The Internet is Boring
(Some encouragement disguised as) a rant
The Internet is boring. We’re bored of it because it is boring. We spend so much time on it, clicking and scrolling and rotating through a perpetual cycle of our default apps and platforms because we are looking for something that we can’t find, something that should be there but isn’t.
We’re looking in vain for energy. For signs of life. For a little bit of excitement and authenticity and humanity.
Tell me I’m wrong.
Sure, you can find the odd lone
creator artist who is fighting the good fight but more often than not you’ll find people who have either accepted their role as sharecroppers to the algorithm or who have been down for so long that they no longer remember which way is up.
It’s not good enough.
Slowly we’ve collectively acquiesced to this slop for such a long time that this dross now not only seems normal but it seems inevitable. Eat gruel for long enough and you will forget what great cuisine tastes like. In fact, you won’t believe that such culinary heights were once even possible and you’ll begin to rationalise that it must have only been the elites of prior generations who were able to enjoy such a meal.
This is a lie we tell to reconcile ourselves to our diminished expectations.
The internet was revolutionary once, it offered the promise that anyone could communicate and connect and share their creations with other likeminded souls. It was based on authenticity and weirdness and fun. It wasn’t for everyone and you had to hold your own but within it you could find whatever you wanted to and you could discover art and voices that you never even knew you needed.
Fast forward twenty years and it has all of the vitalism and excitement of a failing out of town mall.
Books could be written on how this decline came to be and about how the lion’s share of the blame lies on the shoulder of certain Silicon Valley players and the platforms they have bastardised into slot machines of mediocrity and division. But that’s a subject for some other writer to tackle.
I’m interested in solutions. Not top-down talk of reform (which you know will be watered down by the time it comes to pass) or trying to get these greedy sociopaths to change (they won’t barring some sort of major spiritual crisis) but in what we can do about this.
See, for all of the talk of politics and for all of the attempts to pathologise this problem and subtly blame the atomised doomscroller for their plight (have you tried a dopamine fast? Have you tried putting your phone on the greyscale setting?) I think the crucial point is missed.
We still have a choice. We have always had a choice. There is nothing besides lack of courage and fear of going against the herd that is actually stopping us from using the internet in the way that its radical creators envisaged. There is no mystical force preventing any of us from doing cool stuff. You don’t have to buy into- and win at- the game of piling up enough vanity metrics before you are allowed to make art. People who tell you otherwise are at the top of the vanity metric pyramid and are trying to keep you in place, propping up the Attention Economy.
With the internet- even with what it has become today- we have means of sharing our work and ideas, we have ways to support each other through subscriptions and donations, we have ways of meeting in private groups and hanging out and talking to each other via video as a prelude to meeting face to face.
I say all of this as a reminder because there are a lot of distractions waved in front of our noses to keep us from focusing on this simple fact.
We can do what we want here. We’ve always been able to. The first step is admitting how bad things are (it’s no accident that by far the most popular thing I have ever written is about how dull and unsustainable this Extremely Online era is. I touched on something many have felt but not articulated). Our arts and culture are not good enough. We’re not good enough, and so there is no misunderstanding I say that in a spirit of love and encouragement. We are, both collectively and individually, capable of so much more than frenetically edited youtube shorts and trend chasing and parasocial relationships with influencers and impotent moaning about the present and rose tinted nostalgic longing for some pre smartphone past. We could be so much more. We could create art that is so much more truthful and searching and humane and ambitious (and that is also fearless and angry and rabble-rousing if need be).
I’ll say it again- nothing is stopping us. Web 2.0 is energetically dead. It’s done. It is powered by inertia alone at this point. We scroll out of habit. We scroll out of boredom and end up with further boredom. We post ‘content’ instead of creating art because we have gotten used to it. We have given into it and the ecosystem around it. It doesn’t have to be this way. Ultimately, it’s a choice. Nothing is stopping us from striving to be better and to create with more daring and boldness.
So the second step- after taking the above to heart- is to form your own clubs, your own labels, your own imprints, your own collectives and to make cool shit that the dopamine fried and the incurious won’t understand.
This has always been the way it’s worked. Look at punk, look at the Lost Generation, look at any literary or artistic or musical movement.
Find your people, band together, make cool shit, have fun. The internet is (still) the greatest potential facilitator for this in the history of the world. We just have to remember that and use it rather than defaulting to letting it use us.
This is how I see it anyway. I figure I can either moan on the sidelines or try and do my bit to kick a bit of life into this sorry online culture with the help of all of the incredibly talented people I have met online.
You can join us. You can support us. Or you can take this message, copy all of my ideas and form your own collective and make your own art. The internet is so boring now that I would gladly welcome the competition.
It comes down to this: You can hang out with real people, make real friends, create real art, and support and mingle with other people who are sick of the mainstream culture and its corny vapidity and low standards. You can use the internet as a distribution and communication tool, and as a fun and meaningful addition to a life lived in the real world. Or. . .you can carry on with the scrolling and clickbait and rage and ‘Content’ and see just how low the lowest common denominator can go.
You know where I’ll be. And you can either join us at the STSC, support what we are trying to build or maybe see what’s happening over on twitter or in the youtube trending section instead.
Up to you.
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