Well, as a child in the 90s (In MX), visiting cybercafés and later having dialup at home, I have good memories of that Internet, maybe even nostalgic by now.
I didn't have the chance of using BBS and livejournal. It was more Geocities, IRC, ICQ, mail, and web forums for me.
I knew recently about smolnet, Gemini and Midnight Pub (of course!) and I'm so intrigued, and with good emotions.
And I have similar thoughts and feelings, have worked in software, apps and such, and currently I'm working on videogames.
We use iOS/Android, Discord all the time, and we are following the latest trends for Web and consumer technology.
Of course! I'm feeling bad about using social networks and that technology. I play with FB, Twitter, Instagram for a few days, and then I uninstall them. I'm kind of addict to my phone, so I have to hide it so I can sleep better. Everything and everyone is there, and at the same time all feels wrong. Sure, I met my wife on FB Messenger and we share funny memes there, at the same time my current conversations with 'friends' don't feel right, feels gamified for bad as you say.
Since 2 years ago we're transitioning into board games. The niche is so much smaller, but they feel more personal than a hypercasual videogame. Getting in contact with the physical environment, like having to be together to play, is great, specially in the 2021.
I like the idea of 'online services' like midnight.pub, where you can access it by Gemini or HTTPS, is like a transition between 2 modes that share a same philosophy. You can browse it with a terminal, or with your phone. Are limited and accessible at the same time. I love that!
And finally I've been spending a lot of time on similar ideas. Thanks for sharing, makes me feel not so crazy about it.