What are we Typing Online for?
Are we laying down the blueprints for a new society or lining our pockets with the proceeds of outrage?
The internet will test you hard if you have a tendency to observe trends and patterns because you are endlessly curious about the workings of the human mind, magnified.
What is most important, you wonder out loud in print and under your breath at all hours of the day and often night while the global conversation devolves into what garment we have had sex with, something former teenage boys can answer without hesitation.
It is, without a doubt, underwhelming in 5 ways that prevent you from living your most authentic life while making fortunes by harvesting eyeballs on the internet. This is us, humans, in all our listicled glory, oozing pixels and data packets until the digital slurry we produce has corroded our souls.
Nevertheless we persist and stare vacantly at screens, daydreaming about ideas that become a movement seemingly overnight and savants who chance upon a pot of gold hidden at the end of the digital rainbow. We are millions of hopefuls wringing our hands in despair; we trust success is only one piece away, the next one. We keep betting against the house, refusing to admit we are at the mercy of algorithms, the news cycle, and human nature on any given day.
We may have innumerable ways of saying it but alas we have absolutely nothing to say, nothing of intellectual import to contribute and yet we are still typing.
And so we discover that the low-effort, low-level hum of mediocrity can turn into a persistent buzz when it gains critical mass. As those who service echo chambers are elevated to superstardom, we unassumingly write on; persistence in the face of greedy anti-intellectualism will make a difference. If only our words resonate with just the one person then our job is done.
And when that one person vehemently disagrees with us with verve, wit, and zest? Plus actual knowledge? This is what we live for: mental interconnectedness, i.e. the opportunity to think alongside a fellow human.
While the internet is wont to say whatever we want it to say if only we know how to ask the question, it will definitely say what it wants us to hear if we ever stop asking them. Writing is a radical act of communication, it isn’t long-form social media so why do we treat it like a marketing campaign for the self? When we write, we document the universality of the human condition on the off chance our perspective might shed some light on what it means to be a human in the world for someone else.
That’s basically it, whatever our genre.
The internet isn’t the church of capitalism where various flavors of typists preach alongside one another about the best ways to earn some extra scratch, it’s a global think tank.
The internet isn’t a sermon, it’s a no-holds-barred conversation no longer subject to the influence and moderation of traditional media gatekeepers. So why are some of us hell-bent on trying to replicate old power structures the internet is supposed to help us dismantle and reinvent?
It’s not because the gutter press is a thing that we need a gutter internet crowning new sewer rats.
The language we use and the words we choose don’t just impact our reality, they also determine our connectedness potential. In a world where fellow feeling is growing increasingly incompatible with individualism and capitalism, could writing online be a way to reverse trends?
Writing with purpose is different from content writing yet we frequently confuse the two when we’re dealing with words on a screen. Every word we write with purpose connects us to like-minded people as intellectual inquiry leads to dialogue, debate, and an ongoing search for new social paradigms.
There is, somewhere in the mysterious mix that sustains the relationship we have with the page, a sense of mission and duty that demands every word be an attempt to further understanding, tolerance, and truth. To focus solely on the pursuit of fame, fortune, and fancy job titles anyone can give themselves doesn’t seem like the best way to make the most of unprecedented tech opportunities.
Writing forces us to take a step back, observe, gather information, and parse it in an intelligible way. The need for communication has never been greater than it is now; we could collaborate to neutralize prejudice and move society forward if only we cared enough about words to use them constructively. And it isn’t because elected officials have embraced meaningless circumlocution and empty catchphrases that we have to follow suit and dumb down the global discourse for profit.
The words we use shape us and our culture; they matter.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.