I miss the days when people had "homepages" that weren't necessarily for selling goods or services, way before "social media" took over and started treating us like data, compartmentalizing who we are and mining our lives and interests for profit. People just had pages for their ideas, their creations, and sometimes for no reason at all because the internet was a wild frontier and simply having a presence on it was enough of a statement. I remember homepages that were ugly and poorly designed but people thought they were cool simply because it was possible for them to exist.
There was anonymity, for better and worse, and having an online discussion usually meant registering on some bulletin board catering to a niche interest, filled with people who barely had the technology to upload a picture of themselves, let alone the motivation to do it. Now everything is synced up and if you reply to a video or post a comment to a news article your real name and photo are immediately shared for the world to see. Chances are your friends and family get some notification when you do it, too, but in true panopticon fashion you never really know who is watching your electronic footprint at any given time. The idea of everybody watching is just as disturbing as nobody caring and most of the time it's good enough just to be noticed.
It makes me want to say nothing most of the time, and not because things are more transparent -- I actually like that -- but because some people decided to try and make the internet as much like everyday reality as possible. Why did they want to do that? To me, the internet is another dimension, a virtual reality of communication where you can take the time to fully represent your ideas to other people in a way that the urgency of reality can't always provide. I guess I'm lucky that I never had any of the crazy fantasies and fetishes some people have that make them want to escape the person they are in the flesh. I give those people credit for using the internet in that way, though... for being creative with who they are. They're the type of people who would have had a good old ugly homepage!
Since there's no turning back and it's already been decided that the internet should mirror corporeal reality, we have to make do. And it's not only that the internet is trying to mirror reality -- reality is trying to mirror the internet and it's created the ultimate feedback loop. How could the two not start to mirror one another? We have tiny computers in our pockets that we still refer to by the outdated term "phone" and they keep us constantly connected, constantly informed... just constant everything. The different layers that make up our reality are multiplying and survival depends on understanding those layers or at least making sense of them as they relate to who and what we are.
It's intense when you stop and think about it, so I definitely get why some people never take the time to stop. Stopping is scary when everything moves as quickly as it does. It's cliche to talk about "kids today", but I can't help myself. I call them the Glitch Generation because this is all they know. The material world is a hazy dream, like trying to remember your own infanthood. All of their hobbies, interests, and ideas are on a microchip encased in plastic that fits in their pocket and gets upgraded every year, sometimes multiple times. The physical material world is just a way to get pleasure. They haven't fully replaced or synthesized sex yet, though of course porn has proliferated to the point where very few kids will have use for a "found" Playboy that forces them to use their imagination even a little bit. They've got access to categories... and sub-categories. Hell, they can practically create their ideal woman and see her do whatever they want now. Do you ever wonder what impact that might have on the evolution of human sexuality? I don't wonder because I don't want to know.
Everybody's doing the same thing, of course. I point out the kids because they're an easy target and they don't have anything sentimental keeping them stuck on the border between two worlds like many of us. Me, I've "got one foot on the platform, the other foot on the train." I've got an old school homepage, a house full of materials I've accumulated over a lifetime, and I know that the physical world is not just for pleasure because life itself is not always pleasurable, and that's why I like it. I'm constantly connected, though. I'm a participant in everything I'm talking about and I already "stop to think" often enough as it is. Let the world change, but don't let the world change if it's not willing to fight for what it wants. Never cut the world any slack. - ES / 2013