We have to stop meeting on the internet

I haven't been to Consumptionjunction.com in so many years now that I can't even put a number on it.  Curiously, I kept encountering it over and over for many years during the explosive phase of the internet.  And those interactions were alternately hilarious and horrifying.

The first time I remember ending up on the site, it was just a picture.  My friend Syd sent the url to me of a funny cartoon.  It was innocuous enough.  This was in that transitional phase in the late '90s where we were moving away from forwarding funny text to sending pictures.  Videos were still prohibitively large for our limited bandwidth at the time.

My thought was to truncate the url and see what else was on the site, and it brought up an index of text descriptions of the content.  Downloading even images was time-consuming back then, so I just dumped the site into an auto-downloader, a program that would collect whatever links you dragged into it.  I set it to downloading overnight, and I went to bed.

The next morning I had a whole collection of pictures (and even a few videos) to look at.  The majority were horrible.  I've never been easily shocked, but this was in the earliest days of the internet when most of these things would never have been broadcast or printed in traditional media.  For example, there was a picture of an advanced case of genital warts that was so bad that you literally couldn't tell what you were looking at without some imagination.  Then there were a few pictures of suicides that had been featured on the infamous Rotten.com.  One of the videos was of an S&M session in which the dominatrix stood across from a man standing with his arms tied over his head and legs spread.  She'd kick him once in the nuts, then he'd stand there gasping.  A few seconds later, she'd do it again.  And again.  That was the whole video.  I guess dialog would have been redundant as the costumes and setting made the situation self-explanitory.

I'm not sure how much I even looked through, but I deleted the entirety of it.  The picture Syd sent me was by far the tamest thing on the site, so I hadn't planned on going back ever again.  In fact, I didn't even remember the domain name.

Some years later I was in grad school, and someone must have sent me a link, because I was back on the site again.  It was a very similar layout as before, with the ambiguous "descriptions" that were really just punchlines about the media that you'd only "get" once you viewed it.  Most of what I saw really wasn't too offensive.  A lot of it was media lifted from other sources: scenes from bizarre cult films I'd never seen, clips from foreign tv shows, etc.  This was still pre-YouTube, and the closest thing like it was Ebaumsworld.com which only had maybe five new videos a week, posted on Friday.  Yes, I'm serious.  Any media was gong to be something fresh.

I was clicking my way through and happened acorss a description reading, "I will never, ever understand Japanese girls."  My first thought was that it was a foreign commercial.  The most bizarre of those showed up from time to time on Western tv.  "The Simpsons" parodied the tone and imagery of these in its episode about "Mr. Sparkle."  I couldn't wait to see what these girls were up to.  I clicked it, and it was a girl vomiting into a toilet.  Worse yet, it was filmed by placing the camera in the toilet itself so that the stream came right at the lens.  I couldn't tell you much more about the video than that because I immedately hit Alt+F4, the command to close the window.  I don't handle vomit very well AT ALL.  I've gotten better over the years, but I know I spent some time after that gagging extensively.

We must have been gluttons for punishment because my fellow grad students and I started going there regularly and collectively.  My friend Ralph did part-time internet work (web design, optimization, etc.), so he was one of the first people I knew with cable internet at home.  He also set up his tv to accept the signal from his computer, and he had a wireless keyboard and mouse.  We would pass the controls around the room and work our way through all sorts of sites, showing off what we'd found over the course of the week on our own.

We called it "Movie Night" even though we rarely ever watched movies, just internet things, even listening to prank phone calls we found through Napster.  Once we had exhausted all the latest crop of funnies, we inevitably ended up on Consumption Junction because that was a bottomless pit of weird.  We'd keep clicking through videos on there, which was what the site had turned into mostly.  Everything was all mixed together and there were no keyword tags or anything that allowed content to be searched or categorized from the user's end of the experience.

The gross video that made us stop watching at the end of the night was of a guy trying to light a fart with his cigarette lighter.  Sure, you've seen the one where the guy's shorts catch fire, and he jumps up screaming.  No, this was worse.  The guy shits himself and his pants turn black.  It was nasty.  We normally brought food to these get-togethers, and this video almost had us seeing our supper all over again.

I always approach the site cautiously, always with my hand ready to throw another Alt+F4 if I happened across something like that.  I gradually got away from going to Consumption Junction because of things like that.  Worse yet, over the years it started relying increasingly heavily for revenue from porn sites.  Many of the videos featured were veiled promos for sites specializing in the "Hey, lady, we'll give you $500 dollars to get in the van" variety of videos. It was the same thing over and over, only you couldn't tell that's what you were about to pull up each time; they were still doing the vague text descriptions.  No thumbnails even though that had long been common practice on websites of all kinds for years leading up to this.

The internet was a small place back then, and you could run across the same site multiple times the way you ran into the same people over and over in a small town.  The internet may not be any tamer in content now (worse if anything; see "Two Girls, One Cup," for example), but it seems like you really have to seek it out today the way you didn't back when the worst of it seemed to find you again and again.

Copyright 2012 Alexplorer.
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