Internet Life and Times
"To understand what's really happening on the Internet, you have to get down beneath the commercial hype and hoopla, which though it gets 90 percent of the press is actually a late arrival. From the beginning, something very different has been brewing online."
"It has to do with living, with livelihood, with craft, connection, and community. This isn't some form of smarmy New Age mysticism, either. It's tough and gritty and it's just beginning to find its voice, its own direction. But it's also difficult to describe; as the song says, "It's like trying to tell a stranger about rock and roll." And it's next to impossible to understand unless you've experienced it for yourself. You have to live in the Net for a while." - The Cluetrain Manifesto
When my Internet odyssey began in 1994, I immediately sensed this was not another office Christmas party. People were engaged. They were talking with each other about anything, and everything; and they were unshackled. Free from the bondage of tradition. Except for the old-world corporate culture trying to reinvent television, they still are. The Internet isn't about power and control. It's about life. Ours.
Ebullient, spiritual, emancipated, cold, hard, plugged-in life. As one of the author's of the aforementioned book, David Weinberger, says, "We're having a party and the news reports are missing it entirely like covering the Mardi Gras by reporting on the gross profits of local liquor stores." Hundreds of thousands of Usenet newsgroups, millions of World Wide Web sites, billions of human beings being humans.
What is it that makes the Internet so compelling to so many? Aside from the obvious fun and entertainment, educational and business opportunities, and show-offism; I think it boils down to a slogan taken from the eighties. No fear! The playing field is level. Size doesn't matter, really. Inhibitions and reservations are out the window when that modem begins its rhythmic chatter. No hidden emotions, just pure, most-times rational thought.
Internet life is people with diseases and addictions, exposing souls and sharing their recoveries. It's about overviews of history warning future generations not to repeat the mistakes of their predecessors. Sure there are a few kooks to throw us off guard, but mostly the Net is just us being ourselves without fear of reprisal. How refreshing.
The Internet is people talking and sharing ideas. Our best and brightest, wallflowers and flower children, the girl next door and the Doc who delivered your kids. It's about you and me. We are all using our own cognizant voices, and we're listening too. We're challenging the status quo, and we're offering alternatives. Collaboration on a global scale all tied together by that simplest of cyber friendships, the hyperlink. Communication has never seen anything like it.
This spirit of community will ultimately be the lasting legacy of the first fifty years. Not the gazillion millionaires. Not the top-down control freaks of 20th century industry and guerilla commerce. Instead, it will be the work-at-home moms, the redneck artists and poets, the shy nerds with decades of expression to release. I'm delighted to make your acquaintance.
Until next time, be good, but not too.