2020-08-09

Today I'm in the mood of making predictions. Predictions on the rise of Internet Friends and Internet Cities.

These are fledgling ideas and there's a strong chance that I'm saying nothing new. Additionally, this might be more wishful thinking than thoughtful analysis. But I found these thoughts interesting enough and I want to develop some of them a bit more.

On a more personal side, this week wasn't productive. That's because I'm helping getting my parent's house ready for a sale - lots of cleaning and staging. While exhausting and distracting, it yielded some unexpected psychic benefits. There's something powerful about having a clean and beautiful living space. A physical manifestation of the ideas of [[Work Clean]] and "[[Fewer, more beautiful things]]" (an idea I haven't yet explored, but certainly want to).

And another tiny personal update. After a conversation with a friend, I've developed a renewed commitment to personal development. That starts with re-listening to "The Power of Now" on audiobook, which sort of feels similar to listening to a spiritual lecture or sermon. And to put things into practice, I'm also re-listening to "Atomic Habits". More on both of these topics in the future, but it felt necessary to mention them (you know, for the accountability).

It's funny, I own a lot of audiobooks (Audible subscriber), but I seem to listen to the same ones over and over...

Alright, now that all of that is out of the way, my predictions.

Internet Friends

I've made a handful of [[Internet Friends]] in 2020. The more I use Twitter, the more internet friends I've made. But it's not just Twitter, I've also found internet friends on [[IndieHackers]] and [[MakerLog]] and various invite only Discords/Group chats.

This is more than I've ever made in all my previous years. In the past, I made practically all of my friends in the real world. I had a few Internet-only connections, but things like Discord and Zoom have changed the game. I used to know what people on the internet think like. Now, I know what they sound like. And what they laugh like.

It's obvious to say the future is going to be a whole lot more digital. But the second order effects on our social lives are going to be weird. Imagine a world in which half of your friends you've met in person and the other half online. (Which is a strange distinction - "in person" vs "online").

This is important to consider because meeting people online is different. You can actually meet someone online for the first time without interacting with them at all. You can visit their profile and read up on how they want to present themselves. Or better yet, if they have a website, you can spend a moment immersed in their brain. All without ever meeting them. And they can do the same for you.

Internet Friends are typically more aligned with you, in terms of how you think. In the past, location was king. Now, thoughts and values reign supreme.

Another fascinating wrinkle - you can have multiple identities. And none of them have to be associated with your face.

This trend is massively important to understand. It's going to fundamentally shake our conception of what it means to be social and what it means to be friends. Right now, people sort of understand this. But the new tools that we've gotten recently (video chat via Zoom/Google Meets, audio discussion with voyeurism as a feature via Clubhouse/Discord) are changing the dynamics of how "close", an Internet Friend can feel.

Collectively, these tools are a disruptive innovation to friendship.

Let that sink in - Friendship is getting disrupted.

The experience is worse in important ways (you can't hug or high five or share food), but better in many others (meet people on the merit of thoughts and values, without restriction to geography).

It also means producing content (writing, videos, art, etc) is going to be hugely important. Your content is the new coffee chat - it replaces the first meeting.

I have no game plan for what you need to do to position yourself for this change, but I believe building your own personal site is at the core. It's highly related to the idea of Personal Brands that Dru Riley explored, but in this case, it's not about business. It's more about being a person of the Internet.

Internet Cities

This week, I stumbled across Bogleheads and it felt like visiting another world. From my internet spaceship (Firefox), I had touched down and landed on a strange planet, a place called Bogleheads.

My visit was short, but it was fascinating to explore this backwater. For about 10 minutes, I immersed myself in a culture of responsible personal finance (Bogleheads take their name from John Bogle, the founder of Vanguard and champion of ETF "set it and forget it" type investing).

Bogleheads is an old community. It started in 1998 as a subcommunity of the MorningStar forums, and then in 2007 branched off to settle new territory. Those MorningStar Internet Pilgrims spun up phpBB and created a new town square dedicated to the creed of John Bogle. Over time, this little Internet City sprawled with more low-code tools, adding a wiki (mediaWiki), and a blog (WordPress). In 2020, it's still a lively little city, but it certainly feels dated.

Take for example, a newer digital community like IndieHackers, which itself is entirely custom. Built on Firebase, IndieHackers is a new type of Internet City that doesn't use off the shelf parts. Thus, it has its own distinctive feel - that's reminiscent of Reddit or HackerNews, but altogether quite different.

I believe we are about to see the founding of a great number of new [[Internet Cities]] over the next few years. Some may call them communities, but I think they're closer to [[MMO RPG]]s, that will share similarities to cities. These "communities" will have job boards, and commerce, and events, and governance. You might pay a tax to the community (a membership fee, or a transaction fee on all commerce), or more likely, it will be sponsored by a corporation (in the way IndieHackers is today by Stripe).

But the great digitization of our social and professional lives means that interest based Internet Cities are begging to be created. In the future, we'll probably spend most of our time interacting in Internet Cities and Towns.

Indeed, we already spend a ton of time on these Internet Cities. To me, Twitter feels like the Big City, Bogleheads feels like the a small town in the Midwest, and IndieHackers feels like a young Singapore.

I don't know if this idea makes any sense to you, but I'm excited for this.

This is going to be fun.