Is there such a thing as too much internet? How about too much internet on the internet?
I remember a parable I heard when I was young about a rich man who had everything, but was still unhappy. His empire of riches did not bring him the joy he had thought it would. Distraught, he went out into the village to find the only thing he didn’t have. He looked everywhere and talked to everyone, until he came across the poorest man in town – shirtless, shoeless, but grinning ear to ear – begging on a corner. This man was clearly the happiest man that the rich man had found, so he offered jewels and gold to the beggar in exchange for being taught the secret to happiness. But the beggar just chuckled and pushed the gold away, saying “Happiness cannot be bought, or learned in that way.”
This is basically how I feel about the internet.
Of course, in American culture, the fat cats would laugh at the poor man and call him nuts for turning down all the shiny things. But in Eastern cultures that emphasize minimalism, they might laugh at us.
We live in a techno-culture where we have access to virtually (2 point pun!) anything. We can also upload any video to YouTube, write any blog, friend any person and follow any celebrity (now conviction free!). And by “we,” I mean any of the 239 million, representing just a smidge over 3/4 of the total population in just the US alone, estimated to have regular, personal internet access in 2012 (Source: http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/30495/25-Eye-Popping-Internet-Marketing-Statistics-for-2012.aspx#ixzz1z6ykCrS9)
So every time you are online, you are connecting with 238,999,999 other (legally internet-obtaining) Americans…or are you competing?
An internet battle royale!
No, I’m talking about your stupid WoW characters or your “ability” to “troll” forums. But humans’ drive to be the top of food chain has biologically gotten us where we are at, and even pushed our technology as far as it has…so it makes sense that that basic instinct would come out even in small ways, like trying to have the top-rated YouTube comment (‘lyke if yu crey evry tyme!’), most liked statuses on Facebook, a well-read blog, or trying to create a new meme/internet sensation. Internet Famous!
But with all the competition comes stress….stress that doesn’t alleviate in natural ways, as there is no ebb and flow to the internet. And, as with constant exposure to violence, sex, or any other kind of biological stimuli, we slowly become apathetic to the whole thing. The internet dulls us down.
What we need to look at is how this can affect us in a very direct sense.
Intellectually, it makes us stupider – we don’t think through things when we can simply Google the question and get the instant answer. Information is at our fingertips….why build some synapses and discover it ourselves?
Emotionally, it makes us stunted – when exposed to countless stories of violence, hopelessness, etc., etc., we care less and less about each individual case. What makes this dead person any different than another dead person? Let’s watch this video and find out. Nope, they squish the same.
But it also kills our sense of community. The difference between someone in your apartment complex and someone in Keyna is nil. The internet is the great equalizer. While this is also one of its greatest benefits, it unplugs us (2 more points!) from the things that are most likely to actually affect us, humanly, physically, and realistically, on a regular basis. How many people look up local news vs. national? When competing for attention on the internet, the bigger you are and the more funding you can have under your belt initially, the better exposure you’re likely to have. Funding a film? If you have the money to shoot an epic trailer upfront, get national news coverage because it was filmed at a prestigious university, pay for promotion in several big news sites…not to say your film is less legit or anything, but how can a small, locally-crowd-funded, give-back-to-the-community, can’t-film-without-your-help type film compete for attention online? Especially in an over-saturated environment where everyone is spamming the crap out of personal social media sites because the result of this over-saturation is desperation for connection on a local, personal level.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the internet, I really do. But in a flooded market, sometimes you have to find a way to maintain your humanity. And sometimes, you have to find unique ways to compete…which may include an offline presence as much as an online one.