By Guy Chapman – Navarro County Gazette

Yes We Can

I’ve been online since the 1990s. I’ve seen the World Wide Web evolve from GeoCities sites, spinning skull gifs, and webrings to online journaling, to social media, the latter of which has stayed around the longest.

Some of these phrases and things may sound alien to the younger generation who grew up with a keyboard or cellphone in their hand (though skull gifs are forever), but one thing hasn’t changed online: The nature of people.

The digital world can hold such appeal over the real one. People can become famous for catchy dances, or falling badly, funny cat and dog videos, or becoming a real-time legendary hero in an online video game.

Why wouldn’t there be an appeal? We have time to create our “best self” for an online audience that circles the globe. We can post vacation, event, and food videos in exchange for the currency of “likes.” We can share “hot takes” that have a fair percentage of creating a leadership voice in online circles, or completely blowing up in one’s face. And all of it can be done without leaving home or ever looking up from a phone screen.

Truth be told, I’m not a fan of social media, despite having a background in it. It’s a “necessary evil” as everyone has at least one form of online voice, and we use it for so much of our communication and connection. There’s a weird fascination of watching people’s internal monologues become readable sentences due to the ease of the tools at hand. Sometimes, “best self” becomes “true self,” which is far more interesting to navigate, though the results aren’t always favorable for an character impressions.

Online scams hit deeply for with me for various reasons: Preying on people in need of help, or who are trusting that someone who presents smiles are positive words equal good intentions. Watching the Missus nearly get scammed by a “job recruiter.” People who shift seemingly normal conversations into unexpected sales pitches for money-making schemes. Online can definitely be “The Great Revealer” when it comes to people.

There is some good to social media. I’ve met and kept conversations going for years all over the planet. Social media kept my dog alive, or helped find a job, or shared a vital piece of information.

Online provides a weird sense of power we don’t seem to have in the real world, and not all of it is wielded responsibly or honestly. I think watching a lot of the social changes in the last few years and the chaos that comes with an always-addictive, hard to remove cycle of information has given me pause about my role in all of where I stand in my online corner.

I don’t plan to retire my writings anytime soon, but this year will be the one where I use it more responsibly, where my voice sounds consistent whether it’s on a screen a spoken in conversation.

I think a lot of this is coming from missing the simplicity of the internet in its earliest days.

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