I spent a lot of my formative years on the internet, wading through the knee-deep sewage that the content on /b/, /v/ and a few of the other more popular boards on 4chan was. I quit spending time on most of those original boards ages ago, and within the last six or seven months I began to lose the interest I had left in the boards that I still occasionally checked up on, and now I’ve gotten to the point where the only time I ever open the site is if someone I know links me something from it. I went from spending a notable portion of my days on these awful boards to the point where the site never enters my mind without a direct mention from another person in some form of conversation.
4chan was never a good place to be spending to be spending my time, and what made me end up there was an abundance of time, an internet connection, and the fact that I was seeing a number of things in graphic detail that I'd never entertained a thought of before. I attribute /b/ specifically as one of the most negative influences on my personality up until about the age of 16 or so. Spending a significant amount of time on that board is like bathing in a goop-y brown sludge of garbage, misogyny, sexual and masturbatory addiction, gore, vomit, piss, and anything else you could think of that has a repulsive feeling to it. The board is a gathering of social rejects, once upon a time it might have had some kind of faint camaraderie in that notion, but by the time I had started becoming a regular visitor, there was none of that left. The feeling of camaraderie or whatever you would call it had been replaced by either blatant pride in being someone whose form of entertainment is posting car crash and gore gifs, or someone who had given up on coming into any kind of remotely standard social position and decided that the only place they felt like they belonged was where any kind of fucked up individual could post. I ended up in this space as an impressionable adolescent and it left me with something of a "me and all the other rejects against the world" mindset for a while, the amount of time I had been spending in the trash heap had essentially desensitized me to severe violence, gore, your standard disgusting shock images, and about everything else that you could imagine. Racism, casual misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, anti-semitism, etc. also all had worked their way into my repertoire and they would stay there for a good amount of time.
Fortunately, I was coming out of my fucked up headspace by the time the irreversible events of gamergate, and later the 2016 election cycle, managed to eradicate most anything left of the few bright spots on the site. Imageboard discussion, which is still one of my favorite ways to communicate with people, was essentially stomped out through the flood of alt-right users and shills that began making their way onto the site in the wake of those events, it became nearly impossible to have a genuine conversation on any of the more widely used boards, because the sheer amount of overflow from users that should have been posting on /pol/ would spill onto other boards and ruin them with blatant shilling and attempts to dogwhistle or otherwise spread propaganda and other bullshit like that. 4chan was never a place where you could avoid casual homophobic and racist slurs even in the most cordial threads, but the sheer amount of posts being made in the threads with the goal of disruption or convincing of someone that the jews, black people, gay people, and others were scum of the earth and needed to be put down or put into slavery or other similar sentiments. Those two events were, in my eyes, the tipping points where it became clear that 4chan would steer directly into a monolith of bigotry larger than it had ever been before, and there was no coming back from that.
I don't regret my experience as a child on an imageboard, what I regret is my experience on 4chan specifically. I'm not going to pretend like my experiences that I had on them, at the time, were not something I enjoyed, but now I look back on them in disgust at the person I was, I think about how easily impressionable my mind was at the time and how it was like stepping on quicksand and sinking nearly to the bottom before I had people help me out of that debilitating mindset. I think about how it's in the biggest state of influence that it has ever been in, and that the same thing that happened to me when I was a 10, 11, 12 year old could very easily be happening to kids and teenagers right now. It's one of the most terrifying aspects of the modern internet, coming from someone who grew up on it.
Written August 28th, 2019