As far as I can tell, I’m not a gadget. I’ve manipulated/censored myself to participate in social media (somewhat), but I feel more connected to my favorite humans than ever before in my life. I still get my best new band suggestions from people, best website recommendations and best concert reminders. I feel like social media helps me stay connected. But maybe this is all because I remember a time before the digital revolution.
“In 1997 my family got it’s first real desktop computer. I was 13 or 14. That means I had 13 or 14 years of pre-digital experience in the world of old,” says me to my grandkids in 2040. “But all of you are two generations into this.” And the kids will all laugh at how weird and old 20th-century-grandpa is. And maybe grandpa will feel really really weird around those little gadgets, with their iSynapse digitally optimized minds and wifi telepathy. Organic grandpa will be trying to make a webpage in HTML17 while they play games that are downloaded into their brains, seeming as crazy as the first users of hands-free bluetooth devices.
But enough silly speculation. Lanier is a smart guy, and he’s made a lot of very good points in his manifesto. People run the risk of turning into gadgets when they don’t raise a critics eyebrow to the trends in our world. I like a lot of the things about our digital world. I like the free information, the instant gratification. I like being connected to my friends on Facebook. I like posting content on their walls that they would enjoy. To me, Social networks are an extension of myself, but they are not me. But what about the kids?
PESSIMISM: I can’t imagine Facebook in high school. High school, as it was at the turn of the millennia, was plenty to deal with. Add Facebook, and peer pressure explodes, pulling in a larger number of impressionable youth that might have made it out ok otherwise (by ok, I mean people who follow their own interests instead of bending to fit in). And this is a shame. The strong survive, but the weak get pulled along with the ever-dimming crowd in greater numbers.
High school years can make a big impression on who people become in the future. This wasn’t the case for me (thank f***ing God), but a quick scan of my Facebook friends reveals that some were not so lucky. But Facebook exists for everyone today, from tweens to adults. What happens to people when they begin bending to the digital mold at younger and younger ages? Will larger numbers of people grow into a digital mold, an anonymous avatar of a persona?
OPTIMISM: In response to these Lanier-esque fears, I postulate that this stuff is Darwinian. The strong will survive, as they always do. They’ll emerge from a digitalized and ultra peer pressured youth alright. They’ll use the free information to their advantage. They’ll excel at a faster rate than others. And the weak will be at the mercy of the crowd, as they have been for 4.5 billion years.
I choose optimism because I’m human and therefore hard-wired for it. But also because I have faith in humanity. I don’t like what the digital age has done to musicians, but I love what it has done for music. I like being able to see my favorite artist at a small venue. I like being able to shake their hands after the show. I like the fact that the best bands are not as well-known as they might have been 15 years ago, but that doesn’t keep them from existing.
The digital era puts passion first, where it belongs. I hope that all of this will work itself out.