A complaint about Internet complaining.
Getting access to a keyboard does not make you a superhero, increasing your brain size and making you invisible. When you get on the net, you are the same person you were a second earlier. Still, this truism seems to escape the perception of many.
The Internet has led to a lot of improvements in our lives. Or so it generally seems. The amount of information available to us has increased exponentially. We can make much more precise and informed decisions about all aspects of our lives. It's exciting to be able to research almost any topic on a whim, to be able to stay in touch with people all over the world, to get previously impossible shopping deals and to plan revolutions all from the comfort of your smartphone.
Many have decried the flip side of this advancement, when the information flow becomes unhelpful, turning into an overwhelming flood of data which makes it hard to make a decision of any kind when one type of information seems just as valid as another, with no authority to tell us otherwise. This has led to tremendous attention paid to trivialities, otherwise known as "viral hits."
What I'd like to complain about is all the complaining that takes place on the net. This fabricated, physically nonexistent entity with which we interact through a "browser" has become the confessional into which we shout our frustrations and unmet dreams. The browser is the non-judgmental (especially if you turn off your history) priest that will accept all that is wrong with you and what you think is wrong with the world and post all that for all to see anonymously and with no consequence.
If you believe the general attitude of how many people comment on articles or ideas on the Internet, it appears that all people, events and places in existence suck much more than they do not. Thus, according to the Internet, we live by meandering between horrible places and people, filled with disappointment and anger, always pointing out that the world is not the utopia we imagine.
I think there are people out there who make thoughtful, reasonable comments that advance some debate or just simply interact with the information they are presented in a civil manner that makes the writer of the information feel rewarded for having bothered to put it out there in the first place. But especially in light of the elections, it is hard not to see that most of the comments that are left on any website for almost any reason are so super negative and charged, as if Obama and Romney are stand-ins for all our most shallow and deepest hopes. People converse on the comment boards in a way they would not if they just met those people on the street (at least I hope so). There's incessant bullying and shouting about how what you think is better than what someone else thinks (whom you don't know and never even see the face of).
I think this kind of outlet leads to a schizophrenic society, where people on the net do not continue to be the way they are in everyday lives. People feel a false sense of empowerment, acting as if they think that just by writing everything in CAPS they can cause change. It's nice to believe that the Internet can help transform things like it seemingly has in the Arab countries that recently used the Internet to organize demonstrations and depose dictators. But as we see now, those revolutionary changes are hard to make stick. If you want to change the world, you can use the Internet as a tool but it will make no difference if you don't first take a hard look at whether you need to change yourself and people around you.
If we want the Internet to truly grow with us, especially as we look towards a future where this technology will be incorporated into our clothes and bodies, we need to move towards seeing the Internet as a real place. A real place where everyone should have a real identity. And like you do in your everyday physical life when you meet people, you will have to be held responsible for the identity you project on the Internet. So if you don't want people to think you are a whining a$$hole with extreme opinions and no regard for human decency, don't be that way on the net. And ,of course, one way to accomplish that is for everyone to have some Internet ID, a virtual representation of your real self that is linked to your real name and identity. No one should have to know what you do on the net if you don't want them to, but whenever you interact with people, you have to be your real self. It's that simple. Or the machine becomes more important than the human, transforming the human irreparably.
As much as I often feel with trepidation that Facebook is intruding on various aspects of my privacy, in some fundamental way I agree with their basic notion that we should not see the Internet not as some place to hide who we are but as a place into which we can extend who we are. It could be and will be a living extension of us.
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