It's kind of funny, looking into the past like this. In Internet time, most of this place is ancient history; a snapshot from a world mostly the same as today, but at the same time so very different. Browsing here while logged in feels like perusing a time capsule or flipping through an old guestbook: most of the users haven't logged on in a decade or more and you find yourself wondering if any of them even remember it existed. Wondering how they might be doing now. It's heartwarming to see it still being used, but its heyday was unquestionably long, long ago.
I was too young to remember most of this period - a snowy memory of a pets.com commercial is a memento I hold onto dearly - but I feel a little wistful for it anyway. It was a fulcrum in time where the Internet was a new and exciting frontier, before social media made daylogs blasé, where computers were usually beige-colored and if you had a Pentium III with more than 30 GB of hard drive space, you were doing well. It was the glorious heyday of the Dreamcast. More pertinently to this particular date, it was a time where those who gathered here were grappling with a tragic loss of heartbreaking timing. More pertinently to the world, it was an age before 9/11 changed our culture and politics forever.
I was a little kid when it all went down, living in the middle of the woods in a little house in a kid's typical little bubble of a world. I remember seeing it on TV from the floor of our main hall, toy car by my hand, Mom standing off to the side. The very idea that so many other people could have, up until then, been communicating about their ordinary, 9/11-free lives online would have mystified young me, who was already something of a computer geek yet had no idea the Internet existed. Most of what they talked about would have mystified me even more, and I'd probably have embarrassed myself online at such a tender age even more than I ended up doing anyway, but I digress.
Now that I'm older and maybe wiser, in a world growing madder by the day, I can't help but feel that terrible event ultimately ended up hardening our hearts. I came of age after that happened, obviously, so I never got to know the world that existed before it, the world before the hopeful exuberance of the 1990s gave way to the biting weariness of the 2000s.
Maybe it's just my social isolation talking - my parents never truly gave up the woods, or for that matter escaped poverty. Maybe it's me subconsciously pining for a better childhood. Maybe my entire analysis is wrong and I'm an idiot. But whenever I remember this place in time, part of me wishes I could travel back in time to visit it. To talk to its people, hear its latest hits and bask in its aura. You might think with the current nostalgia boom that I don't need to, with Napster once again officially a (now legal) thing and an increasing amount of '90s media being given a second lease on life. Buddy, it just wouldn't be the same.