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When I was at primary school we had two distinct play areas; one for 7 years+ and the other was for the younger kids. I was younger, we were shut away, separated and divided by… well not a lot really, the playgrounds were actually joined together, but just like oil and water we never intermingled. Kids running around like little oily molecules. This was a problem for me because my friend Kevin was a year older than me. That meant we were cruelly kept apart, a budding friendship prematurely cut short, separated by nothing, literally nothing, just thin air.
As tragic as that period of my life was it taught me a valuable lesson. It taught me that controlling of environments is not always a bad thing. OK, separating a 6 year old from a 7 year old to protect the former from the hardships of later life is a little extreme, but the principle is there.
We, as humans, typically segregate our lives by age. Think; who can mix with you in cinemas? who can drink with you in a bar? who can drive? when can we marry? and so on. Then we have young people going to school, slightly older people going to university and people of a certain age at work. Then theres lifestyle choices which separate us into further groups, such as hobbies and beliefs. So far, this is not a revelation, although I should point out that the only revelation in this post, is that there is no revelation.
The effect of this is that, in real life at anyone one moment, we are typically surrounded by people of similar age with relatively similar interests. This means the basis of humour evolves independently in that group, as does the style, and so typically do macro beliefs. That is why kids here in Austria are loving the hip hop dance move called ‘dabbing’. To us people outside of this group we think this is the young impressionable mind trudging along to the tune of some big company. This is of course as we simultaneously debate whether Apple is better than Android or whether John Lewis’ Christmas ad made you cry. The older group outside of this then thinks that this is just the young impressionable mind trudging along to the tune of some big company.
The story continues, but the bottom line is the same we are always kept in our little groups, so safe and nice. Oh how lovely.
Enter; THE INTERNET.
fucks up disrupts everything. We are thrown into this melting pot where no one knows which group is which, no one really knows who anyone is. It is a free for all. The man who loves legitimately debating politics with friends at home is thrust into a comment war with a 15 year old troll who doesn’t understand or care about the issues.
The equilibrium is history.
Of course we are slowly rectifying this, we have social networks to funnel us into groups and we have our favourite websites, which are followed by similar people. Ultimately though there are no playground boundaries, everyone is allowed everywhere, which is both beautiful and destructive in its own way. The internet is a 3 year old throwing its alphabet spaghetti into your face.
As the internet is just in its infancy, these things will be ironed out over time, but at the moment we are left to do the controlling of our environment ourselves. Unfortunately, if there is something humans are terrible at, it is deciding what is good for us. That is why websites champion freedom and offer controlling tools at our discretion – they know we won’t use them. They are there though, we can block people, mute people, ban words and phrases, we can choose which sites to visit and what to put into a search engine.
Since I joined the social media world a few months ago I have been doing precisely this. My Twitter is the biggest casualty; the list of banned words grows by the day – Politics, for one, is out.
The natural assertion here is to say that someone who blocks politics on Twitter is not interested in politics, but that would be incorrect. Especially as I am very much into politics, but the method of delivery cannot be understated here. Getting political information via Twitter is like being slapped in the face with a wet fish in a spontaneous drive-by, and then being asked which ocean I think the fish enjoyed most on holiday 4 years ago. I don’t want to get my political information in the form of 140 characters. If there is one way to over simplify complex issues, it is by squeezing it into 140 characters. So that is gone, no politics on either side.
Another casualty is the big news websites. What I discovered is that you can control what information appears on their homepage. Again this is controlled and tailored to my needs, so I switched it to happier news. Strangely, being surrounded by more positive news and less twitter cat fighting has made for a happier disposition.
I suppose you could argue it is ignorant bliss, but that would only be the case if you don’t get the relevant – and factually accurate – information elsewhere. For this though I typically turn to print media. A book is a wonderful thing and it takes way more time, effort and research to publish than a 140 character tweet. Plus if it is useless you can use it in any number of other ways that Twitter can’t be. For instance; you can stand on it to reach things that are about 1 inch too high, you can burn it for a short lived fuel source, you can draw on it, make paper aeroplanes, a door wedge, weapon, one big domino with no numbers on it, a bad hat and the list goes on.
I am certain in the future we will be back in our little groups digitally as well as physically, but at the moment I do have to settle for the odd delusional right wing facist
Piers Morgan popping into my life. So here I am on my internet diet, slimming down and stream lining the information that hits my face. No more wet fish for me.