Do you realise how lucky you are to be reading my blog?
Hold up. I am not referring to all this wonderful and (fairly) frequent content – I am not that egotistic. What I am referring to is that you are among the one third of the world’s population today who have access to the internet. This also makes you one of the most powerful people to ever have lived. And yes, that includes those of you who have just finished playing Angry Birds on the toilet – I hope you washed your hands.
The internet is the ultimate creative outlet and showcase: an arena where content-creators and consumers can create and consume pretty much anything. Let’s start with the world of blogging, a relatively new place for me, where I feel simultaneously alien and at home. A blog boils down to the public diary of someone who craves attention, in a meek sort of “I have an opinion about this thing if you wouldn’t mind reading it, you don’t have to, you probably shouldn’t, but it’s out there somewhere” kind of way. This format didn’t exist before the internet. To get your written ideas out to the world you had to be published, which was expensive and elitist, and even if you were so lucky, your readership would probably have been smaller than the average teenager’s in their bedroom today.
WARNING: my opinion has invaded at least 10 unsuspecting countries already…
This brings us to the ‘dark-side’ of the internet – and I don’t mean Star Wars fan fiction. What happens when dangerous content or ideas are leaked across the internet? CASE STUDY: Justin Bieber’s Twitter. He is currently the most popular user with 43 million followers, gaining on average 46 thousand more a day. The fact he can write whatever he wants (albeit in 140 characters or less) to an audience that equals two thirds of Great Britain’s population is worrying in itself. But the point I want to make is that within a community, or fan base, of this size there are always going to be people who ruin it for everyone else. In this case not Mr Bieber, but the trolls who sparked the viral #cutforbieber trend. It is a great shame that the internet tends to only make traditional media headlines over negative topics like this. Allow me to compensate by bringing to your attention the good that Mr Bieber is in fact doing: it was revealed this week that his tweets are being used as grammatically incorrect examples to teach children in Brazil how to write correct English.
My favourite realm of the internet is YouTube, and its community of video-bloggers or ‘vloggers’. (I might try my hand at this next… I seem to have the three requirements: social awkwardness, a poor quality camera and a dodgy fringe.) I listened to a BBC Radio 4 programme recently – not a habit of mine – about YouTube as a platform, featuring Benjamin Cook of Becoming YouTube. From it I learnt that 100 hours of content are uploaded every minute. And that YouTube, while only 8 years old, is the world’s biggest broadcaster, with a population of users – over one billion individuals a month – that would make it the third largest country, after China (where it is banned) and India.
But the most interesting thing about the internet for me, apart from its scale, is that the line between content-creator and consumer is a thin one: the thinnest of any similar outlet. To ad-lib Benjamin Cook, traditional media is a monologue but the internet is a conversation.
Please, talk amongst yourselves.