Unfulfilled promises are a dime a dozen. Having high hopes dashed for a promising prospect that sadly never fully reifies is an all-too-common occurrence. But when I think of all of the Freddy Adus and Amazon Fire phones of the world, there is no greater disappointment than the current state of the internet. Honestly, some people reading this likely didn’t even exist back in the 1990s, but in today’s entry, lemme tell you whippersnapper youngbloods a story of what we had all thought the internet would become back in the day of Gateway 2000 PCs and dial-up modems.
So, the usual short caveat paragraph: Obviously, there are many good things about the current internet. I can order eggs and milk from Jeff Bezos’s empire and have it literally (within two hours!) delivered to my doorstep. (Now, to be fair, it happens on the backs of essentially slave labor, but that’s a diatribe for another time.) Likewise, I can spin up The YouTube and listen to virtually any song or watch any movie clip I wish on a whim. All these things are unequivocally good. (Well, the slave labor part is less unequivocally good, but the convenience is good, I mean.)
Now onto the glaring and gigantic disappointment: Originally, there had been a belief that with “the information superhighway,” humanity was going to usher in a new utopian supranational, truly global community. There was an idea that when you signed into an AOL chatroom, the person on the other side may be half-a-world away from you and hail from a totally different culture, but that person would be, in a way, fundamentally good. S/he would be, like yourself be a decent human being; an inquisitive sort curious about the world and its ways. There was an entire idea (mythology?) that complete strangers would connect and learn from each other. On the internet, no one may know you’re a dog; but there was also a belief that you could shoot up a single flare up into the great night sky and that a group of likeminded people, fundamentally kind and decent, would find you. And that a community of love and mutual learning/understanding would ensue.
Fast forward a quarter century and all of that seems like a sick joke now. Everywhere I turn, it’s two-second memes. There is no getting to know complete strangers in any genuine or authentic way. Instead, there are only walled gardens and ruthless scam artists. I have no idea whom I can trust and on Facebook– the system purportedly built on “Real ID” in order to facilitate “trust”– God forbid if I express any thought that is “against popular opinion”– doing anything of the sort will simply get you lynched by the hate-mob. In twenty-five years, the internet literally degenerated into the lowest common denominator. No, even worse than that, actually, if that’s believable. We largely make each other worse human beings online. We really do.
But… wait! Is all hope lost? No! We are human beings! We never surrender! We never quit! It is simply not in our DNA! The human species survived the Bubonic plague; we sure as hell aren’t going to be defeated by the likes of Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg. Thus, I think I have an idea that could help restore “The Internet” (or at least, a tiny part of it) to what it was originally meant to be! Tune in tomorrow to find out more! 😇