The Death of the Internet Community

‘Social media’. What a horrible thing.

Remember back in the earlier days of the internet where those who hadn’t (yet) taken it onboard were decrying it as the death of real social interaction? That retreating to a screen would simply push people further into isolation from others?

At the time, for many of us, the truth is that the web was actually a saviour for those who felt lost and out of place in the real world – somewhere that you could find solace in your collective awkwardness, and build up a proper community of people that would return to interact daily and build up genuine, lasting relationships. It wasn’t always out of a shared weirdness either, with people embedding themselves in a variety of message boards dedicated to a particular topic. It was the fluid, exciting age of the internet, with real connections and where anything seemed possible. The Hacker Manifesto is a beautiful statement that summed up what it could feel like to be part of things.

No longer though.

The internet has seeped into everyday consciousness in the Western World with frightening speed. Those same people who were previously damning of the web’s social implications have made an incredible about turn; now lamenting the qualities of the ‘technological revolution’ through the use of nauseatingly constant status updates via their latest mobile ‘smart’ phone.

The web now has a nasty corporate sheen across the top of it. Whilst the grittier underside still remains, the community at the heart of its existence has been displaced by the behemoth of ‘social networking’.

Instead of a committed group of people interacting deeply in communitas based around elements of their personality, we have a huge net of vaguely associated people dipping in and out of threads of conversation. True engagement is gone, and discussion becomes atomised, fleeting and spurious… all the while an army of self-proclaimed ‘social media experts’ write lengthy, armchair ponderings about how best to operate in such a world.

That sense of belonging… the feeling of community that was so wonderful and bound people together on the internet has been eroded, and feels like a thing of the past. In the increasingly fragmented online world, we find ourselves more lonely than ever, despite all of the connections that we have. In moments of darkness we turn to our truly global network of people to find nothing but silence and disaffection staring back at us; lacklustre reciprocity and hollow words.

Does nobody else long for real engagement? I know I do.

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