Recently been thinking about how we’re generationally divided by social networks at this point. There are those of us that remember Friendster and MySpace, those that were on Facebook before everyone’s aunt was, and those who were on Instagram when it was about photography. Then there’s Snapchat and TikTok to round out the current majors.

Each of these platforms inherently created both a language and a set of values within its user base, which is to say when I reference AOL IM away messages in terms of social media, only people who used it to chat between 1999 and 2005 are really going to understand because they will likely have formed some sort of emotional connection to the utility (as we all did).

While things like protest movements are a little easier to organize with whatever social media tool is of the moment, the idea that within one generation there may be four age divides that have a completely different relationship with the world (and how to communicate) based on how the internet was developing at the time—well, that might lend a hand to explaining why so much is so discordant right now. The internet is one mess of people being generally unable to talk with one another, how are we expected to keep it together during all of this?

If I thought it was intentionally nefarious and not just intentionally profitable, I’d call this all some evil genius conspiracy theory: the best way to keep the social masses from organizing in their despair against power is to keep them separated; the easiest way to do that, other than with race, is with language. And these are all their own languages, repeating the same ideas but never moving past the media on-screen.