Getting Old on the Internet

I used to press hard for my friends and family to get on the internet, I early adopted and I beta tested and glassy eyed friends who just wanted to go for a bike ride half listened to my technodrone about this squawking little terminal window that was gonna change their lives. The meatspace crowd did not understand for the most part, and despite getting laughed at a lot but I made a few electronic friends in those greyscale days I still treasure, and had some experiences which changed the way I thought about LIFE. I was in love with the internet, nah, more like infatuated. Like only a virgin boy can be with something he doesn’t understand but wishes he could just embed his entire essence in. I knew this internet was the Next Big Thing but I had no idea what 15 years would mean in Internet terms. I still called it the web, so noob. We didn’t even have noobs then.

I don’t even know if we have noobs anymore.

But it’s fifteen years on now if it’s a day. I’m getting old on the internet, and slow. I am not angry enough to be right all the time anymore. I don’t have the vigilance. Or the time. But the internet is getting old too, and just like the living, breathing objects of my youthful affection, has only become more complex and incredible as time has gone on. A scar for every scam. A white hair for ever scandal. A wrinkle for every story. Each story a stitch in our co-created digital history. And when those stories turn out to be false or unreliable, the shame rends a huge nasty seam through our shared delusion of a more perfect society. And we have had so many seams rip.

And of course now the monsters have moved in. The same penny-ante publishers and media owners and wanters and thieves with the same money found out they could price truth out of my digital conclave just as easily as they could price it out of meatworld. It is easy to confuse people by offering them new lies in place of old truth. People are very easily confused. It is very easy to conflate word and deed when there’s nobody to tell you about the facts of the deeds, just a press conference in which the right word is massaged into the frontal lobe to make you ignore every press release about it in the future. A blessing of ignorance or a baptism of wrongthink that simultaneously excuses you from followup and frees you from worry.

I find myself studying the past now because I think we’re doomed to repeat it. And I think I might be doomed to hate the internet. Or maybe I’m doomed to hate people. But as soon as I feel like we’re doomed I hear another thing that makes me think maybe this communication stuff is OK. Maybe we reach too far and make too many compromises along the way. Maybe there isn’t a satisfactory ending to that cycle.

I used to press hard for my friends and family to join me on a platform I was clearly more adept at than they were, and now I’m having to go backwards. To learn how to move my world to the meat world, to make the problems there my problems, the people there my tribe. Because those are the important things, out there, to be right about. And to fret about when you’ve chosen wrong.

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