I came of age on the Internet. By the age of 13, I had more friends whose faces I would never see than I had peers in the classroom. Most of them won’t realize today who I am even if they are reading this now. Most of them didn’t realize I was decades their junior.
When my father was growing up, his freedom was his bicycle. It gave him access to friends, to a job, freedom from his parents, and ultimately space to carve out a personality that he could call his own. He wanted nothing more than to pass these gifts along to me, and it was often to his dismay and frustration that I never found the same joy in my bike that he had found in his.
I was too young to realize it at the time, but I had received the same gifts as my father. Where my father’s freedom was his bicycle, my freedom was my keyboard. A denizen of dozens of forums and hundreds of websites, countless hours each weekend contributed elements to my personality that raised me to be someone beyond anything I could have become in my hometown alone. As middle school became high school, my online hours began to exceed my offline hours. By my sophomore year of college I was spending more than 80 hours per week on the Internet.
The Internet has become the keystone of modern society, a fact that has not been overlooked by our corporate giants. As the 2010’s progressed, the Internet became a massive land grab. A hundred thousand independently operated forums became one front page of the Internet. Personal cards, handwritten letters, and cozy phonecalls turned into a single wall that wished you “Happy Birthday” 1,000 times on what was often not even the right day. What used to be an endless exploration of hand curated forums and webpages turned into a bottomless pit of AI generated filth carefully crafted by teams of PhDs with the sole intention of getting you to stare at your phone for just a little bit longer.
The modern Internet has been absolutely steamrolled by the likes of Google, Facebook, and Amazon. As these platforms have festered, they’ve made it clear that we’re here to play by their rules. They decide which of our friends we get updates from. They decide how large a nose ring can be before a content creator gets demonetized and loses their livelihood. An uncomfortable percentage of our time is spent under the tyranny of whatever logic was implemented in the pursuit of higher profits next quarter.
Somewhere underneath it all, real people are living every day, taking what breaths they can between the inescapable deluge of content spawning from a clinical addiction to their devices. The next wave of teenagers are coming of age in this environment and they are suffocating. Suicide rates are up almost 50% since 2007 for people under the age of 24.
The modern Internet is making us miserable. Our overlords have captured our souls by bringing us gifts of amazing technology and bundling with those gifts chains and cages that capture our minds and manipulate us to maximize their bottom line.
The time has come to stand up for ourselves, for our health, and for the next generation. The time has come to start the War for a Free Internet.