The internet has a big paradox at its centre: it is both very fast, and very slow.
We all know the ways that it is fast. My Twitter feed moves physically faster than I can consume all the information it offers. Someone confesses a secret on Facebook, and the whole friendship circle knows about it within a day.
But we don’t really talk about the ways that the internet is slow. I say ‘slow’ as an opposite to ‘fast’, but what I mean here is that it’s permanent. That might seem like an obvious thing to say, but it also seems to oppose the ‘speed’ of the internet.
Along with the idea of the ‘fast-moving’ internet, comes a notion of things going missing into the vastness of it all. There are times when I throw something out to Twitter, and it gets swallowed within seconds. People miss it, because there’s just too much stuff. In a way, this means that things become throw-away, transient. It’s easy to forget that whatever is put on the internet is out there forever. Even if you delete it, there are still records of its existence.
What I’m trying to lead up to here, is that I feel inclined to back away from my own opinions online, in a way that I am not in person. Maybe this is a symptom of my place in history – for half my life, there wasn’t too much technology, and for the other half, I’ve been drowning in it.
My close friends are privy to the awful things that fly out of my mouth in face-to-face situations. I possess little to no filter around some people. Mostly I can recognise when I’ve said something bad, and follow it up quickly with an apology. I comfort myself a little with the thought that lived experience moves fast also, and that nobody present recorded what I said.
This differs in an online forum. The audience differs also, as do opportunities to clarify intention. Once I hit the “publish” button, it’s out of my hands. I can’t control who makes a copy of my content, who reads it, or how they interpret it. Interpretation is always tricky, no matter what the forum, but I feel like the internet is a particular wildcard.
I recently wrote an article that appeared on The Peach, about my thoughts and habits when it comes to makeup. This is the first piece of writing that I’ve pitched to anywhere with somewhat political content – The Peach calls itself “a fresh, juicy online magazine for women”, and proudly publishes personal essays with a feminist bent. While it’s not heavily ‘political’, it’s still the kind of stuff that could attract a heated argument, and this is what scared the shit out of me.
While writing the piece, I found myself trying to get into the mind of my readers – was there anywhere that my logic failed? Did I generalise, or express anything that wasn’t tied to my personal experience? Did I qualify everything adequately?
While the internet is blindingly fast, it’s also permanent. While it’s freeing that I have a blog, and skills with words that allow me to publish my thoughts, I also feel slightly muzzled. Online, people seem to take others to task more militantly than they would in person. I feel myself trying to avoid unnecessary conflict, and while it’s not quite censorship, it’s something that seems close.
This is a gap I would like to close in my writing.