Director and comedian Bo Burnham recently released a new special on Netflix called inside, while the topic ranges drastically in cinematic themes, this song, Welcome to the Internet, tackled how overwhelming the internet has become:
Like many other things in my life, the first time I experienced the digital was in my childhood home. My first look into the digital world was on my old family computer. An old dell computer, the only one in the house, that we would all share as a family. At four o’clock in the afternoon every day I would have come home from school, gotten myself a snack, and gone on the huge computer in our living room. I would spend my allotted time playing Webkinz or Club Penguin, or even go on coolmathgames4kids.com. The games were pure entertainment and removed from the reality of our real life.
From there, was the Nintendo DS. My first personal device, and a whole new world of communication. Games like Mario Kart, Pokemon, and Nintendogs were cool, but the game swaps and the messaging feature became a huge social element, you could connect specifically with people you knew, rather than publicly and en masse.
Our devices as children were parent protected and for the most part, quite safe. Safe in terms of personal safety, but also quite naïve to the world outside your physical life. But as we grew, one device became two, and two became four, and as we grew, so did our understanding of what the digital could mean.
Almost every new piece of information that we receive now as adults, has come to us through the digital. Social media has evolved and the way we view information has changed, fact-checking and information biases have become sudden repercussions of being aware in the digital space. Social media is now a source that we use to understand social issues, political and economic debates, as well as an environment to connect with people and share elements of our life.
As a teenager, social media to me was all about connecting with the people around me. Knowing the ins and outs of the daily lives of my friends and all my classmates. But slowly into adulthood, it became about becoming as socially aware and politically correct as I could be. I absorb a huge amount of information a day, not to mention the time that I could spend fact-checking it all, it’s something that is rather consuming. This overwhelming form of overstimulation is something that most of this generation feels and can be a difficult way to ingest information, it truly is “anything and everything all of the time”1. Even when the world of information is at our fingertips, it seems increasingly hard to know where to click.
But social media has also created a space for everyone. While the social element can also be overwhelming, I find that it is also a space where everyone can find a community in which they belong. There is a space for every want or need, identity or gender, and finding someone that shares your opinion is never difficult. With most people having some sort of access to the internet, finding a niche of people, connecting over different hobbies or lifestyles, or even connecting romantically, has become something that is easier and easier to accomplish.
With everything available to us all the time, the only thing that feels much different about the digital then and now, is how aware we are.
1 Burnham, B. (n.d.). Welcome to the Internet. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1BneeJTDcU.