The lure of online

Think back, think back a little further. Think back to those times before mobile phones, tablets, computers.

Think back to those times before social media. Before our lives could be traced back with a click, a scroll of a mouse.

Think back to those times before we turned ourselves into a brand, before we were as contrived, before our only hope of a connection is a ping from our phones.

In the last 10, 20 years our lives have been radically altered due to a man named Tim Burners-Lee.

He invented that thing called the World Wide Web. He gave it away for free; he wasn’t to know what it would become.

Fast forward a few years and 1.55billion people use Facebook each month.

But is this a bad thing?

You can communicate easily. You can keep in touch with those across continents. Share, discuss, laugh.

But it can also take a viscious turn. It can become self-promotion, it can become about your self-worth, it can become about keeping an idea of yourself alive.

It can become a distraction. But not a filling one, not one that gives you anything.

By spending time scrolling your news feed, consuming information, you feel as though you’ve gained something. Done something. When really all you’ve probably done is just listen in. It would probably be the same as standing outside and listening to what’s-her-face gossip about Mrs Next Door to what’s-her-other-face.

The real downside is when we feel that our only connection is through a screen. When for what ever reason we have to be part of Facebook or Twitter because if we aren’t, we feel that we are missing out. Missing out on what, I’m not so sure.

Then there’s the question of whether or not social media pigeonholes and stunts growth. When you start creating your brand in your teenage years.

In Patti Smith’s Just Kids she details herself and Robert Mapplethorpe’s growth as artists. How they changed. Shed their old skins and became more. More than what they were before. They had the freedom to do so.


Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe (added simply because it’s one of my favourites) 

“Where does it all lead? What will become of us? These were our young questions, and young answers were revealed. It leads to each other. We become ourselves.” – Patti Smith, Just Kids

We build personalities online, posting pictures which we feel will be liked by friends, posting remarks which we hope will get comments. And the more we are liked, the more we post this idea of ourself.

But while we do this, we change over the years. So can the online world allow us to grow? To become what we should, what we can become? Will our audience be there if we change?

Steve Jobs, who helped spur this techonological world on, touched on this idea during an interview in the 80’s.

“That is why it’s hard doing interviews and being visible: As you are growing and changing, the more the outside world tries to reinforce an image of you that it thinks you are, the harder it is to continue to be an artist, which is why a lot of times, artists have to go, “Bye. I have to go. I’m going crazy and I’m getting out of here.” And they go and hibernate somewhere. Maybe later they re-emerge a little differently.” – Steve Jobs, Playboy interview, 1985

He spoke about how the world enforces an idea, an image, of ourselves onto us. Is this not what’s happening through social media?

So to be any sort of artist do we need to shut off? Is this new way of living – through our screens – hindering creativity? Hindering our abilities?

On the flip, the online world can open up worlds that people could only dream of before. Now they can delve headfirst into these worlds.

It opens up opportunity. The ability to reach people across the world. To get yourself, your art, in front of an audience.

In the end, I have no idea. The whole idea of the then and now is so flawed with contradictions – too many to type out – and is so romanticised, just like everything else once it enters the past.

I can’t work out if I revel in this new world, new landscape, or whether I yearn for the days where you had no phones. You would agree a time to meet and if you were late, they would leave without you.

A world where you wouldn’t have cameraphones and the ability to take so many photos with endless filters to make them better.

A world where likes, comments and shares didn’t exist.

A different world.

And the final contradiction? This is posted on a blog.

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2 comments

  1. Let me tell you how it was before Online. It was lonely.

    That’s why we had loud rock bands in the 90’s. We were all outcasts with no friends. We needed the Online to find people who were into the same things as us. I couldn’t live without the Online because I had no one around me that I could talk to.

    It’s still this way. I don’t care about the crap people post on Facebook. I’m part of niche subcultures and I use social media to find people like me and share content.

    1. Thank you for you comment!
      Life is always going to be lonely, it’s up to us to make it not. I briefly touched on the points about how the online can open up all the worlds we want – but still, the larger impact that social media is having on youth and people in general – I don’t think it’s always a good thing! But at the same time, it can open up so many doors that were previously closed.
      This was a very rushed post – there’s a lot that can be said on the topic – so I may revisit and edit this when my ideas are more fully formed 🙂
      Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts!

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