Always Connected (Except When I’m Not)

You go through life, and you can often find two views on social media: there are those who are always connected, always talking, always posting, and then there are those who won’t come within a mile of the stuff, thinking it a corrosive influence that eats away at their psyches, at their self-reliance, at their ability to be just them, without the world watching. You can find people like this, find them all over, and they’ll both have very compelling reasons for feeling and behaving the way they do. “It’s like I’m always with my friends,” they might say, or “I just feel that it’s all so impersonal, reducing me to snapshots. I need to be me.”

Then, of course, there are your third kind of people. The kind of people that are probably the most common, really, but it bears putting into words anyway. These are the people that can balance the two more extreme views, who can, in fact, do both. These are the people that see the value in social media, who can pop onto Facebook or Snapchat or what have you, and chat with their friends and laugh at the newest cat video and share bits of their lives with the rest of the world, but who can also put the phone down, log off, go for a walk or read a book or play video games, just take some time to themselves and maybe be alone with their thoughts for a while, or go out and talk to people in the real world. The dichotomy is simple, when you think about it. It makes sense. We are inherently social animals, and the desire to be connected to a group, a community, is intrinsic to our nature. It’s simply how we’re wired. But at the same time, we’re also individuals, and it’s natural for us to want to go out and do our own things. And so we’re connected, unless we aren’t. We’re on our own, unless we’re not.

We’re human.

We’re complex.

And that’s how it should be.

Our Web – Everyone’s Two Cents

Before Web 2.0, the vast majority of information available to the common person was that which had been disseminated to the masses by a select few. These few, these ‘information elite’ if you will, therefore had a huge, if indirect, influence on the way people thought and perceived the world around them – in other words, the few essentially dictated the worldview of the many. Now, to be fair, that puts a considerably more sinister spin to it than may be warranted by the reality of the situation. The information elite usually reached their position by virtue of their being  especially qualified in their respective fields, and the information that they passed down to everyone else was, therefore, most likely completely reasonable, and not delivered with any kind of malicious intent at all. But still, the fact remains that the flow of information, no matter how accurate and reasonable said information may or may not have been, was extremely narrow and controlled.

Then, of course, came Web 2.0, and everyone, everyone, got a say. The flow of information was no longer a narrow, controlled stream, but had become a surging river of data, with every user able to contribute their knowledge, their opinions, their views, their two cents. Information had ceased to reside solely in the hands of the information elite. It lived now in the hearts and minds of millions of users, carried through seas of wire to live forever in this vast repository of humanity we call the Internet. Information would never be the same.

So what has this done for us? Well, that’s a question with a lot of answers. Information is more available, certainly. Oceans of opinions and views, complementing and opposing each other as they twist and dance across the Web are available in all of their nuance to any who care to look for them. Knowledge is available in multitudes unparalleled in human history. We form communities of like-minded individuals to share our experiences and views with, and together create wholes mightier than any one of us. To the thinking of some, we have also corrupted the integrity of knowledge and discourse by taking the reins from those most qualified to handle such things and handing them to anyone with a keyboard, qualified or not, and there is possibly merit to such a view. But to me, all of this can be summed up in one idea:

This is the Web of all of us. It belongs to me, and it belongs to you, and it belongs to everyone else. There are parts of it that I love, parts of it that I hate, parts of it that I’ve never seen and parts of it that I’ve seen too much. But it’s all mine. It’s all yours. It’s ours.

And I don’t know about you, but I’m going to put in my two cents.