We have to stop meeting
on the internet
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
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.