What Has The Internet Ever Done For Us?
As we now know, with the full acceptance of the internet came a great unshackling of information and inevitably, the rise of disinformation that gave us Russian meddling, whistleblowers, Cambridge Analytica and several disastrously compromised leadership contests. The latest heroes to be turned into villains are social media influencers, upon whom advertisers pounced because they were seemingly keeping it real in a media-slick world. And, just as parasites kill their hosts and move on, the advertisers showered them with money until they they were corrupted.
Recently, someone called Tifforellie based in the middle of nowhere posted a photo of her motorcycle accident and is now frantically trying to tell people she didn’t fake it. But the lighting, the pose and that product placement water bottle…well, you’d have to be very stupid indeed to think this was real. Hotels and other hospitality providers are starting to turn their backs on social influencers, who having taken the bait from advertisers are now losing their cachet. Suddenly they go on the list of UK/US-manufactured evils like big pharma and food you have to eat with your hands.
But we sometimes forget that the reality of daily internet use is sensational and transformative. Handcuffed to the attic in my old terraced house, I sweated through summers writing books and visiting reference libraries. Writing involved heavy lifting and heavy reading. I waded through tons of extraneous material to find the odd nugget of information I could use. Although the World Wide Web was a British invention, the internet became a gigantic American Dewey Decimal System, making it easy for anyone to use.
While writing a new novel, I became stuck on a plot point I simply couldn’t solve, so I threw it into the web and up came a crazy fact that I would never have found in textbooks. For a long time there were too few online resources for deep research (academic friends plan their years around the capricious availability of international archives, plus you have to learn other languages to benefit from them).
I don’t use my devices for too many trivialities (perhaps I should). Instead I carry on me 2,000 books, subscriptions to the New Statesman, the NY and London Times, Netflix (their documentary strand is excellent – try ‘Dirty Money’), BBC and Sky, a vast music library, podcasts, films, hundredweights of notes, all Cloud-based. I’m finally free to work anywhere, just at a time when the unelected 1% have decided to start closing our borders.
What they can’t do – yet – is close down the world that has opened in cyberspace.