What do our virtual environments bring out of us?
I had a dream a few nights before 2020. I dreamt about the early web and how inspiring it was. It could have been a fluke that I hit puberty while web was still shiny? Or was there something really different about source code you could read/steal, finding a friend with a static IP address and hosting our own Movable Type instance. I still recall meeting people on IRC and waiting 30 mins to download a .wav file of some poorly played guitar music. The low quality staticy music of Smelly Cat made me feel like a modern day Alexander Bell. It was magical.
I saved those files, I saved our chats. Our connection felt special and meaningful. Connecting from my basement room in Michigan to friends in New Zealand was like opening your eyes for the first time, grainy and low resolution, yet still in a strange way so much more real than what passes for connection on social media today.
What’s changed? Speed, resolution, availability, mobile phones. This article claims that the 2010’s have broken our perception of time, in part due to the non-chronological newsfeed algorithms twitter and facebook rolled out. Perhaps.
In my life, I confess, I was sold on the rise of the self, the idea of the influencer, the personal brand. I was told careers are dead and that to be safe I had to be famous. The more followers you have the more successful. That I had to have my own URL, that I needed to get on each social media platform early and post often to make sure that I got followers. Somehow it fell under “need” rather than “want”. That this is simply how to get projects going, this is how the “work” is these days. I believed it and it helped to dim the magic of the internet for me.
All is not lost though, I get fleeting feelings of connection when I post deeper content or make requests. I recently asked for book recommendations and was surprised to find some people still respond with insight there. Twitter as well. Today I had an incredible video chat with my friend Cesar in Hong Kong over 3G as he biked home, a technology which would have been mind blowing in 2002.
This makes me wonder if there’s a lot of beauty and magic //still// happening online. That perhaps all is not lost, and that there is a greater amount of it on Minecraft, in discord servers, or in decentralized communities. What if my online experience is a mirror of myself and I’m getting out of it what I’m putting in. There is a diversity of people online. If I contain multitudes, what about the multitudes themselves?
My friend Pavel and I had a pokey question about the value of creating content that no one reads, that’s harder to scale with a tweet, that’s more than 140 characters long, that has no picture attached, that doesn’t even have a singing emoji or gif.
Let’s take creation VS consumption. The tendency online for me is to trigger conversation rather than contribute. The tendency for me is to scroll or to go from one wiki link or article to the next, rather than to sit and contemplate or draw and share.
Architecture shapes reality, that’s for sure. Having a blog //is// very different than posting on facebook, that’s for sure. So it seems to me that first I need to determine first is who I want to be online and to find the enabling spaces that support that.
Who would you like to be online?
Here’s my commitment to trying to be who I want to be and sharing as I go.