Every time someone sends me a link to an article about how the internet or social media are destroying the very fabric of civilisation I am struck that they wouldn’t be able to send me the link without the internet and I wouldn’t be able to maintain a connection to them without social media.
I gave up on Cal Newport’s books because I got so wearied with someone who I had only heard of through social media wasting half his books telling me what a negative force social media was!
Talking with a friend recently about the early days and John Perry Barlow’s Declaration Of Independence Of Cyberspace I found myself wondering, yet again, how much of that original idealism that was so infectious has been lost. But then I thought that it is all about timescales. If you believe that we are at the end of the impact of the internet and that it’s potential has been assimilated into business as usual for commerce and politics then there are reasons for pessimism. If you believe, as I do, we are only at the start of a much longer story arc, then the future is less bleak and there is much to be done.
But that doing is much more low key and ordinary than we expect. It is not about becoming the next internet meme, amassing a huge audience on YouTube, or even becoming some sort of guru or expert and inventing a new ism that ends up discarded and tarnished like all of the others.
Someone asked me the other day if I wasn’t interested in increasing my impact on the web, employing marketing techniques to increase my profile. They thought that my ideas were important and worth aiming for greater impact. But to do so would be to fall for the very ideas that I am arguing against. I don’t want to “maximise my impact”, I want it to be what it will be. If I start chasing audience and employing SEO and other internet dark arts then I might as well give up. I would rather build a future post by post, conversation by conversation, thought by thought, modest exchange by modest exchange.
The future is always much more ordinary than we expect. Contrary to popular opinion we can start living it now.