“The first generation of internet users had brought with them a certain smugness, a feeling of internet exceptionalism, the conviction that Internet People were better than regular people, and that it was just as well if the internet was a place where the previous norms of social interactions need not apply,” she writes. “If the language was a bit rough around the edges, prone to misinterpretations, so much the better for keeping out those who didn’t get it.”
Exclusion — or, at the least, a sense of in-groups and out-groups — was thus baked into the Internet. This is the original sin of cyberspace. And it has stuck with us as more people arrived online, since the Internet is simply a reflection of us. You see it in the dismissal of people who spend their time on Facebook or use memes with the traditional “Impact” font as “Boomers,” or the fact that Boomers dismiss any lazy teen as a “millennial” despite the fact that old millennials are nearing 40.
Anyone who has spent much time on social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook will understand the ritualized way people interact with one another — the ways subgroups form and fall apart. There are superusers, whose follower counts and real-world clout render them nigh-on untouchable, and there are lesser users, whose efforts to become part of the in-group mark them as try-hards and targets of mockery.