Internet, despite your brilliant potential, you’ve eliminated thoughtful discourse and persuaded billions of people that 140 characters of snark is an adequate substitute… The wondrous ability to enable small voices to be heard has morphed into the endless clamor of millions of voices with nothing to say vying with each other to see who can shout their nothings the loudest.
Just dial in to the Social Media (especially FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+) and lurk around a while. You will quickly encounter the dumbest, silliest bunch of nothingness you could ever imagine.
Apparently two of liberty’s greatest minds (and pens), Claire Wolfe and Fred Reed, have been contemplating the state of liberty along the same lines. That tells me something about the gravity of internet censorship. — jtl, 419
by Claire Wolfe via her Living Freedom Blog
I loved you from the moment I laid eyes on you. I saw your potential when you were just a raw young thing, before you even knew yourself.
I was wowed by your intellectual promise as early as 1987, when you helped me upload an article to a magazine editor (oh, that 300 baud brainpower!). You seduced me with your charm when a single funny FidoNet remark about “being in Claire’s shoes” led to a long romance. I remember my first glimpse of the real, mature you, when a client said, “Hey, you’ve got to see this. It’s this thing called Netscape that gets you on to something called the Worldwide Web.”
You and I were destined for each other. It was clear.
You were so gallant at first. Without you, my first book would have disappeared into underground press obscurity. You kept that from happening. You introduced me to entire new communities of friends. And what friends they were! Bright, committed, liberty-loving people who would never have found each other — if not for you. You were the great personality who drew us all together. You were the charismatic leader, the spark that lit the bonfire, the grand beating heart of something new and awesome. You made it possible for us all to experience and explore things we’d never dreamed.
You were the center of the world. You still are. But something’s changed.
I admit that I had some discomfort with you even in those early days. You were always so sociable! I often found that overwhelming, hermit that I am. But always the rewards of being in your orbit outweighed my unease.
I was clearly wrong when you came up with blogs and I questioned their value. I saw them as nothing more than giant, public, boring family albums of a sort. Just places for mindless natter and chatter. You were right and I was wrong about blogs. What amazing things they’ve made possible — from the opening up of journalism to the sharing of arcane knowledge.
Yet in a way I was right, too. Blogs opened the way for things like Facebook, which are exactly the giant, public, boring albums I feared. And Facebook was only the beginning of the empty, narcisstic, party-all-the-time path you’ve gone down. I look at you now and I see not only emptiness, but — worse — a terrifying dark side I never knew you had.
The intellectual promise I perceived in you is still there, of course. But increasingly you neglect it. Frankly, Internet, these days you mostly bug me with your noise and triviality. And sometimes you scare me, too.
Internet, despite your brilliant potential, you’ve eliminated thoughtful discourse and persuaded billions of people that 140 characters of snark is an adequate substitute.
You’ve discouraged reflection in favor of fast fingers on a keyboard. All anyone wants to do these days is react-react-react, then move on.
The wondrous ability to enable small voices to be heard has morphed into the endless clamor of millions of voices with nothing to say vying with each other to see who can shout their nothings the loudest.
You’ve fostered a culture of grievance and a something-for-nothing attitude that spills over even into places that attempt to remain civilized.
You are now the center of one endlessly noisy party full of rude, empty-headed drunk-on-their-own-narcissism guests.
And sad to say, that’s not the worst of you.
You’ve used your persuasive charms to become relentlessly, obtrusively commercial. I have nothing against commerce. But tracking every move people make and collecting vast databases just so you can sell to them (or sell them to others!) isn’t commerce. It’s just creepy.
And Internet, what happened to the great freedom fighter who was going to allow us all to route around censors and tyrants? How — how on earth — did the freedom fighter somehow morph into a partner and enabler of tyrants? Why are you helping governments spy on the innocent and propagandize the naive and susceptible? What got into you? How could you do that to those who loved and trusted you?
Now it seems you spend most of your effort pretending to be the host of the world’s biggest, loudest, most boistrous party — while conniving behind the scenes to manipulate us all for nefarious purposes. How could you, Internet? How could you?
There is so much more I could write, so many more fears I have about your character and your intentions. Every day, I want to give up on you. I often feel I’m staying with you only as an addict stays with a drug or a battered spouse stays with an abuser. I find myself making excuses for you (“But the Internet is such a good provider” or “I can take the best while leaving the rest”). Making excuses is always a very bad sign.
But the truth is that even with all I know about you now — everything from your obnoxious, empty partying to your stalking to your incessant deceptions — I don’t really want to break up with you. I want to stay with you and see all your early promise fulfilled.
I want to have hope of better things even as your behavior degrades. I want you to look at yourself and change direction even as I know in the pit of my heart that whatever direction you take from here is likely to be ever more shallow and destructive.
I don’t want to be the one to leave you — even as I increasingly understand that you are not the Internet I fell in love with all those years ago.
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