The growing maelstrom of information that is the internet has infiltrated the lives of anyone with functional digits and a router. I have grown into semi-adulthood with an equal opportunity to fall asleep reading a free pdf of The Road as I do to nod off to videos of an alpine man training domesticated mink. I can watch the new Hockey/FA part as many times as I want and no one can stop me. It has less practical uses as well, for example providing accurate and near instantaneous means of communication worldwide.
My grievances lie not in the services offered, nor do I put into question the matter of whether or not the influence of said opportunities is healthy. The issue I take is with how we have culturally fused the internet. In short, I take issue with the manner in which humans have bastardized and over sanctified an amazing tool, go figure.
Personally I discovered the issue that the internet raises slowly and frustratingly in between hardcore shows. My first show was during the winter of my freshman year. I had my mom drop me off a few blocks away and I paid with a twenty for the five dollar fare. The veins in my ears rattled and I felt like I was going to wet myself due to nerves, but I stood in the back with my toothpick legs stiff as a board. The anxiety was so much I even took a bathroom break midway to splash water in my face and was quickly taught a powerful lesson about venue restrooms.
Nevertheless, I stood through most of the show leaving only before the last set to avoid the outward crowd and I loved it. I came away smiling so big it almost forced a laugh. The fear that once felt like a thick viscous barrier into a passionate culture now had my 5’5 toothbrush body strutting like a badass back to my mom’s car.
There is no accomplishment without suffering. The fear and anxiety help me come at a culture I knew nothing about with a sense of humility and more importantly an utmost respect for those who already love it. I stood in the back and didn’t mosh and didn’t talk or try and get in the way; that is not to say that one can’t do those things right off the bat because in today’s scene I think it’s super cool to see. My point is that I wanted to learn before I participated or declared myself a part of a whole.
The internet is a mechanism to circumvent both aspects, the fear and the respect. The access to infinite information and in depth analysis of those individuals who truly participate in the cultures they discuss gives many people illusions that they themselves are experts.
It seems commonplace for someone to thrash a book a popular youtuber made a video on but when pressed on whether they actually read it they respond with “Man, it was so bad I didn’t even bother!” or “I couldn’t make it past the first chapter.” . It isn’t inherently the fault of the resources at hand but more so an era of culture vultures that we have fostered.
Poking fun at these situations can be fun, but it is reflective of a larger issue. There is a distinctive separation between internet culture, and the cultures that it encompasses. It is important to acknowledge what level of understanding one might have. Internet culture is no less valid than any other, but due to its multifaceted nature can cause issues.
Swooping in is offensive and annoying to those who have devoted time and passion to such things. But on a deeper level the internet makes appropriation of not only social culture but also ethinic culture extremely prevalent and normalized it to some extent. Many instances of misnomers and pure carelessness in regards to clothing and traditions people hold so dearly, are deemed praiseworthy. The idea of culture is not to simply display it but rather to participate. To do that one must give as well as take whilst understanding. We think just because we have read a few articles and watched a few videos that we have become integrated, without taking the time to actually participate and learn directly from those who subsequently do participate.
On the grander scale it affects the perpetrator. In bypassing the oppressive nervousness that comes with joining your first book club, going to see a local band live, going to your first skatepark, or any other new cultural activity the individual is robbed of accomplishment. Their perceived expertise is cheapened to nothing more than a guise, just a beanie and a carhartt jacket posturing at a counter. But even worse than the disrespect and the shame that comes with being a fraud, they don’t receive the opportunity to internalize the hysterical joy of understanding and belonging.
We can fool others into thinking we comprehend and we can even fool ourselves. It is dangerous because oftentimes it isn’t obvious how deep seeded a culture is. It is sometimes pure ignorance that leads us into thinking we have a handle on something we only understand on surface level, not any ill will or disingenuous schemes. It is a careful balance between respecting those who came before you and approaching with genuine interest.
If it is painful, you’re doing it right. The nerves are brutal but so is the suffering that comes with taking the easy way out. Use the internet as a tool for participation not a substitute, and approach because you are interested. For inherently respect precedes interest. Participation is the most positive cycle for culture and its members, with it neither will go dry.
Photo Credit: Kevin Salk