We're a generation of people who grew up on the internet.
Collectively, we spent our evenings in front of our computers, communicating with our friends and strangers alike, discussing gossip, classwork, and mutual interests. There was always a conversation to be a part of and always a discussion to be had. Endless entertainment, whenever we wanted it.
Growing up in our parents houses our days were filled with school and our nights and weekends were filled with homework, studying, friends and the internet. So much time on the internet. It was like our invisible friend who was always there with us, making us feel better when we were sad and allowing us to share our joy when we felt happy. AOL Instant Messenger was the medium of choice, allowing people to connect with one another in the morning before class, immediately after school upon arriving home, or late into the night when we were supposed to be asleep.
At that point in life, as opposed to at a later stage, we didn’t have anyone else to spend our time with like a partner, significant other or spouse. We had unlimited freedom to stay up as late as we wanted perusing the internet for excitement, intrigue and connection. For hours at the end of any given day we would stare at a screen and watch Homestar Runner, post to community forums and converse through IM. It was our time to be ourselves and be alone at home, yet connected to so many people at once.
Looking back on those days it’s easy to wonder how those interactions and musings effected us during our formative years. As someone who is now lucky enough to share a bed with my fiancée every night, I can’t help but wonder if she had a similar upbringing to me. Did she wander the depths of the internet in the 2000’s the way I did? Was she ever as lost yet found as I was back in those days of high school awkwardness?
Many times during my week I’ll find myself with a desire to “just play on the internet” as if it’s an activity in of itself. Sometimes it feels like wasting time and rotting my brain where hours disappear and all I’ve done is clicked on things and read them half-heartedly, while other times it’s quite thought provoking and results in me learning about pieces of the world I never thought I’d be interested in or talking with people and finding what feels like enjoyment and happiness.
Yet in my eyes, for some reason, that expression seems to have a bit of a stigma to it as if I’m not supposed to want to do such a thing. When I lay down in bed with my fiancée and we’re trying to decide whether to enjoy each others company in some way or simply roll over and go to sleep, many times I find myself resisting this strange desire to check out what’s going on in the world around me, almost as if it were a nightcap; a habit; my signing off for the day.
I feel so connected through the web that I must have something to do or someone to speak with or something to read that I need to go do it right now! I’ve spent my whole life connected to this invisible-yet-so-real web of people, communities and outlets that I need to know what’s going on, even if it’s time for me to spend disconnected and for myself.
This writing does not serve a purpose beyond the calling to attention of what may be perceived as a problem with connectivity. Our connected culture has effects on people, relationships and societies that we haven’t begun to fully understand yet, yet we continue to build out infrastructure that enables everyone in the world to be wired in, 24/7. It’s the most awesome and most scary revolution the world has ever seen, and people like me are both excited and scared shitless of what is yet to come.
Join me as we watch, dissect, philosophize, predict and explore the world we’ve created where everyone, everything, and every place is connected to one another.
This is just the beginning.