The Internet, contrary to popular belief, is not an unlimited expanse, and it is also beholden to the physical laws of our world. Just how much can it hold before it becomes too much?
Did you know that Facebook, the social media mega-site, uses tens of thousands of blu-ray discs to back up the enormous flood of information that is deposited onto the site? That is a lot of status updates. Just how many of these archived posts are really all that important? Does anyone even care?
Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, and the countless other social media outlets have become quite a repository for the refuse that is the impulsive human mind. Anyone with a smart phone and two brain cells to rub together can now post status updates about where they are and what they are doing at that moment. Yay. I am just, so excited to know that you are at the pub, having a beer. It was really, truly necessary to my well-being to see that you have checked in at your local Waffle House for the third time this week.
Where does all of this junk data go? Onto a server, of course, and eventually it will be backed up on some sort of disc or drive, waiting for the day that your friends just absolutely have to see what you were doing at that one restaurant back in 2010. Because that’s extremely important, right?
I personally pride myself on sucking it up, and taking out my digital garbage now and then. No one, least of all me, cares what the hell I posted on Facebook in 2009. Timeline schmimeline, I’m not into scrapbooks, especially not the kind of scrapbook that anyone with an internet connection can snoop on. I delete that crap. I look back on the juvenile, immature, ridiculous things that I used to post in my late teenage/early 20s years, and shake my head in dismay. I delete it all. No one cares about it. That’s not a pity seeking “no one cares about me” statement, I just mean that literally, it’s not anything worth caring about. Can you honestly look someone in the eye, and tell them with complete and utter honesty, that everything you’ve ever posted in social media is worth remembering?
There is so much data circulating in social media and the Internet in general right now. It’s a nightmare to sort through all of the digital garbage that we produce, to find something worthwhile to hold onto. The Internet is the ultimate double-edged sword of human technological progress. It is fantastic that anyone with the means to get online, can have a voice, and be seen. It is also horrific, that anyone with the means to get online, can have a voice, and be seen. On the Internet, you are anonymous. You are no one. You can say whatever you want. No one is right, and no one is wrong.
As a youth, in the fledgling, pre-Facebook and pre-MySpace days of message board chatting, I used to get in a lot of Internet-based debates and arguments, because I took things too seriously. I didn’t understand the concept of anonymity, and the idea that people behind a screen will say the most ridiculous things, and make the most illogical, outright stupid arguments, just because they can, and there is no authority to say that they are wrong.
Relativism scares the hell out of me, and nowhere is it more rampant than on the Internet. No one is right, no one is wrong. Everything that people post from their computers, tablets, and phones is treated like the creation of solid gold. The reality is that these things are more akin to the production of solid excrement, but good luck convincing the masses of this.
If the Internet, which is the global networking of computers, servers, and digital devices, as well as the ultimate resource of information the likes of which has never existed in human history, truly were infinite, these grievances might not matter. But the Internet is not an unlimited resource. It is bound by the limitations of signals, bandwidth, and storage space. The World Wide Web can only hold so much before a breaking point is reached. It would be naive to assume that governments, militaries, and major corporate conglomerations don’t have their sights on securing more of the Web for themselves, and the precious bandwidth upon which that Web rests. It is not paranoia to imagine a near future in which the free and open Internet that we all take for granted will no longer exist, and, like physical commuting, travel on the digital frontier will be parceled out on a basis of social standing and wealth. Essentially, at best, it would be the equivalent of having toll roads on the Internet.
What can ordinary people like you and I do to buck the trend, of an Internet that is so flooded with junk and useless data, that someone will inevitably take it upon themselves to clean up our trash? After all, are Twitter feeds and Facebook status updates really the legacy that we want to pass on to the next generation? It’s not a stretch of the imagination to conceive of a world where information is constrained, filtered, screened of the trash that we keep throwing on the digital heap. I don’t want to see that kind of world, but our general abuse of the gift that is the World Wide Web, our inane babble, the complete lack of regard for decency and self-control, and our bloated senses of self-righteousness and self-importance, are laying the groundwork for the kind of world that the powers-that-be would rather see: one that is controlled, mitigated, and censored.
Things in our universe, even on the digital frontier, must obey Newton’s third law: “every action must have an equal or opposite reaction.” What we put out onto the Web will eventually have a reaction. The more responsibly we behave, the more that we cherish and nurture our technological gifts instead of using them as a landfill, the better off we will be when the equal or opposite reaction has its day. Think about what you want to put into the digital frontier before doing so, and if you do make a mess, please do humanity a favor and clean up after yourself.