LOOKING BACK: Cyber what?

“I’d be the shit at cybering if it existed yet.”

It seems like ancient history, but the internet was not always the beastly efficient landscape of information and entertainment that it is now.  Using a search engine required skill, raw talent, and an engineering degree .   Checking your email once every three months was considered frequent.  Porn and music were highly sought after commodities but the means to acquire them easily in large quantities wasn’t quite in place.  Social networking began and ended with chat rooms and message boards.  You could not yet rely on streaming video to catch up on television shows.  You had to gather around a modest fire while the village bard would hopefully recapture the episode you missed accurately.  Lastly, webcams were the size of Delaware and not yet distributed for personal use.

Those of us who are old enough to remember what this lack of immediate visual feedback did to the internet dating scene would rather not talk about the sort of things that went on during this era.  Many consider it a shameful blight on the history of our species, up there with the Crusades, slavery, Apartheid, and The Black Eyed Peas.  I’m talking about Cybersex.

“People tell me I look like Ryan Reynolds.”

Everyone knows that the internet was created for two sole reasons:  1.)  To slander other people without consequence and 2.)  To give us access to things that would satiate our questionable sexual neuroses without leaving the house.  Goal #1 was achieved with relative ease.  Goal #2 proved a little trickier as people were finding that, while the method to obtain pictures of a goat and an Asian girl was in place, the technology had not evolved to such a state that obtaining said pictures could be done quickly and efficiently.  So people were forced to seek out alternatives.  Cybersex was one of these methods.  For the uninformed, Wikipedia defines cybersex as “a virtual sex encounter in which two or more persons connected remotely via a computer network send one another sexually explicit messages describing a sexual experience.”

Now, this was between 8-15 years ago.  That is recent, relatively speaking and certainly well within many of our young adult lives.  But it sounds as bizarre and antiquated as Chastity belts, the cotton gin, organized religion, and that sweaty guy who used to hang out with Paris Hilton.  In our present day of webcams, immediate gratification and information overload, here is a sexual “pastime” that requires imagination, creativity, and that ability to weave compelling, arousing sentences in the hope that our “partner” is similarly capable of reciprocating.  Of course, this culminated in the actual typing out of the moans typically heard in a sexual climax.  “OOooOhh!!!” and “Urghhahh!!!!” and my personal favorite, “For Oden – the Thunder God – we offer our sacrifice!”.  The chat windows in which these interactions took place were then immediately closed, because to read back on them would bring about a fit of self-disgust so intense that maintaining any form of a healthy, non-virtual social life would prove impossible.  For females, their male partners would often sign off without notice well before the female was even remotely fulfilled.  This was one of the more direct ways in which cybersex mirrored its real-life counterpart.

Apple’s failed iSecks(1992).

And so I’m sitting in a Starbucks the other day, because I have the money, and “cybersex” just popped into my head.  And I laughed and laughed at the sheer insanity of the whole thing.  Today, most people can barely fumble their way through a simple sentence without including an unnecessary “z” in it.  A decade ago, masturbating and creative writing were mutually dependent constructs.  Of course, one might argue that cybersex is precisely to blame for the degradation of communication.  Theoretically, people become so used to typing with one hand on their genitals that they carry the same sort of rushed, careless attitude into their day to day interactions.  But that’s an entirely different conversation.  No, my intent here is to simply bring us back to a forgotten and embarrassing, but also endearingly creative piece of our not-so-distant past.

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