2667: First Internet Interaction

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First Internet Interaction
To that stranger on the KOOL Tree House chat room, I gotta hand it to you: You were, ultimately, not wrong.
Title text: To that stranger on the KOOL Tree House chat room, I gotta hand it to you: You were, ultimately, not wrong.


In this comic, Cueball, very likely as an autobiographical representation of Randall, describes to Megan the first time he interacted with a group of people unknown to him over the internet; in an AOL chat room for children called the "KOOL Tree House chat room" in 1993, when Randall was about nine years old. He read a discussion about Green Day, asked who they are, and was told that not knowing was a serious problem. As Megan says, judging people for lack of pop culture knowledge has remained typical online behavior.

Green Day is an American rock band formed in the East Bay of California in 1987. In 1993, they were still known merely as an independent punk band, and a year away from releasing their major-label debut album Dookie, their first mainstream success. Anyone, especially a nine year-old, not recognizing the band in 1993 would be perfectly normal. After 1993, Green Day would go on to be a widely popular and influential rock band with many acclaimed albums.

This initial online social interaction was a significant formative experience for Cueball, molding his online behavior ever since, in that it still causes him to consider his correspondents' perspectives when communicating. The social dynamics at play are reminiscent of the mathematics of others' perspectives described in 1053: Ten Thousand. Relating the personal experience of an oversized effect from a casual insult is humorous because the extent to which early experiences affect people can be both ironic and profound.

The title text indicates Cueball agrees with the reply to the question. This is humorous because it is effectively Cueball admitting that something is very wrong with him, possibly coincidental with and unrelated to knowing that specific piece of trivia. Alternatively, Cueball could have come to believe Green Day is culturally important. If this story is autobiographical, Randall could have hence become a Green Day fan, or at least acquired more than a passing knowledge of their œuvre, recently mentioning their song "American Idiot" in 2665: America Songs.


[First panel, Megan and Cueball talking]
Cueball: You know,
Cueball: I remember the first thing anybody ever said to me on the internet.
Megan: Yeah?
[Second panel, part-height to accomodate Cueball's narration above and the memory of a scene below that features 'Young Cueball', with a mop-head of hair, knelt atop a chair to use a computer with CRT and keyboard on the desk, cabled down into a floor-standing minitower case below]
Cueball (narrative): I was in an AOL Kids chat room in 1993.
Cueball (narrative): People there kept using a name I didn't recognise.
Cueball (narrative): After a while I asked what it was.
Young Cueball (via the use of the keyboard): W...H...O...  I...S...  G...R...
[Third panel, close-up of Cueball's adult head, continuing the framing conversation]
Cueball: Someone replied.
Cueball: "If you don't know who Green Day is, you have a serious problem."
Cueball: And that was it. My first virtual interaction.
[Fourth panel, continuing the conversation, Megan and Cueball now seen walking rightwards as they speak]
Megan: In some ways, the Internet has changed surprisingly little in the last 30 years.
Cueball: Every time I reply to someone, I think
Cueball: What if this is their Green Day moment?

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Is this related to https://www.kerrang.com/green-day-fans-remind-the-internet-not-to-post-wake-me-up-when-september-ends-jokes/ ? (talk) 21:51, 2 September 2022‎ (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

((Hey, what a coincidence. You edit-conflict the following ramble (that mentiones the September thing) that I was trying not to make too wordy and mostly failed at...))

Not entirely sure what my first Internet thing was (pre-web, might have been telnetting - or even Kermitting - to the software ftp/whatever server at Univeristy of Kent, but that was pretty much not an 'interaction'). And I may have IRCed/Usenetted already, with forgettable results, but I'm fairly sure my very first email to anyone outside of the campus networks (and certainly my first outside of JANET) was to Terry Pratchett.

Mind you, I'd only just become sort of reassured that I didn't have to pay any kind of postage for email. (Probably.)
I think I had to wait until after The Eternal September to start getting the comic-like responses. But then I probably lost my patience with various Eternal Septemberites (AOL/WebTV/etc) myself, though never with Greenday details. 22:10, 2 September 2022 (UTC)

is there a related comics section? If so, https://xkcd.com/1053/ is probably related. 00:46, 3 September 2022 (UTC)

Good one. I know I've seen Green Day mentioned in at least a few other xkcds some other media about Randall. 01:01, 3 September 2022 (UTC)

I think the title text is implying that he does have a serious problem 01:15, 3 September 2022 (UTC)

The reply was a conditional, so we can't really infer that generality. 01:30, 3 September 2022 (UTC)
On the contrary... It might be conditional, but we know the condition: "If you don't know who Green Day is", we know for sure that L'il Cueball DOES NOT know who they are, so the condition has been met. I agree, I think Cueball is saying "You were right, I DO have a serious problem!" :) NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:24, 4 September 2022 (UTC)
Maybe Cueball's socialization issues. Or possibly that the internet is broadly searchable if you don't know something, so you needn't ask humans. But while I'm outside American culture, I doubt that now or at any time has it been "a serious problem" to not know what or, as it turns out, who is/are "Green Day".
The name isn't apparently a reference to St Patrick's holiday, but, says Wikipedia, "slang in the San Francisco Bay area" for what I can call taking a herbal holiday. At least, I assume I can, but rules may be subjective. And it's local, so perhaps in New York it does mean St Patrick's Day. Japan celebrates "Greenery Day" for, indirectly, historic reasons. I expect they don't try to say "greenery".
Anyway, would "AOL Kids" tell you about the San Francisco meaning? It is "A Logic Named Joe" all over again, as has been noticed often. Incidentally, it appears that Green Day were founded as "Sweet Children". Robert Carnegie [email protected] 03:12, 3 September 2022 (UTC)
I know of Green Day (more so after these two comics, obviously) but until now I doubt I'd have mentioned them off the top of my head if I'd have been given an hour to list as many musical acts as I could, except for very isolated instances of prior "oh yeah, someone mentioned this lot earlier". And not sure when they first came to my attention, but probably well post 1993 (and well well post being a 9yo).
And I couldn't (recent info aside) have actually named any of their songs if asked specifically about them. Probably heard something they did, some time, but if I've experienced American Idiot then absolutely nothing about it (tune, words or (except since Wednesday) title) seems to have stuck. I have now glanced at their wikipedia article, and... -> Who...my head...osh! ->
But then I could tell you that Clive Dunn performed "Grandad" and Terry Wogan did the "Floral Dance" and Joe Dolce sang "Whatsa matter you" instead, so probably my serious problem is that I'm just not in their normal target audience. An ocean away and a decade (or probably more) outside their usual fanbase catchment. ;) 03:23, 3 September 2022 (UTC)

This is what I come to explainxkcd for, answers to such questions as “Who or what is or was Green Day (and why should I care)?” and other such things I’ve never come across during my more than six decades of literacy. Thanks explainxkcd. 08:52, 3 September 2022 (UTC)

My sole knowledge of Green Day is that they released an album called "Dookie", there were two or three songs from it that were on MTV, and I couldn't name any of them today, not even at gunpoint. RAGBRAIvet (talk) 09:14, 3 September 2022 (UTC)

To the best of my knowledge, Cueball has always been drawn bald (or at least with no visible hair), yet the 1993 Cueball shows a relatively long and very unkempt growth.  Wonder what happened – alopecia?  Very early onset of male pattern baldness?  Or maybe he just prefers to shave it and rock the Yul Brynner look? RAGBRAIvet (talk) 09:24, 3 September 2022 (UTC)

Not all "child stick-figures" have had hair (obvious girls, like clear women, being the exception for obvious characterisation/distinction reasons) so I presume it's a deliberate contrast. Young Cueball (Who Is Not A 'cueball') clearly had full hair (with maybe a pudding-basin cut/styling?) that was distinctive. Whether, then, Current Cueball has hair so non-descript that there's no depiction that can be done...; whether he is full bald/shaved (because of early male-pattern-baldness/other)...; or whether his hair is just so head-shape-clingy... I don't know.
Note that Cueball's head (especially in early comics) is not a true oval/ovoid but seems to have a small cusp (about where the crown of his hair would be) that's often usefully depicting his head-attitude but also where the illustrating pen probably started and ended its head-loop. I choose to believe that to be representative of his (short/managed) hair as an abstract of where the hairs might radiate from in a pretty normal hairstyle aithout excessive styling/combovering/etc.
But there are many possible reasons for any (in)consistent portrayal. Except that it clearly depicts a youth who has changed (perhaps through cynicism of life's many challenges, including online interactions) into the more world-worn current self. 12:40, 3 September 2022 (UTC)

So who else is going to admit they had never heard of Green Day ever before? I sure had not, and I'm an 80s kid living in California. Maybe because I've never been in indie rock bands that much. Does that makes me one of the lucky 10,000 of the day? Ralfoide (talk) 18:34, 3 September 2022 (UTC)

It does! 18:51, 3 September 2022 (UTC)
I never heard of Green Day before and I'm not sure I should care, but I was never into rock that much. -- Hkmaly (talk) 02:36, 4 September 2022 (UTC)
Living in America in the right time period, yeah, THAT is weird. They were huge. Probably their biggest song, and I think their first breakout hit, was Basket Case "Do you have the time, to listen to me whine...". Video has them in a mental hospital. What might be their last hit, WAY different genre, early 2000s, was "Wake Me Up When September Ends", so every Oct. 1 a joke goes around "Hey, September ended, wake up that Green Day guy!" (He tweeted a reply once, "Ya ya, I'm up, you can leave me alone now" or some such). NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:48, 4 September 2022 (UTC)
American Idiot got played a lot in the UK over the Bush years. It was rather hard to miss. No further comment to avoid a political discussion 13:37, 5 September 2022 (UTC)
Not to forget "Boulevard of broken dreams" which was played here (Germany) up and down on every station.... But I can easily believe that someone would not have heard of any given interpreter even if surely heard a song or two from them. I know a ton of songs which I don't know/couldn't name the interpreter. Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 10:32, 7 September 2022 (UTC)
My thoughts too. Except I glanced through their Discography and had zero song-recognition, purely by name. "American Idiot" means nothing to me beyond being brought up as a reference in these related comics; "Boulevard..." rings no bells. If I were to play any of them, or coincidentally have them played at me on the radio with a handy pre/post announcement of it being one of Green Day's, maybe I'd realise I knew some of their stuff after all.
(NB. "Interpreter" is usually for someone like a "translator", but implying more real-time translation rather than, say, text-to-text between languages. I assume you mean "performer"(/singer/musician/group/band, according to context, and also applicable to actors), as otherwise it's more a niche word for (say) certain types of dancer. Aber mein Deutsche ist schlechter, dein Englisch ist anders vehr gut! Nur fur hilfe sie, ich erwahne es. :P )
But the last time I regularly listened to '90s music was... The '90s? And not so much even then, as I obviously didn't pay enough attention. There was this song that repeated "These sounds going through my mi(i)i(i)ind..." but always sounded to me like "Pi-izza (going through..., etc)" - no, didn't make sense, but it was as a result of the 'singing' style/delivery. And I don't know what group that was, or if that was the song-title even. Probably not Green Day, though. I'm consciously resisting the urge to Google it! 11:26, 7 September 2022 (UTC)

We need a category for children, e.g. 742: Campfire. 18:51, 3 September 2022 (UTC)

My first online interaction was trying to figure out why my school district's Data General PL/1/BASIC-knockoff clone was so pathetic compared to the Xerox PARC Smalltalk system I had been reading about in the issue of BYTE I had picked up. 21:57, 3 September 2022 (UTC)

Interesting. I don't remember what was my first online interaction. Guess it wasn't very formative. It PROBABLY was in comments under some technical article. -- Hkmaly (talk) 02:40, 4 September 2022 (UTC)
Oddly, that was in 1979 (as in the song by the Smashing Pumpkins) and not 1981 when the famous BYTE Smalltalk special issue came out. The magazine had been covering Smalltalk for years, because of the Douglas Engelbart influence, I guess, in various news blurbs, letters, and mentions in columns prior to the special issue. By the time I got that special issue, I had moved to a school district with TI, Honeywell, and Burroughs minicomputers with a wide variety of languages instead of that PL/1-based Data General minicomputer/mainframe. Sadly none of them were truly incremental and interactive like Smalltalk was or e.g. GIBBER[1] is today. 07:57, 4 September 2022 (UTC)

Definitely not my first, but earliest online interaction with a stranger I can remember was in 1990 or so, a friend had his own BBS, in a board - possibly dedicated to it - I got into a competition with a guy to top each other's insults (no actual argument, just exercising how offensive we could get). Then after a bunch of volleys back and forth he came up with one I just couldn't top, so I instead came up with the most insulting offensive title for King Of Insults I could manage. :) NiceGuy1 (talk) 04:48, 4 September 2022 (UTC)

What I'm seeing here is that Cueball canonically had hair as a kid. (talk) 23:13, 4 September 2022 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

My first internet interaction was (probably) on an IRC channel at the moment Sydney experienced a small earthquake on a Saturday night in 1993. I remember typing "Did anybody else just feel that?", and got one or two replies. More significantly, I was the first person in our company (500+ employees at the time) to have internet access, and I was allowed to "surf" the net, looking for opportunities and reference links to our business. Naturally, I found a lot of stuff more interesting to me (sf, games, etc) than boring health-insurance. One of the USENET channels I discovered by accident had hundreds of email posts about some new collectable card game. There was baffling talk about Lotuses, Moxes, Shivan Dragons, Instanrts, Enchantments, mana, etc. It was quite confusing but a year later (aged 35), I was hooked. 01:12, 5 September 2022 (UTC) Beechmere

Perhaps a more general than mocking for lack of pop culture knowledge[edit]

I feel like there's a little bit more of a message here with this cartoon. I don't necessarily think that Megan is pointing out that only "judging people for lack of pop culture knowledge" has remained, rather being quick to judge online in all things is what hasn't changed. I've definitely had several experiences with impatient people online and on the flip-side have been quick to judge others online. It doesn't help anyone feel good or feel welcome anywhere by being rude/mean. JosephDaCoder (talk) 05:11, 7 September 2022 (UTC)