One of the best descriptions I have found of the Internet, is that it is an amplification of every aspect of human nature. There is joy, laughter, deceit, love, sharing, friendship, jealousy, and competition online — everything a human can feel, can be found on the net.
Every single day, I find something online that brings me to tears. Not just tears of sadness — tears of many emotions. I am rocked left and right, I am shaken with shock, stirred with empathy, and jostled with laughter.
There are two things that are noteworthy with this. Both relate to how enemies of the net (and therefore, to some extent, of human nature itself) describe the net. But first, let me give some tangible examples. These are some things I found within the past 24 hours.
Tears of Joy
This is a video of an 8-month-old baby, who was born deaf. The baby has had Cochlear implants (more or less an electronic eardrum) surgically inserted — a prosthetic device that creates functional hearing for the rest of his life. It’s not pitch-perfect crystal-clear sound, but it’s a whole lot better than nothing.
Observe what happens as he hears his mother’s voice and laughter for the very first time:
I still can’t watch it without crying.
Then, there are other emotions. I found this late last night:
Tears of Empathy
There are many places on the net where you can leave anonymous messages, like things you think people should know from where you work. It could be dirty secrets from the financial sector, it could be scandal whistleblowing from governmental agencies, or it could be something that somebody just wants to share from where they work.
Words… fail me as I start to try to describe this (and I feel my eyes getting wet and unfocused again), so I won’t.
And then, there’s plenty of this:
Tears of Laughter
The below clip is part of an interview with a foreman in a Russian coal mine, where there have been rumors that people have been drinking while on the clock. As some sort of elder in the mine, he is adamant on television that there is no abuse of alcohol whatsoever in this mine.
It is related to this clip, where an older man driving a car in Serbia is flagged down by police on suspicion of intoxication and asked to check for alcohol content in his breath.
Even the police are cracking up in this one.
Where am I going with this?
If you’re anything like me, you don’t know what to feel after having gone through those, but feel like a pinball being bounced all over the emotional playfield by strong feelings of all kinds. It’s actually kind of unsettling, but also makes me feel very alive, and… for lack of a better word, human.
Now, forgive me as I use these strong emotions to make an intellectual point. I have given these examples for a reason.
All too frequently, I see industry people raging in media about how evil the net is, about how it is just filled with hatred, bullying and fear (and therefore needs to be brought “under control” or “in order”). That brings one of my most valuable life insights to mind:
Everybody sees the same things, has the same sensory perceptions, in a given situation. We can impossibly focus on all the thousands of things we perceive, so we choose some that are important to us. What we choose to focus on, defines us as individuals, and that aspect of what we perceive will grow in our life.
What I realized was that I (and everybody else) have the choice of focusing on the things that bother me, or the things that make me happy. Growing old to be a bitter, grumpy old hunchback man or a happy, joking and statemanlike smiling man is an active choice we make. I choose to focus on the things that make me feel alive and the all the beautiful things that make me happy.
And that’s how it struck me.
If these people say that the net is just filled with evil people bullying each other, and therefore must be regulated and controlled: I have no reason to doubt that is what they see. But that also means that this is what they choose to see. In the face of all this beauty, all this breathtaking emotion, they choose to see only that which is depressing and makes them sad.
That tells much more about those people than it does about the net. I find it genuinely sad, and can’t express it any other way than my straightforward reflection: what a small mind these people must have, who are incapable by choice of absorbing and enjoying all the beauty that flowers when all of humanity’s love and emotion is amplified to this degree.
Also, as a final note, it is notable that none of the examples above were “content” in the meaning that the copyright industry would like to put it in. The self-appointed representatives of that industry still claim superiority over the ability to produce, filter and determine what we are entertained by. But this isn’t that. This is not professional, it is not orchestrated, it is not financed, it is not planned.
It is human.