Growing Up with the Internet
It was bound to happen. Last week, my partner found an assortment of my old videos gathering dust in the abandoned corners of Youtube - everything from the amateur short-films of old friends to the bedroom demos of a budding songwriter with a lot to learn.
I won't tell you where to find them; that would ruin the fun. But they did get me thinking about what it was like to grow up with the internet and what might be learned by looking back at old content all these years later.
When I made those videos, the internet felt like a small place. With thick laptops, flip phones, and flash player video games, the internet felt local - a medium for connecting with people I already knew. Sure, the possibility of a big break existed on the periphery, but even Youtube eisted predominantly as a way to mass distribute large video files among friends and family.
Now that I'm older, the internet has a much more ubiquitous and encroaching presence. We are always-on, connected to everywhere and everywhen by increasingly compressed devices in our hands and on (or in) our bodies.
It's a more intimidating world to see, that's for sure. Rather than a simple way to transfer new songs, content exists alongside questions of privacy and ownership - questions that should have been asked from the outset but only come into view once the scope of our world has grown. In this sense, growing up means coming to term with the questions that a young internet was too juvenile to answer.
At the same time, the experience has me thinking about the inherent dangers of continuing to treat the internet as a small place - the behaviours assumed to be acceptable when you imagine the consequences of your online behaviour end with your real-life friends. In this sense, the reactionary conclaves that bubble forth with increasing regularity would seem to reflect persistent attempts to contain the internet within a small and sheltered world.
If it is unsettling having grown up with the internet, it is all the more dangerous to have not grown up at all.