Every morning I beep in my badge at work, sit at my desk, plug up my laptop, and check to see whether or not my day will begin with a shit storm or not. This morning, there was indeed precipitation of fecal matter, but it was not concerning my actual job. The scatological deluge came in the form of Medium‘s article “The Decade the Internet Lost Its Joy” by Clio Chang.
Normally, I don’t comment on topics like this, but as we stand in the looming shadow of the colossus Ico-Ico, I find myself growing increasingly baffled at the sentiment that things will be all that different with the turn of the decade. That being said, I really don’t think the internet is all that bad; if anything, it has gotten even more enjoyable. However, combined with the general pessimism of the generation before me and the social dissonance in American culture right now, the voices that cry loudest on the internet sure do seem all hot and bothered at the idea of shitting on the teenage years of the 2000’s.
While these kinds of posts will be few and far between, I think it is relevant and emblematic of a larger growing discontentment that needs to be addressed before it metastasizes (if it hasn’t already done so).
This is my response. I’m fully prepared for it to be much less cathartic than I want it to be.
Chang opens the second paragraph with this:
The internet was always bad, but at least it used to be fun. At the start of this decade, being online still had less of the feeling of chaotic good than the years preceding it, but it wasn’t yet consumed by the monolithic forces that rule today’s web.
Pouty nostalgia like this saturates the entirety of this article, and it has me cringing to know that this kind of driveling mentality may very well take over the digital zeitgeist. The thing is, the internet is not all that different than it was at its genesis. There is just more of it. Yes, information is being created and propagated at a quantity and rate that we never could have anticipated, but the only people who experience any anxiety over this are those looking to control its flow or keep it static, like the people whom Chang demonizes. Or you know… evidently Chang herself.
I can almost see it now. Clio shuffling through a kiddie pool, at the local swimming hole. She splashes her feet, trying her best to evoke her favorite leek laden pokemon. She looks up at the blazing sun, raises her fists to the heavens, and cries out, “WHY ISN’T THIS FUN ANYMORE!?” She denounces all bodies of water outright, as they embody the worst parts of mankind’s affinity for liquids.
The internet isn’t the wild west. It isn’t a beast that needs to be broken and tamed. While I agree with the idea that the worst parts of the internet are products of the worst parts of our cultures. The same goes for the best parts of the internet, but if you begin to paint an entire medium with your personal brand of misanthropy, it’s no surprise that you will find yourself feeling pretty crummy. It is a collection of minds including your own. I find it just so incredibly juvenile to behave as though one can exist outside the influence of the medium that they work with. Chang is a mirror maker that blames the glass for her not liking what she sees.
Chang goes on to describe websites like Facebook, Google, and Twitter as “wretched” and every new moment on the internet feeling lie “the worst one” yet. Christ alive, it’s nauseating, but it is important. I’ll give her that.
It’s in vogue to hate the internet now. It was in vogue to hate the internet from the beginning. It will always in vogue to hate something that no one can fully grasp. We hated White and Gold/Blue and Black dress debacle, because no one could get a handle on it. We freaked out whenever Miley Cyrus threw on her birthday suit to do some demolition work. The internet is unbridled and is the greatest opportunity for expression, creativity, collaboration, and charity that the world has ever seen. Corporatization is a logical byproduct that has brought you every single app on your phone or computer that you enjoy right now right now. It is a monumental invention, an anthropological marvel that has changed the course of history (for the better), and for some reason the irony that Chang’s main means of communication is through the same technology that she vilifies seems to be lost on her.
To me, it is almost insurmountably sad that so many people still see the internet as this writhing cesspool filled with the discharging dregs of humanity. Don’t get me wrong; it definitely can be. Those pieces of internet society that rustle your jimmies are but a tiny fraction of world wide web as a whole, though. If we continue to reduce the philosophy of evolving technology to our micro-sphere of vision and influence, we will continue to fail to grasp the reality that mankind has found a way to transcend nearly all of our limitations due to the internet.
Each and every one of us are responsible for making our environment (even the virtual one) a better place. Standing by with such a lack of self awareness that you unknowingly making a straw man of yourself is not how we go about doing that. She will no doubt, never see this, but Chang, have you ever considered the possibility that when you speak of the seemingly faceless mass of entities that corroded your rose-tinted, digital utopia, you are speaking of yourself? When I look around, I find wellsprings of joy, but that may be because I’m not pouting in the kiddie pool. There is piss in there.