When I was much younger, after the internet had already picked up mainstream steam, but before social media, I spent a lot of time on online forums. The communities were small (and even if they were big, the "regulars" were a small community) and everyone knew everyone. Most of these no longer exist and the chances that I can reconnect with the friends I made are very slim, which is a shame as they've strongly influenced who I am today. I hear that similar communities exist on Mastadon and in some pockets of the internet but I already know it just won't be the same.
I'd get home from school, sit at the family computer, and check for new posts in threads I was part of. For the smaller ones, I would check all new posts on the entire forum and I engaged in a lot of discussions. I remember runescape-tip.com with waves of nostalgia as I just looked it up on the Wayback Machine (we're talking mid-2000s). I also remember the mutual support between friends on teenforum.tv, under the administration of the 21 year old webmaster and MySpace-layout-maker Nora, who seemed so old and wise at the time. Some friendships survived the forums' demise, but somewhere between transitions from MSN to Skype and beyond, it all fizzled away.
One forum that survived to this day however is dreamviews.com, although it looks quite different to how I remembered it. In typical vBulletin fashion, every year I get a birthday email from there, and every year I remember the friends I made on there. We obviously spoke a lot about lucid dreaming, a topic I was very interested in (though barely had any), but also a lot of off-topic stuff. Judging by the length of time the emails go back, I was active on there "only" as far back as 2010, which is later than the others.
I remember checking DreamViews one day, a long time ago, after I had already been inactive for quite some time (probably as I was at uni and busy with life) and I saw a post with one of the more veteran users on the site, reminiscing about all the "old" active users that had gone inactive. He listed usernames that I recognised, and mine was among them! That was the first time I considered that I too might have had an impact on all these people who had an impact on me, and that I wasn't just a random internet stranger to them. By the time I saw that post, the veteran user had also already moved on, so I decided to leave it there, and preserve these memories in my journaling as best I could.
I once tracked Nora down on a different platform, in 2014 (6 years after teenforum.tv died) and she had responded, according to my email notifications. I don't know what that response was anymore, because even that different platform (some kind of design community) is now dead too. Today, I did some sleuthing, and tracked her down on LinkedIn. I messaged her 5 minutes ago, and who knows, maybe she still has a backup of those forums and I can reminisce over the conversations? If anything comes of it, I'll be sure to post!