In 1995 there was a short-lived Warner Bros. cartoon called Freakazoid!, in which the title character got his superhero powers by entering cyberspace and gaining all of the knowledge of the Internet. The cartoon itself became a zany piece of animation history that has to be seen to be believed, but the concept of gaining superhero powers through the Internet was very interesting.
You have to understand that this was 1995. There was no Facebook, no YouTube, no Google, and no Flash animations. Yahoo was only a year old, Netscape Navigator was the most popular web browser, and most people entered the Internet at speeds that would make the above comic take about 10 seconds to download.
And yet, none of this mattered to the early pioneers of the Internet, because they had accomplished their goal of allowing people from any part of the world to share information. Doctors could find cures for diseases from medical papers written in a different continent the day before, families could contact their relatives in a foreign land without paying expensive long distance charges, and artists could show millions of people lovable animations of hamsters dancing to a Disney song played at twice its speed.
Yep, it’s true, and if you’re somehow unfamiliar with this tidbit of Internet history, you owe it to yourself to go there and check it out. As soon as the Internet hit the mass population, stupid little things like this started popping up. The Internet’s promise of a free flow of information turned into a startling realization that any piece of information added to it could potentially be seen by millions of people.
Never had so many people on earth had this opportunity before. The middlemen of newspapers and radio and television were removed. Anyone who had Internet access could potentially communicate with anyone else who had Internet access. The Information Age had begun.
I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the Internet. On one hand, I owe it a great debt, as it has provided me with a job, many wonderful friendships, and this site, which I’ve used as a platform to showcase myself for eight years. On the other hand, I have also seen its dark side; I have read things that I would love to unread, and I have seen images that I wish I could forget.
The Internet is a land without accountability. A person can create a new identity for themselves at the blink of an eye, and it doesn’t matter if that person is the biggest jerk that ever lived, because, with very few exceptions, they can just drop their jerk identity, create a new one, and they start fresh all over again.
The Internet has created new social dynamics. Besides sites like Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace that have created a generation of over-multitaskers, there is also the endless arguments. Choose literally any topic, and you will find someone who will argue it to the death with you. They aren’t debates, since debates are set up to solve things… no, they are merely arguments, and are usually just excuses for people to yell, without caring who’s listening. After all, this is the Internet… if I yell something, thousands of people will listen!
There are things I love about the Internet, too. I really have learned a lot from it, and find it a useful tool in many things, including finding reference pictures for Freakazoid, which would have been very difficult to locate any other way. But let me ask you this… have you ever been on the computer, accessing the Internet for some mundane purpose, and then a power failure hits? And for a few moments, you feel your mind clear, and you look around you and say “I’m free”. If you were in a room full of people, they all start talking with one another, as though it was suddenly a revelation that communication is possible without an electronic device in the way.
This happens, of course, until a few minutes later when the power goes back on, everyone goes back to their devices, and you sit down and say “Oh, yeah, I haven’t been to YouTube in awhile…”