I saw a great article at Return of Kings a little while ago about how the internet is the “great equalizer.” This is true insofar as internet is the next printing press. It’s true like all revolutions in communication that it raises all boats, but as always, some more than others. Every change in a given environment favors species in some niches over others.
Let’s face it, most internet users stay obediently on the designated pasture of facebook, social media, and its attendant shared games. Those who are able to explore further are affected very differently.
The constant flow of information can give someone a trans-human sort of consciousness or riddle their mind with irrelevant details and outright falsehoods.
In real life and on the internet, I see many people who still don’t get it. They complain about how the online world has degraded the quality of content and has enabled short attention spans. That speaks more to the content they choose to interact with than what is actually available. Someone with a naturally critical mind and inquisitive nature can tear through a hundred different sources, taking note of the bias of each and arrive at a synthesis. Those who thrive on the internet understand every piece of information has strengths, weaknesses, and biases. There is no holy gospel or answer to everything. Those who deal in nuance do well. Those who can’t handle it end up indignant and frustrated waxing eloquent about the good old days when a few printing presses in New York controlled the entire flow of the written word. Or they end up in an echo chamber where everyone tells them what they want to hear—but that’s no different than what most people already do in real life.
For anyone willing to learn the internet has made almost any field of knowledge accessible at any time. Outliers intuitively understand this means a potential path around the usual gatekeepers who weed them out and make would-be-apprentices grovel for their secrets. Hands on instruction guided by experienced teachers remains important for mastery, but is no longer necessary to get an introduction and crack open the realms of theory. The more autonomous the individual the greater the benefit derived.
Those who swim in the ocean of information like a natural habitat become a new aristocracy as they wield disproportionate influence over cultural ideas and public opinion. Anymore the next trend in politics, art, or culture begins far out at sea as a ripple until finally it hits the teeming coral reefs that hug the shoreline as a towering wave.
As time goes on, those who can’t survive outside the safe coral reefs of facebook and instagram get left further and further behind getting liked by all their “friends” while those on the outer rim create the discourse and therefore weave the very fabric of their social reality. For herdlings, social opinion and consensus are truest reality and a fist to the face, bitter cold wind, fatigue after hard labor, or even the piercing pangs of hunger or the need to breathe are but flimsy dreams compared.