Does The Internet Bring Out The Worst in You?

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When I first logged onto the Internet I was excited about conversing with people over on the other side of the world.  I had electronic pen pals and I would send emails back and forth.  I would also visit electronic bulletin boards and chat rooms and talk to people in there as well.  But over time the conversations became risque and, just weird; I opened up myself in ways I do not like to think about and people did the same (well at least that is what they said they did I will never really know will I).  So I left the Internet alone for a while but then came back in when speeds were a bit faster and you could download music for free.  That was fun until everyone was getting sued and people’s wages were garnished.  The viruses were a deal breaker, and I found out that music was not as serious as I thought it was at one time.

So I left the Internet again.  I heard a lot about MySpace but I spent a lot of time on Black Planet.  Again, Black Planet was cool in the beginning, but then it got a little freaky towards the end.  Once Black Planet, and all of the other Planets (there were plans for an Asian and a Hispanic Planet as well) coalesced at MySpace I heard a lot of freaky stuff was going on over there, so I kept my distance.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to go down that road again.  But MySpace also had a lot of music, so I would occasionally stop by and I signed up for an account but then I just sat there staring at my monitor.  Did I want to put myself out there again?  Did I want to meet anyone; by that time I was well into my marriage and the idea of being on the site did not sit well with me, but then again I was a square if I was not on there.  I eventually closed the page and came back once they redesigned themselves to be a lot more like Facebook.

That was really, really, weird.  It was nothing like Facebook; instead they threw all of these heavily promoted celebrity profiles at you and tried to sell to you and it was very weird, like the movie Josie and the Pussycats.  So I left MySpace alone and tried Facebook.  The easiest thing to do on Facebook was to leave your profile completely open, and then just see what happens.  I signed up for a few Groups, and a lot of my college friends stopped by.  I got up to 300 friends and I just felt dirty and violated.  I didn’t want the conversation in the Groups to be read by everyone.  I liked to keep my worlds separate.  I didn’t want my friends conversations with their friends to be read by my friends.  I met one guy that was convinced that he was Jesus Christ and that his entire purpose in life was to spread God’s love.  He had a million pictures on his profile.  He spoke in parables.  I wasn’t sure if it was a metaphor or grandiosity; I thought it was the latter, so I left Facebook .

I went to Twitter.  I amassed a few hundred followers in a few hours.  Now I am up to 5,000 followers.  But things are not the same; I constantly have a feed promoting my articles, and people are constantly sending me their own stuff, which I often promote if I like it or think that someone else might.  I used to participate in the top trends a long time ago.  I rarely actually speak with anyone on Twitter anymore.  It feels right though, it isn’t weird and I can live with myself.  Nothing freaky going on at all.  I went back to Facebook and set up a fortress around my profile.  I finally have it exactly the way that I want to.  But I only have 41 friends.  My profile is open, and you can search me and find me that way but my friends cannot see each other.  Chances are they do not know each other in real life, so what is the point.  No one can post on my wall, no one can tag me in a photo, I don’t have any photos on Facebook, no one can see what I post on the wall of anyone else, no one, no one, no one, no one.  Then it dawns on me that I am on a social networking site, paranoid and crawling up the ceiling, and I am being antisocial.

But not just on Facebook, on Twitter, on YouTube, on my own blog, on Associated Content, on Helium, on Triond, on Bukisa, on Hulu.  On each and every site that I go onto.  Because I just want to do what I want to do, and leave, and not be bothered with anyone.  The same thing that I do in real life.  I don’t even talk to people on City-Data.  I am a horrible human being; here I have the greatest communication tool ever and I am not communicating.  I have a cell phone but none of my services are set up for my cell phone.

I look around and everyone is having a good time.  The Internet is a non stop party 24 hours a day all around the world.  I am holding up the wall enjoying a drink, staring at the red pill and the blue pill, because I am not going to get up from this couch.  I am not going to dance, I am not going to meet anyone.  I don’t want to meet anyone, I just want to you to read this article, or watch this video or visit this site.  I am like a Jehovah’s Witness passing out copies of the Watchtower.  A sad sight indeed, because I only speak to other Jehovah’s Witnesses that are passing out copies of the Watchtower.  You could be a Jehovah’s Witness that does not pass out literature, and I wouldn’t even know you were there.  No offense to Jehovah’s Witnesses, but that is a metaphor that people can relate to.

I can’t knock them because they feel that they are doing the will of God.  We disagree with their methods.  But have I subscribed to the religion of my own self promotion and my own self-aggrandizement?  Some of you feel that is what the Internet is for.  A lot of you may be right.  But it doesn’t say much about human culture.  Has the Internet turned into this dark place where we want everyone to look at us, but we do not want to look at anyone else?  Are we still human, or have we become cold?  Is it about how many followers we have or how many people we are following?  On Twitter you are a failure if you are following more than a tenth of the people that are following you.  One should be able to get followers without having to follow anyone back.  What does that say about a society?  Well I follow everyone back; what does that say about me?


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