Guilherme's Blog

Ramblings, technical articles, possibly recipes?


A few years ago (or decades, rather), the internet was still being experimented with. AOL, Beenz and other companies were trying everything marketing wise, no one knew for certain what could make money, security was lackluster at best. I was able to get onboard for the very few last kilometers of this trip, however young I may have been at the time.

Although this uncertainty that preceded the internet we know and “love” led to the dot-com bubble, malware pandemics and aesthetic crises, it enabled less formulaic, truly organic growth. It all felt like a massive neighborhood (thanks to how forums, chats and services were spread around) and much like a real neighborhood, you wouldn’t plaster pictures of your daily life on your front porch or rant wildly around midnight, attempting to grab the attention of passerbys.

Users seemed rightfully aware of strangers’ intentions, leading to tightly knit communities based around mutual trust. Not only that, there were technological limitations that made it difficult to post pictures of your food, your exercising routine or your breakfast. For a while, it appeared as if people shared what honestly interested them, things they were proud of or just wanted to share with their online friends. It may take effort, but that effort is what made the internet what it was.

Alas, one may say this feels like a series of quibbles from a wistful citizen of a long gone country, unable to hold on to the present, but our modern internet truly makes me feel alienated. Every photo a competition, every little achievement an attempt to “surpass” whoever comes across your page. More than ever, people feel compelled to land themselves in debt, humblebrag, lie and participate in minute competitions about every aspect of life. This mindless competition has lasting negative psychological effects.

You must appear successful, your interests do not matter. Hell, showing you enjoy something is a surefire way to turn it into a target for being criticized. There is no true incentive to following what you truly enjoy if it can’t be weaponized against others, and the designed addictiveness of social media keeps us coming back, no matter how detrimental to our mind it may be. Then, companies use persuasive psychology to grab users’ attention, chipping away at the defenses of every portion of our mental health in order to sell us products, ideas or tell us what to think.

It all takes hold so quickly we don’t notice we’re comparing our faults to the highlight reel of someone’s life subconsciously. Everything feels designed to make us feel insecure, unworthy, and then somehow sell us the idea that buying a product or being part of some bizarre political cult is going to give it all meaning. What good are you if you enjoy traveling, researching, tinkering if you don’t have anything to show for it?

Ultimately, once the ins and outs of the internet were deciphered, a good portion of it became aseptic. Twitter, for example, was devised in such a way that no meaningful conversation can take place. 280 characters allow for little more than a few seconds of attention grabbing statements, TikTok discourages in-depth content due to length limitations in a similar way. Internet users were conditioned to “skim” over content and interact with it in as little as possible (except for you, if you’ve read this far), leading to continuously shallower content that is engineered to grab your attention and little else.

Therefore, most portions of the internet feel devoid of a proper soul, and considering that the lines between online and offline are slowly being blurred, this translates to an uneasy feeling that persists way past when you disconnect. You’re expected to be constantly online, on standby in case anything occurs, always ready to answer. Spending one or two days offline is enough to set off alarms, and in some special cases, just a few hours will do it. Even when not online, it is only natural that overthinking takes place, with every move feeling as if it’s filmed and broadcast to an audience of thousands.

You can no longer “get away” from the internet as you once did. It’s now a fundamental part of the modern world, a threatening yet fragile pillar of civilization that follows you around. The threat of no longer being able to communicate instantly deters us all from moving away from it. All that remains is retaking the internet, turning it back into the decentralized landscape it once was.

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