Saturday, 6 February 2016

In Praise of THE INTERNET.

So, I'm writing this blog, right?  And then you're going to read it (all three of you) via the magic of THE INTERNET.  That fact is something I take for granted every single day, when actually, it's pretty bloody mindblowing.  The fact that I can waffle on for a few thousand words about whatever random nonsense is occupying the space where my brain should be and then post it online, to be shared with other living, breathing humans all over the freaking world is absolutely incredible.

I grew up in a largely Internet-less era.  I don't remember even having any kind of access to it at home until maybe 1997, when I was 14 going on 15 and was super-astounded by the ease at which perverts could ask me for my age, sex and location (not creepy at all, guys).  Back then, it was this shiny new thing that was supposed to be used primarily for communication and homework.

Nowadays, we use the Internet for literally everything.  If we have a nagging question we don't know the answer to, we Google it.  If we need to buy something but can't be bothered to leave the house, we order it online.  Everything you can imagine, from listening to music and watching films, to actually meeting the love of your life can be done via the Internet.  That's utterly insane. 

Much can be said about the darker side of the World Wide Web.  Online bullying is a very real problem and some people hide behind their screens, flinging metaphorical shit at anyone unfortunate enough to cross their virtual path (a subject dealt with rather magnificently by the rather magnificent Dan Howell in his The Internet Is Mean video).  I've experienced it myself, so I definitely know what it's like to receive death threats, rape threats and general abuse from total strangers based on nothing but my opinion of a book or film (same title for both - guess which?!).  You can't talk about the Internet without discussing the negative side, so let's get that out of the way...

Okay, so I've met horrible people, online.  I won't even go into it too much, because hot damn it's a mess.  I can definitely understand why some people get taken in by a convincing manipulator, making out that they're someone they're not.  It may never have happened to me in a romantic sense (although I've experienced the weirder side of the Internet that way, too - and blogged about it, naturally), but in the "hey, we should be BFFs" sense, for sure.

The Internet is creepy at times, the sheer variety of porn available is ridiculous and unfortunately, the freedom to speak freely can be enjoyed by people whose opinions are more gross than that moment when your friend pronounces a "p" really violently and spits on your face.

I like big buts and I cannot lie.

But for all the weirdness and creepiness of the web, I still think it's quite frankly one of the greatest and most life-changing inventions ever.  I mean, up there with penicillin and all that shizzle.

Think about it.  If the Internet didn't exist, I would be sitting here, with all these ridiculous thoughts in my head and nowhere to express them in a whimsical fashion.  There would be no YouTube, which would mean I would not be having the hysterically funny conversation I am currently having with my best friend, regarding our favourite YouTubers, Dan and Phil.

Even more importantly, I wouldn't have a best friend in the first place.  See, my best friend was someone I met online.  I discovered that she was local (well, an hour away) and set about being hilarious and brilliant on an Internet forum, so that she'd liked me.  One wedding invite later and a friendship was born.  I had previous, to be fair; my much-loved friend Kirstie was also "found" on an Internet forum and I did the exact same thing with her.  Basically, if I'm extra nice to you online, I am plotting on adding you to my friend-collection.  I'm not a stalker, I promise.

But this IS the face I pull when I find a new friend, online.

The thing is, for all the bad, creepy stuff going on, the Internet can be a powerful force for good.  Communities like YouTube or Blogger give people a platform from which to air their views and the freedom to be themselves, or simply provide somewhere for them to discover people who are likeminded, if they're not quite up to producing their own content, yet.  Places like Twitter allow us to connect with all kinds of different people.  Time and time again, the Internet has proven that when you think you're alone in your thinking, or even alone full stop, there will always be someone to prove you wrong and take your corner.  For every troll, there's a passionate activist.  For every bully, there's someone who's part of the same fandom as you and wants to squee obsessively over the shape of your favourite pop star's arm.  And for every creepy Internet weirdo, there's... Well, another one, because they're literally everywhere.  But don't let that put you off.

Imagine a world without the Internet.  A world in which you had to rely on snail mail if you wanted to write to a friend overseas.  A world in which you couldn't just cheat and ask Google the answer to literally any question.  A world in which cats looked grumpy and all you could do is take a photo and show it to your friends in the hope that they laughed.  

A world in which you couldn't make gifs like this:

I regret NOTHING.

And now, having written this little love letter to the World Wide Web, I'm going to post in on the... Well, you know.  Who knows, maybe reading it will make someone chuckle.  That's the power of the Internet.  You put something out there and it can create a ripple that spreads further than you ever imagine.  And that of course has the capacity to be either a good or a bad thing.

So, make your ripples online positive ones.  Mmm, positive ripples.  Someone's going to turn that into a euphemism.  I mean, this is the Internet.

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