The Internet is Real Life
It's hard to know what a real solution to our digital woes looks like
Welcome back to the sh!tpost newsletter. I hope you’ve all been well. It’s about time for us to schedule another group chat for paid supporters. Keep an eye out for that; it’s coming soon.
This week, we’ll have CVE researcher Samantha Kutner on the podcast to talk about the resurgence of the Proud Boys at Trump rallies and the research she’s been doing on the group’s activities.
The Human Element of The Internet
The internet is, in fact, real life.
What happens online is not confined to the edges of our screen. People in these United States have access to the internet available nearly everywhere, and make consequential decisions based on how pixels arrange themselves on their devices. It’s hard to avoid anymore, even if you strive for a digital-minimalist lifestyle.
In the early days of the internet, the digital space was a gathering spot for nerds and their friends. There was an understood etiquette and formality to the space. Then came something that would eventually be dubbed “Eternal September.” America Online (AOL) opened up a pathway to the internet for general consumers in 1993 and the established culture existing online was forever changed. There was simply no way to uphold the standards of behavior on the internet and teach people how to behave themselves.
The web, which had been filled with academics and researchers, would change forever. In the coming decades, the internet was further commercialized and the tech hub moved out to San Francisco to make jabs at venture capital money. Like real estate developers moving into neighborhood, the culture and community in the digital space was drowned out. The internet became a business model and the pursuit of the dollar overrode the best practices of being online.
It is still September.
Time is never time at all
You can never ever leave
Without leaving a piece of youth
What I’m saying is that we very well may have passed the threshold of being able to tame the beast, unless we rethink the restraints we have in place. We can scream “Mods! Mods!” until we turn blue, but there is simply little we can do to reign in the monster we keep on our devices. The moderators are experiencing their own struggles within the system, too.
Last week, former Facebook moderators broke their confidentiality agreements with the platform giant to speak with The Verge about the consequences they’ve endured working as content moderators. (READ: BODIES IN SEATS.) The former mods detail the long-lasting psychological effects of reviewing graphic and hateful content and the lack of support the company offered them as it wrecked their psyche. I struggle to come up with something within our current framework that would reduce the harm these people have experienced; extra compensation is not a solution to trauma.
It’s the general tendency of the online community to ask the major tech platforms for help with the worst parts of the internet, and the platforms’ reluctance to act is nothing if not consistent. We’ve been living in Eternal September for so long, I worry that petitioning major social media platforms is a pointless exercise.
we're breaking promises we thought we could keep
we trigger avalanches unknowingly
we're not so different from convicts on the run
freedom could kill us, but we'd rather go on
The early internet was hatched as experiment in unmatched freedom, but the consolidation of users into a handful of major websites intensified conflict and curtailed the standard internet experience into a handful of burrows. I was in diapers in the early days of the web, but I find myself fascinated by the arguments to re-splinter the internet. Perhaps, I just don’t know better. Perhaps, I’m at a loss for what would help us navigate this sewer. What I do know is that when these internet folks are using tech to market functional human relationships, we’ve turned a corner that… ain’t good.
The internet is the new communication medium, and the contents of the internet have reaching implications that stretch beyond what the original vision of the World Wide Web could have anticipated. Unless we re-imagine what the internet is at its core and it’s service to society, we will remain in this storm.
Time to take a break from my droning thoughts about tech to read some funny things.
Iran shot down our remote controlled drone, and now conservatives are slobbering at the chops for some Middle East military action. I kept trying to find *something* about the situation to laugh at, and these two posts did the job.
Last week, we learned that Parkland teen Kyle Kushav had been turned away from Harvard. This suggestion cracked me up.
This sums up where we’re at in a way that hurts.