You may have noticed recently here at Forbes dot com that some of the site was experiencing a spate of 404 errors related to a recent WordPress update. What you might not have fully grasped was the moment of respite from the content that these page errors provided and the incepted idea that this is how it should be. All of it.
The internet is much more complex now than we originally imagined it being. Though for many, it is exactly as they imagined. Even saying the word “internet” isn’t without layers of complexity and confusion. It can refer to so many things with so many different functions and intentions. But the social aspect — the part that we see and operate in daily — has become a flaming heap of fetid garbage that will destroy our souls, if it hasn’t already.
From our addiction to Facebook and its inability to not be sketchy as hellto Amazon wanting to blanket the skies, the internet has become much more than something that connects us all. It has become a living organism set on consuming us all. And we are more than willing to give it everything.
Perhaps it’s the Luddite cynic in me, but despite all the great things the internet and the dynamic innovation it has spawned to better our lives — ride-sharing, the ability to communicate with anyone 24/7, being able to have food delivered from almost anywhere without having to put on pants, and so on — it seems we are starting to turn the corner of reliance. Sure, many of our careers depend on this machine, much of our life is tied to our apps, our websites and our connection but we give it more. As our children are born with a Snapchat account and have turnedInstagram into Facebook, humanity seems more tied to the internet than ever before.
Where once a tool to supplement the task, the internet and all its content and functionality has become more than a necessity. It is our blood. It flows through us all from our hearts to our brains to our genitals. The psychology of internet addition, while base in theory as the internet is much more than just one thing, can barely begin to disseminate the true depths to which we have sunk.
Pick your poison. The prevalence of hate speech online. The constant, viral spread of misinformation, Linkedin broetry, being constantly tracked by tech giants, the disgusting cesspool of predatory filth permeating YouTube or how about the loss of total internet autonomy?
Some believe the era of internet freedom is over. With net neutrality likely never to be restored, that might be true. Every day we chip off a little bit of ourselves and feed it into the shredder. Twitter, Facebook, losing a few skin cells to dead Google products; sure, we can order pizza online but what information, what piece of us are we sacrificing in order to do so?
There are some great bits of this internet. It has created jobs, created lives, connected people and enabled several generations to find success and information with little effort. It’s a bit ridiculous to imagine a world without it, flashes of The Postman come to mind. But it isn’t hard to imagine a world in which Geocities is still the most disturbing content to consume on the internet, rather than, well, all of this.
The internet is no longer a tool. It is a great, all-encompassing civilization that demands our fealty and no amount of prescience can predict what comes next as it continues to morph and grow. Yet, like great civilizations before it, perhaps it is time to watch it burn to the ground, so that something better may arise from the ashes. Or maybe we just need to go outside and play. I’m sure there is an app for that.