A long time ago, in the skateboarding, fish-eye lens-using 90s, there was something great on the horizon. It promised to revolutionize the way we communicated, the way we exchanged information, and so many other things.
That thing was the Internet, or the world-wide-web to those who are old and/or geeky enough to still know what Usenet is. While at least a few shuddered in apprehension, buying water bottles in bulk to prepare for the coming (and oh-so cubic) robot apocalypse, and more still yawned in complete neutrality, some saw the endless possibilities that could be provided by those 32-bit rectangular displays.
“Think!” they said, perspiring slightly in their white business shirts. “Think of what could be done! There would be no more lies, no more injustice! This could be the tool of the common people to fight for each other’s rights!” Not only that, but nerds around the world cheered, realizing there was to finally be a place where every single individual has watched Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Yes, all that did happen. We have so much information available to us, unfiltered and unedited (disregarding certain possible efforts to do so; see PIPA, SOPA and the like), that no coverup can last for very long. The popular media’s smothering blanket has been lifted, and we’ve been allowed to breathe fresh, unadulterated air. That air may smell mostly of smoldering corpses and disaster, but the fact remains: we are able to find, learn, and do such things as rally together like never before.
Herein lies the problem: we can, but we aren’t. Some of us are, but very few in an ocean of many. For every person that goes out and does something, 100,000 more might glance dispassionately at whatever the current event is, post some moderately patronizing comment to Facebook, and call it a day.
Now, I do understand that I’m a hypocrite. At this point in time, my entire existence boils down to watching Youtube videos of people yelling at video games and looking to see if there are any more slices of pizza left (spoiler—there aren’t). It’s simple human nature; the events don’t concern us, and all but a few driven souls usually take the path of least resistance, or in this case, effort.
This brings me to another reason for this problem; the huge amount of easily available, free, effortless entertainment. I don’t know about you, but getting riled up about some trial somewhere is way harder, and less fun than just devouring the daily content put out by humour sites and the like. My spectrum of caring extends to very few things, and the internet provides a nearly limitless universe of such content for me to take in as opposed to doing anything worthwhile.
I don’t want to be an alarmist, or worse, one of a more elderly age bracket, but it’s essentially teaching a generation that absolutely no work whatsoever will be required for their fun, so why should they do anything else? More than that, most of the information we take in is learning without study, meaningless tidbits of a billion things. While that’s certainly fun in trivia shows, it’s not quite living up to the ye olde Internet’s promise to make us all geniuses. If we want to become wiser, we’ll still have to put in the effort.
A side effect of this fixation on pop culture and nutrition-free entertainment, along with the perfect anonymity afforded to us by the Internet; we’re all secretly uneducated, opinionated a**hats, and we don’t ever want to become anything different. See 80 per cent of all Youtube comments for proof. While we’re not busy doing nothing about things such as climate change, and laughing at the misfortune of chubby strangers, we like to casually waltz our way into a discussion on any current subject and immediately start shouting our opinion at others in the hopes that they won’t be able to yell as loud. Well, guess what: no one can drown someone else out on the internet. Let the terrible comment thread begin.
Again, this is a product of human nature; everyone wants to be heard, but very few want to listen or learn. As with the previous examples, it seems that the pure nature of the Internet acts as a magnifier, enhancing the effect of these less desirable parts of us. We’re lazy, and it lets us be lazy. In fact, it invites us to. We like to feel smart without deserving it; hello, list-format articles about “The Six Craziest Ways Astronauts Exploded In Space.” Most of all, we like to be right. And so we argue and bicker and blow hot air about which truck is better on this beautiful, globe-spanning network of unlimited power. In other words, good going, us.
Note: This little column, I hope, is not to be taken as a damnation of the Internet, but rather a rumination on how we should be using it. Also, this article is very much inspired by a few articles on a noted comedy website. The only one that’s fairly recent (and so the only one I distinctly remember) is this: http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-reminders-we-could-all-use-right-now/
As a warning, there is some strong language, so if you’re five and reading this—well, I’m sorry for wasting your time.