You Internet

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“It’s all about YOU.” A voice screeches.

I look up to see the metal magpie sitting on the fibres of the internet. The blue glow of his mechanical eyes blink slowly as they glare down at me.

“Er yes?” I say.

The bird raises his wings, the intricate clicks of a dozen metallic feathers moving into place and with a single beat lifts high away from the lines. The smooth metal on his chest glints as he puffs up his chest and screeches again.

“You!” Before swooping down in a smooth arc, straight at me.

I duck too late and feel a sharp tug of my tunic as claws rip a strip of cloth from my shoulder. I turn to grab at the flapping end of cloth and for a moment I feel the satisfactory weight of the bird through my clenched fist, before he pulls me from my feet.

I clasp my other hand over my fist, just in time to feel the beat of air from the wings above me once, twice, and then I’m up in the air.

Up, up, he pulls me and I close my eyes, not wanting to see the lands of the web fall away below me. The steady beat of the wings fills my ears with an assured rhythm. I calm myself by trying to match each breath I take to this rhythm. In and out, in and out, till I can no longer feel my arms holding on or my feet dangling below.

When I open my eyes, I am standing in a nest piled high on every side with the pages, photos and posts all published by me on the web. They are weaved into the walls of the nest amongst the bright shards of the bird’s shiny feathers.

The internet is full of these nests, a devoted shrine to all the things each of us offers out to the web. But why do we do this?

There’s never been a time or place where it was so easy to award a piece of click-admiration or affirmation at our friends or strangers. We can collect the views, followers, likes, shares and even friends across the myriad of platforms designed with this purpose in mind. We build up these digital worlds centered around ourselves, until some are starting to point a finger to proclaim there’s a problem.

Our ability tailor the Internet experience to our every need is making us more narcissistic…This shift from e- to i- in prefixing Internet URLs and naming electronic gadgets and apps parallels the rise of the self-absorbed online Narcissus

Or worse pointing to an entire generation’s malaise and spread across the online world.

The truth is the rise in narcissism among millennials may have less to do with our social networks online and more to do with our social networks at home.

There are other voices of doubt questioning these claims, but I can’t help but now wonder if I embarked on this internet adventure to feed my own inflated ego. To build up an online audience and hide behind the shallow interactions of a ‘you internet’.

“Is that what I’m doing here?” I say out loud and turn my head to seek out the magpie, who brought me here.

As I turn my head, the light catches on a shard of metal and I blink to focus on the pair of blue flickering eyes. Once, twice and now I see, my own beak and steady gaze reflected back at me.

 

Xtra! Xtra! Read all about it!

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I am sitting on a bench on a lazy Saturday evening in the digital land of the web. The lights are dimming as I watch the web traffic across the street fly past in a blur of bits and byes. I hear the boy standing on the corner of the street, his sing song voice calling out to anyone who passes by,

“Xtra! Xtra!”

He clutches the fresh headlines under his arm and in his out-stretched hand waving. So I whistle to him and reach into my pocket to pull out a coin. But before I finish, he tips his head at me and then throws me a paper without a second glance.

As I look down at the crisp white sheets there is no big name sprawled across the top. Instead the columns twist like a rubix cube, jostling and shuffling its content in its desire to be called “news”. Some bare the names of familiar printed brands, but there among them I see the search engines, the web-only media and social media platforms too, all vying for my attnetion.

Our views and tastes for news has been changed by the web and with it, the perception of the people who should and can deliver it to us.

  • Anybody on the web, can now be a journalist. With a video, tweet or photo, they are a smartphone away from the front line, the reporters at the scene in the instant and behind the stories that might otherwise be lost.
  • Anybody on the web can’t be a journalist because they’re not accountable to anyone for getting their facts right, being bias in their reporting or writing poorly.

Neither of the above statements are quite as straight forward as they seem. Being on the front line entails risks where citizen journalists can become targeted by governments or others, more so than professionals who are protected by professional bodies and laws. Whilst trust in traditional media diminishes precisely because of the instances of unethical behaviour and glaring mistakes.

The landscape of news on the web is still changing to deal with these issues and it is far from clear yet, how the dust will settle.

For now though, I am only grateful for the variety of platforms and people willing to bring that news to the web. I get up from my seat, folding the paper under my arm and as I stroll away, I feel the news feeds from a multitude of voices still buzzing at my side.

Who are you on the internet?

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`Who are you?’ asks the log-in screen of another website.

In the wonderland of the web, I am offered a choice. I can tie my online self closer and more solidly to my offline one, use my real name, photo, marital status, career, etc. Or I can put on a veil of anonymity, a character or other version of myself, distanced from the offline me.

I think you already know which I prefer. Average Joey isn’t my real name, but it is my blogging name and I don’t feel this diminishes my capacity to be true to myself.

We all have different personas we express in different parts of our lives, sometimes they overlap, but sibling, boss, friend, lover, they are all different and a version of me. Joey @startmyquest feels as real as any offline face I present to the world. Each day to the next, the world expects me to wear the assumptions of race, gender, age and history. I cannot shake them from my face and name.

So here on the web, I cherish my identity because it offers me a chance to define myself  in other ways. When all those other faces can be hidden, then I feel like the characters across this digital wonderland can ask me with genuine wonder, who are you?

So, do you have an online persona that’s different to your offline life, or do you throw it all together and just put it out there as simply you?