Cyberculture Strikes

Beth Rozacky

     The Internet (or “Net”) has been a place of exploration and refuge for many in this precarious day and age. People from all walks of life can congregate in one connected community, and interact in ways not believed possible only a few short decades ago. This united society has created a culture all its own, made of information from every region of the globe and completely dependent on the input and exchange of ideas and opinions. It is this cyber-culture that permeates the fabric of reality, and spawns phrases like “Google it.” This information superhighway is used by many in day-to-day life, and can be a crucial element to survival in this digital world.

     “[The Net] is a good source of information and provides endless answers and it’s a good source of communication with other people,” Kellen Scott, sophomore, said.

     Not only does it work as a figurative mirror to the global society, it is also the handiest encyclopedia, a shopping mall, a place for social gathering, and a billboard.

     The Net is constantly shifting in response to popularity, information, the market and the economy. It has the capability to destroy the reputation and standing of whatever the public deems mock-worthy. Likewise, it retains the power to turn the obscure into celebrities (case and point: The Dramatic Chipmunk). The Internet depends on the continuous input and sharing of information. This is the only way it can continue to exist and evolve with the ever-changing norms of humanity. Luckily, with so much of the world plugged-in, an estimated 1.463 billion people, this feat is not too hard to accomplish.

     The fact that this digital landscape has no real physical form is another interesting facet to its behavior. This being the case, strength, power and stature online is not measured by physical ability, but by net savvy, intelligence and digital aptitude. Due to these circumstances, a class of Internet “baddies” – comprised of identity thieves, online predators, cyber-bullies and virus writers – prey on the net-illiterate. Policing them is difficult because cyber law is only loosely governed by local enforcements, the principles of free speech and information and a mutual protocol developed by users.

     These circumstances have  led to an increase in online interaction and social networking, where millions of people can intermingle, make friends and even find soul mates without ever having met in person. Sites like Facebook, Myspace, even the oft forgotten Friendster, have let people connect in ways not possible before.

     The ability to find old friends and make new ones has allowed a surge of chat systems, blogs, and online journals. A certain freedom of self-expression is a welcome outlet provided by the Internet. Independence from ridicule and mockery of real world interaction is an important factor to the trend of growing journal/blogging communities like Livejournal. They provide a place for a majority of people to vent their opinions, share stories and stay in contact with others. Musicians also use the Net as a creative outlet, gaining new audiences through Myspace music accounts. An obscure music explosion resulted from the greater use of social networking systems, connecting artists to fans in ways not possible before.

     “I’m a big music person,” Laurie Prasifka, sophomore, said. “I’ll look at Emo’s website a lot to see who’s playing or I’ll look at band websites and see if they have any upcoming shows nearby.”

     No site best exemplifies the basis of cyber culture like YouTube. The “most viewed” page changes faster than lightning on steroids and has more diversity than a college brochure. It’s easy to use and the operating format makes becoming an Internet sensation as easy as turning on a web-cam and lip-syncing a favorite song (a feat not so unheard of. NumaNuma ring any bells?). Viral videos, or any video that gains widespread popularity through the process of Internet sharing, have created phenomena the world over. Saturday Night Live’s digital shorts like Lazy Sunday or Tina Fey’s impersonation of Sarah Palin have had more hits and Google searches than the Jonas Brothers. Others of honorable mention are The Evolution of Dance, Obama Girl, and The Dancing Cadet. While Internet fame is an elusive and fickle temptress, she can often strike at the most unsuspecting victims and produce the most searing limelight ever experienced. This slight drawback is joined by a few other complaints.

     “I don’t like how addicting [the Internet] is,” Prasifka said. “When I need to do projects on the computer, I always seem to get sidetracked.”

Safety is never assured on the great Digital Frontier, and the obstacles are real and heartbreaking. Carpal tunnel and “Rickrolling” have reached epidemic proportions, while crashing systems leave many desperate for WiFi connections. Search engines fail or come up short, and cUte_guurL993 won’t accept a friend request. However crazy this “Internet thing” may seem, it’s the driving force behind the social machine. It is the newfangled culture working for and against its creators to change the world, forever.