We live our childhood very insulated, taught to think we're special. We see too many personal tales about the youths of movie stars. We think, "Hey, I'm just like him. I could be famous one day." We go through elementary school and middle school enjoying the bliss of our uniqueness. One day (probably during August or September), we get to high school and our school starts playing some other school in sports, or we begin to explore our own interests and our eyes are opened to the wide world of other high schools. Our tender worlds are shattered by a realisation: Everyone is the same!
There's the funny kid, the kid who is an outrageoulsy talented musician, the drug addict, the slutty girl, and so on and so forth. Even if you're on the fringe, you go to places like poetry festivals, and realise that even the weird kids aren't that unique. If you happen to be of the type to have blue hair (which I'm not), you are let down when you see the other six people there with blue hair. The line, "How come all goths are unique in the same way?" comes to mind.This all reminds me of a Clem Snide song (that, as far as I know, is yet to be recorded in studio) with lyric, "You're not as weird as you'd like me to think."
Online communities, perhaps depressingly, are the same way. I started paying attention to everything's community aspect about two hours ago, and I suddenly have seen the striking similarities.
"Captain Noob, what can you possibly have to share with us about E2 that we don't already know?"
In all the debasing and derision I've taken in the last little while, it's very similar to what I dish out in the community I belong to. In this case, instead of being the longtime senior member of the community, I am the noob. My community has reached a critical mass of sorts, we don't get many new people anymore. Unlike everything, we don't get noobs much. However, they're still loads of fun. Baiting them into bans, laughing at their ineptitude, chuckling as they don't understand our inside jokes, our affable homoeroticism, our way of doing things.
Plop. I write my first node and have the piss taken out of me - I had no hard links, no soft links, no links of any level of hardness. I am coerced into punching thyself. As I click the link and am consequently made fun of, I remember how many times various noobs have been told about goatse and tubgirl and then been utterly disgusted.
I felt like I was being whacked over the head with cosmic Internet karma.
My observations of other communities show these same striking similarities. The people who annoyed you once but then became loved members of the community, the people who get their message board accounts hacked and their deaths faked. The storied past, the nostalgic IRC logs, the fraternal bonds. And unless you got in at the right time, you just know you'll never quite get into the centre of the community.
Perhaps, loss of perceived uniqueness is part of growing up, losing innocence. But maybe it's a reminder that we should try to hold on to those precious days of childhood, back when the reality of the world had no effect on how our small universe was all that mattered and all that was.