t add images or every letter to a sentence. So language patterns like leet speech grew out of it. If you want to try it, use this website.
The same thing can be said for memes and GIFs. Back then, the Internet protocol was less stable than today and only allowed low-quality images or animated clips. People became creative and added text to photos to express feelings, tell jokes, or make pictures fun. The result was memes and GIFs, which are content we still use today.
And these memes, GIFs, and their Internet lingo shape Internet language. You’ll often find people responding online with an acronym or a GIF. Instead of saying thank you or telling you how they favor something, people will use imagery to express emotions. If you want a real-world example, subscribe to TLDR Bitcoin, which is an excellent newsletter by my friend Arsen. He manages to find the best memes and create a story around them.
Because the internet, at least in theory, is decentralized, and anything can be built on top of it, you’ll find many different subcultures. I’m part of three mainly. The Bitcoin space, in case you haven’t noticed yet, is the tech space and the writing space. Luckily my job allows me to bounce between the three communities and see the differences.
I’ve noticed that the more creative the space is, the more people engage with emojis or acronyms. Rarely did I find a writer’s meme or GIF. However, the Bitcoin and tech space is very much engaging with images and quickly creates a new one if something newsworthy happens.
The denominator with all of these communities is how you engage—no more need for official introductions or complicated rules. If you want something, be courageous enough to speak out and find people with common sense. You’ll be surprised how open and accepting these communities are.
There are a few individuals online who like to be toxic, wind people up, or are just there for the money. But just like in show business, the media, or your day job, look past that! The real Internet OG’s accept people for who they are and cherish different opinions and ideas. After all, this is how the Internet came to be.
The power of metaphors
Metaphors and current events drive Internet culture. Depending on which community you find yourself in, these metaphors can be more current; you’ll often see this in the tech space, where people use updates to new products or software as a source of inspiration.
For example, years ago, Google’s slogan was Don’t do evil. This has turned into evil, as Google is now infamous for selling your information or using it to advertise across their platforms. They managed to turn many people against them by doing the number one thing they never wanted to be, evil.
Another great example is Steve Ballmer, one of the only employees who became a billionaire. His dance at the presentation of Windows 95 is legendary and still used in many memes. In case you want to see it, here’s the video:
Whatever your industry or community is, if you want to be part of the Internet culture, you must keep up to date with the latest metaphors and events. This is the biggest reason Boomers and later generations don’t understand the internet. They’re used to more civilized discourse and often don’t get movie references or the most current meme.
Luckily, this is not the first time this has happened. Just look at the Boomer generation. While their parents lived through the Great Depression or other horrific events, they went out and partied, danced to rock and roll, and eventually connected with friends via telephone. I’m sure they were annoyed by the older generation once as well.
This time, our generation is advancing much faster because of Internet-enabled innovations. The speed at which new ideas and products pop up has never been faster because of the Internet-enabled hyper-growth.
Community above all else
With all that growth and innovation taking place, we shouldn’t lose the scope of the original ideas behind the Internet. It was initially created to share ideas, collaborate on projects, and have an open ledger accessible to everyone eager to connect.
Unfortunately, the internet was captured by Big Tech companies and became a censorship machine for governments in cooperation with tech companies. However, the core principles are still there. I can run my email server; I can have a web server set up with my blog on it. Or I can use alternative platforms to engage with my audience.
The only thing missing for a long time was magic internet money. Since January 3rd, 2009, we have had the possibility with Bitcoin. There is no central authority, government, or CEO to ask if you’re able to spend your Bitcoin. The great thing about it is I can send value around the world instantly and able to redeem that money for other goods or services or to say thanks to someone in your social circle.
The community has and will always be, above all else, online. Whether you’re part of the Bitcoin community, some tech bro in Silicon Valley, or an artist in Berlin. The Internet and many different cultures are unique and allow us to connect with like-minded people across the globe.
It’s up to you to discover the best community to serve your needs. Once you find it, engage and look beyond the main messages or ideas you read online. I can promise you the more you engage, the easier it becomes. Don’t worry about asking for help. Out there in cyberspace, someone is willing to help you!
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