So you’re stuck with me today and if you made it this far I hope you will stick around for the rest. I promise I will stay on point and keep it short.
This weekend here in the states we celebrate the 4th of July holiday. It signifies our nation’s declaration 235 years ago that we are indeed independent and we’re looking for a way of life based on personal choices and a democratic republic. For the past 236 years we have been trying to get it right with some great successes along with many sizable failures. One thing I can assure you is that nothing is perfect especially when it involves people.
So what’s this got to do with the Internet? Well, in a way I am starting to sense that we, as citizens of the Internet, are beginning to lose some of our independence. Of course, that sounds counterintuitive since the whole premise of the Internet is that we all have access to the world’s information at our finger tips which allows us to become a better person through experiencing more of the world than has ever before been possible, right?
Nice theory. What I am seeing instead is this incredible interdependency on the opinions and whims of others that can actually drain the independence out of us all if we are not careful.
You see we are moving toward some form of a collective intellect through all of this “sharing” and “openness”. That collective intellect does not appear to be greater than the sum of its parts. No in fact, it is starting to look more mediocre with each passing day.
I had someone tell me this week that they won’t say something online for fear of it not being accepted. I couldn’t think of anything sadder to describe what we are creating in the online space.
As it is advertised, the idea of open sharing is supposed to open us up to new ideas and options for our lives. Tell everyone everything and you will become your best! That’s not a very smart message in my opinion. Sure, you want to share ideas and things that could move us all along. If the power of the collective, however, makes you fearful that your idea will either be rejected or, even worse, you will be personally rejected or marginalized then, maybe we should hit the brakes a bit.
This past week has been a very interesting one in the history of the Internet age. We have watched as everyone’s love/hate relationship with Facebook has been played out in the storm over the introduction of Google+. We are seeing that some groups of people are looking forward to embracing a social network that is a little more geek centered and less for the masses (at least in its current state). This is being celebrated because there is a desire for the techno cool kids to break away from the regular Joes who are obviously inferior in some way.
This whole phenomenon simply points out just how dependent we are on others to help us think, be entertained, get excited and more. That’s good to a degree but I see us heading full speed into a situation where those who disagree with a group are not embraced but rather pushed away. Why? Because they don’t fit. They’re not one of us because they won’t play along.
This idea that we are getting better because we each have a platform in cyberspace to express ourselves is the advertising version of online socializing. It’s the beach full of bikini clad girls and ripped guys advertising the benefits of drinking rather than the very real possibility of a twisted wreck that causes irreparable harm to many.
Is it all bleak doom and gloom? Not at all. The real bright spots in this push to total openness with each other will be those who stay outside the cattle herd. They will make something of themselves and those around them because they effectively remain independent. They think for themselves and respect others without caving into them. They exercise their minds independent of the group and then decide whether they will go along with the masses or stay on the outside and in the process not sacrifice themselves to the group. This results in hope for another day of being an individual.
On this Independence Day weekend let’s all celebrate that independence and the role it plays in our lives.
P.S. Sorry for lying about keeping it short and to the point.