Laptop, lead, socket, Internet connection and a comfortable sofa: are you ready to tune in? If so far so good, with a few clicks and a couple of tabs, the world becomes all yours! #superpower
In the electric world of technology, information encounters no barriers. A constant flow of shares, tweets, and hyperlinks pace and foster the virtual life of millions of internet browsers and surely, to some degree, yours as well. Whether just a trend or a real cultural phenomenon -history will tell- rare are the young western generation who can escape the vibrations of the Harlem Shake or the Facebook links to the latest Obama speech.
But put aside the delirious YouTube syndrome, the web, is endlessly spinning with creative and innovating ideas. From granny tips to make you vegetable garden grow, to quirky anti-loneliness ramen soup bowls, rational and utopians ways of changing the world, political manifesto and anonymous prose. The web has become a gigantic platform for expressions of dreams, fears, laughs and tears of humankind. Anything and everything is found and fine to be found on the internet; it has a say on everything: voices rise and fall as suddenly as they appear. Whether the drive is individual narcissism, the need to tweet your latest chocolate craze or feeling part of the big community, the World Wide Web tends to serve individual interests before collective ones.
Although there are some wonderful philanthropic and humanistic projects on the net, those of them which make an impact in the real world remain a minute proportion. A good example for this would be the very much discussed Kony2012epopee.
It was just about a year ago that Jason Russel, director for Invisible Children, launched his frenzy campaign on “stopping” Joseph Kony, the armed terror of Uganda. The controversial film which was made for the campaign remains to this day the greatest viral video phenomenon. “Nothing is more powerful than an idea. Whose time has come, whose time is now”. The video’s dramatic opening set the tone for Russel’s emotional call for support and action in Uganda, but it also expressed high expectations in social media. The Kony phenomenon spread well beyond what anyone could have expected. Yet, the virtual buzz wasn’t enough to turn Russel’s aspirations into reality (we won’t even touch upon his consequent breakdown), and Kony is still running wild. The story tells us how fast the Internet can think and act, but also reminds us how slowly we are to make actual change.
There is an Internet world, an Internet knowledge and an Internet fame. There is an Internet utopia in which everyone can have an equal saying. Yet, in this cyberspace jungle, liking, blogging, tweeting and sharing have become ordinary and meaningless activities lost in a forest of hyperlink liana.
So while some ideas get lost, others are born still or die young in the tough virtual community. Even if an idea made it to puberty, the ruthless and ultra-reactive web leaves no time for an idea to grow. Instantaneity and controversy are the rules of the wild and the strongest voice will get the most hits, not the witty one. The online debate is a fight of pride and ego in which only the louder roars survive. Internet is bold, strong and fast and surely makes society feel good about itself while being so slow to change.
I realise now how pessimistic all this might sound, but don’t get me wrong I love the internet and this might be part of the reason why I feel so strongly about it. So, if you would, please nourish my narcissistic being and like, share and tweet this anyway.
Published on The Yorker March 7, 2013