I received my first Internet account 17 years ago today.
Ah, yes, the Internet.
Back when spam was only a food, back when anything in your emailbox was probably something for you personally. Back before blogs, before the World Wide Web, before even gopher (a menu-driven system for looking up information; gopher sites did not connect to one another and websites do, which is why it was never called the World Wide Gopher).
Back then, if you wanted to make files available to people, you had to put them in a special directory, and the seeker would use "anonymous ftp" (File Transfer Protocol) to download them. (It would ask for a password, and the recipient was expected to give his/her email address.)
Back then, we had Usenet - a set of protocols among independent sites to agree to set aside space for specific forums. Anyone could post to them - without even putting fake characters in our email addresses! (Like I said, back then spam was a food.)
Back then, the general public had yet to hear of "The 'Net". Most people with Internet accounts were students and professors of Computer Science, Computer Engineering and similar fields, and computer programmers, engineers and the like. Not every student could just walk into an office and get an Internet account - that would have to wait another couple of years.
(Tracy Holt at George Mason University, thank you wherever you are.)
The first thing I did with my Internet account? Play games online. Specifically, play MUDs (Multiple User Dimensions, or Multiple User Dungeons). Those are text adventure games, loosely based on Dungeons & Dragons. As in "Wield sword," "wear armor," "kill troll," "take all from corpse" and so on.
It was more than a game for me. It was a social lifeline.
Finally, after 22 years, I found an arena in which I could relate to people, where I could organize my thoughts before presenting them and where my writing skills would be an advantage. I found friends and even romantic interests that way. (Yes, more than a few people have married IRL - "In Real Life" - after meeting on a MUD.)
I might add that I also met many people in computer labs, including several women I've dated - including Emily - and a few friends with whom I keep up to this day. Computer labs are good places for technically literate people to socialize face to face.
MUDding can be addictive. Not for nothing is it also called the "Merciless Undergraduate Destroyer". I spent long hours on it at first, precisely because I was having great difficulty in graduate school. I found a sense of achievement, and friends I could turn to. Also, I used email and Usenet to great advantage socially, in much the same ways.
The Internet may actually have saved my sanity. Pretty good payoff for a little bit of computer time, I'd say.
I tapered off MUDding as my social and other competencies improved. Still, I use the Internet on a daily basis, and I can't imagine a social life without it.
Anyway, the Internet is a great place for Aspies and autists. We can connect with like-minded people, and meet potential friends and lovers anywhere - and not just on dating sites, either.
Use it, don't abuse it!
What do you think?
Hour 4: What do you want? Look at your goals.
8 years ago