Community and shared culture are more difficult on the contemporary internet

Virality used to be something like everyone you knew having seen the moon landing, because it was broadcast on network TV, which everyone watched, which you were forced to watch in school. It became part of the shared experience of being an American growing up in a certain era, that is to say, a cultural touchstone. To a lesser extent, the early internet had a shared culture, at least when there were a few Popular Websites for young people. When YouTube came along, it began as a way to revisit old commercials from one's youth or to see long-forgotten clips of traditional media, or for straight up copyright infringement (which I am not against, especially when the work in question is completely inaccessible to buy even if you want to). Even Twitter was a smaller segment of the population than it pretended to be, and the tweets "everyone" had seen were still only being seen by a fraction of the global audience. Now that social media has fractured even more, and we've retreated to our disparate spaces, it feels like even among my close friends, we do not share, read, or experience collectively as often. Remember when "Cat Person" came out, and among a certain group, you just had to read it? #MeToo was a byproduct of someone like Ronan Farrow coming out with a tell-all that everyone read. I just read the Jimmy Fallon piece, and yet it feels like nothing has come of it, that even people close to me who generally react with outrage just...haven't heard about it. It's very hard to pursue truth and justice when one is awash in information, when there are no authoritative voices, when there is nothing "everyone" has seen or read. The plurality of viewpoints and experiences has benefits, of course. The weirdness and individuality of the small web is great. What's right is not always popular, and what's popular is not always right, of course, but it feels like some important things should still be widely shared. And instead...people have checked out of the firehose of information.

back to zettelkasten landing page