I was lucky enough to have been brought up at the dawn of the popular internet. We had to pirate our music from peer-to-peer services, and our internet connections were 0.054% the speed that they are today, but at least the people you interacted with were human.
Where has that gone?
Perhaps its rosy-eyed nostalgia (I wouldn’t be the first person to long for an experience of their youth), or maybe it’s techno-hipsterism (a hypothetical sin, but one I’d surely commit), but humanity on the internet seems to be at a low ebb.
There are two factors in this. The first is that humans, it seems, have become worse at being humane to each other. Trolls, previously languishing under bridges, now blockade information superhighways. Vitriol is expressed both from and to every soapbox. The web is now fragmented, confrontational – reductionist.
But what do you expect? There’s no space for nuance in a 140 character limit; there’s no place for exploration in a fast-paced online newsroom.
If the first issue is human behaviour, then the second could be considered the opposite: non-human actions. Bots, algorithms, corporate wealth. The web – so penniless in the mid 90s – is now the greatest wealth generator; if there was profit in humanity, charities would be.
They’re not, and what we’re left with is bots pretending to be humans, bots trying to sell, to influence, to crash – to harm.
Or maybe we’re at mercy of algorithms, working for shareholders to maximise advertising revenue. We’re pigs growing fat from bespoke stimulants, titillating stories, 24 great reasons why we should keep inside this experience. We’re waiting to be taken to market.
Has anyone benign ever emerged from a submersion in the entirety of their whims?
But perhaps the systems aren’t the problem – or at least changing them isn’t the solution. Perhaps we’re reached the extent to which we can empathise with 150px avatar pictures and disembodied text whatever we do.
My suggestion, starting January 1st 2017, is to replace public communication with audio-visual. Where before there would have been text, there will now also be video.
Be re-contextualising words, thoughts and opinions into that of part of an entire moving, breathing person, perhaps I’ll be able to better communicate my own humanity to others.
Showing my eyes to someone else’s eyes, maybe the whole world will see again.