Internet Friends, Internet Skills (Ricky Weekly #34)

This is where I share 3 things every week with my friends and anyone else interested.

A picture from my life:

I went home two weekends ago and decided to record videos of my dad telling me stories from his life, which he loves to do anyway. He’s turning 80 this year but he still has incredible memory. I’d like to try to preserve some of that. Here are some old pictures from the time when he learned to not look at the camera.

Thing on my mind:

😷 I got sick again for the second time this year, and again I’ve recovered! It was a huge pain in the butt and definitely reminded me that I have limited time on this earth so I should make the most of it. Sending y’all my best to stay healthy.

I was reading Nadia Eghbal’s newsletter on “Internet Friends” and was struck by this passage:

Back then, I thought of myself as having “internet friends” and “IRL friends”, and those two worlds didn't overlap in any way. My online social life was filled with people whose names I didn't know, doing things that had absolutely nothing to do with our day-to-day lives.

Once everyone got on social media, my online interactions switched from being “people I know from the internet” to “people I know from real life”. My internet friends started sending me Facebook requests. I'd accept, then scroll through my friend list, amused to see their real names appear alongside other people I knew.

I was struck because unlike her, I never had “Internet friends” growing up. Sure I used forums, chatrooms and played games with strangers, but I mostly lurked or never got too sucked in. Every single friend I had was clearly IRL-first, and we might continue the conversation online afterwards. So it dawned on me that there are probably a lot of people like Nadia in the valley and they probably possess a special set of “internet skills” that I don’t have.

Internet skills are like…commenting in forums and getting into conversations with strangers on the Internet. Sure we can all do that to a degree, but some people are way more comfortable doing it. Not me. Blogging and writing this newsletter is already a big deal for me. You won’t ever see me writing a comment on some random dude’s blog or in some forum somewhere under an alias. This is why Facebook was so transformative because it brought our IRL friends to hang out with us on the Internet in a big way.

Twitter is probably the thing I use most today that has an element of “strangers online,” and even there I’m pretty mediocre. I see people who are just great at it, and now I think they probably just have better internet skills. They are infinitely more comfortable than me at, say, dunking on a stranger’s Tweet. I’m quick and clever in-person, and I think there’s probably a version of that from behind the keyboard. It’s not as simple as calling a generation of people “digital natives” or whatever. I think it’s something you develop from really living from behind the keyboard, to the point of making “internet friends.”

It’s useful for me to know this because then I can sort of understand what game I should be playing. Like, should I even try to invest in Twitter or stick with something slower pace like this newsletter or the occasional blog post? If I don’t have the internet skills, then Twitter is probably going to be slightly harder for me.

Slightly different topic but somewhat related. It’s interesting to see people talk about remote work or more WFH especially with COVID-19 likely becoming a fact of life for the foreseeable future. Of course I also like more remote and WFH, who doesn’t? But I was thinking in what scenario would I actually build my startup as a remote startup from the ground-up. 1) David and I already communicate well, so putting more of it in writing should be doable. 2) We like strong processes and habits, which should lend itself to remote. 3) If the product has a large enough surface area that can be decomposed without needing too much coordination, then it might lend itself to remote. But those attributes don’t make the decision. Really, it comes down to the founders’ preferences and the people we’d work well with. David and I don’t have highly-developed “internet skills” and our version of the best teammates probably also prefer to hash things out in-person just as much as they prefer to do it online.

Lol, crazy how a stranger’s newsletter triggered this long and windy thought.

Piece of content I recommend:

This is random but hey the YouTube algorithm decided that I’d like videos from Sign Duo and they were correct! It’s a YouTube channel from a deaf and hearing couple. I don’t have any personal experience with the deaf community but I’ve learned a lot from watching them and I’m intrigued by ASL!

Don’t forget to turn on captions!

As always, you can find out what I’m thinking in more real-time on Twitter and my essays are on my website. My latest essay is called From Socialcam to TikTok: How we figured out video social in a decade