I joined the Clock Crew in 2005 when I was 13. This was my first real exposure to the sort of jaded countercultural internet society that define parody groups. At the time admittedly I only understood the humor of the original clocks only on a very superficial level, like I knew what the intention was behind the Clock Crew but I was mostly seduced by the very high quality flashes (by clock standards) that were being produced at the time, by Strangeclock and Renegade and the like. I suppose I was also attracted to the sense of community and the "clock lore" so to speak, as around 2005 the Clock Crew was in something of a renaissance if only in terms of new members and flash output, to say nothing of the actual change in culture as 13-year-old kiddies like myself swarmed in. Basically I was the archetypical kid who didn't fucking get it.
Over the next few years I underwent what I can only describe as a dramatic enculturation process that (at the risk of sounding hyperbolic) dramatically affected my life since. I was fascinated by some of the older members who familiarized me with (admittedly sophomoric at times) countercultural literature, ideologies, etc. These were people that were 10 years older than me. I almost immediately lost my faith in God (at least in the christian sense) after reading some of the arguments on the Clock Crew. I remember reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas at the recommendation of a clock at a time when I hadn't even touched alcohol let alone LSD, which was alienating but fascinating. Vector art gave me something to strive for and be proud of, and I worked very hard to improve my craft after seeing clocks who had exceptional artistic talent. I became interested in surrealism, absurdist/dadaist humor, and just generally things that I never would've been exposed to otherwise, or at least not until much later in life. I read things which I found truly insightful. When I finally outgrew the clock crew (not to say the community is inherently childish, I just outgrew it in the sense of what it meant to me while I was a member) it had altered my identity in a lot of ways, many of which I think ultimately benefited me in adult life. I don't do flash professionally, but the giddy rush of absolute concentration that working in Flash brought me I was able to apply to other things in life to great effect.
This is mostly just me rambling and reflecting on my time here, but if I were to draw more universal lessons from this I'd say that there is a unique phenomenon in post-internet western society where kids are essentially raised by the internet. My preconceptions about faith, humor, art, taste, and life in general were completely rewritten by this community, as I'm sure was the case for others who came during their very early teens, when your identity is in flux and the world is just opening up to you. I'm waxing sentimental a bit because I joined the cc 9 years ago today, but I felt it was necessary to take into account all the things that the CC taught me. Feel free to discuss your own experiences.