I remember connecting to the Internet at 1200 baud, that is 1.2kbps.
There was "lag" between people on different servers.
As you might expect, we were a high traffic channel. There were EFnet, Undernet, and Dalnet ranked by traffic.
I will highlight for you what happened as Internet became increasingly more accessible.
It was a powerful connection to share things that mattered to us even though we lived all over the world.
A friend had a college account and I used it to access IRC by connecting to the college HP/UX system through my modem. As modem speeds increased, it became possible to access by more people.