It all started with a #www. At least for me. There I sat facing an archaic IBM monitor, in the computer laboratories of a Near Eastern country’s Air Force Academy, aimlessly browsing through a local newspaper’s website. In retrospect, it is the kind of website that you would instantly ‘Like’ on Facebook – if only you saw a screenshot of it on a friend’s wall (Comment: “It’s so 90’s!”). I vividly recall asking to myself, #dudewhatisthepointofit . Back then (#amialreadythisold) Internet was exclusive to the Armed Forces, just as it was in many other countries. The groundwork for the necessary “infrastructure” was only about to start. You could not buy it. You would not buy it. Yes, Internet is a commodity (well #whatisnotacommoditynowadays) and as much as you Dislike it (#dearmarksomuchpeerpressureforthatbutton) we once again fall into that notorious category of
consumers (#justsoyoucansleepwhenyougotobedtonight) users in that equation too.
In any case, it took at least an ICQ, a Google and a Hotmail for my generation to start harboring warmer feelings for www. I would also like to salute Internet Explorer at this point; namely, the Pamela Anderson of browsers.
When I woke up from a coma, I was a juvenile with a #hi5 account and using Paint to Photoshop your pictures still counted as #sociallyacceptablebehavior. With all due respect to its founders, I honestly still cannot remember what we used Hi5 for. Or how. IMDB and Amazon had made it well into our lives and instant messaging was still a heart-throbbing teen activity (I’m afraid it still is, regardless of the age range).
Then came Myspace (and #itwasthemyspace). It let you personalize your profile “beyond” imagination. You could have your favorite band play at the opening of your page #forchristssake. You could turn anyone’s cursor into Evil Mark within your cyber territory. You could make glitter dazzle on your Smoke/Drink: Yes/Yes. The list can go on and on, yet I will let “How Myspace was a more liberal form of personal Avatar than Facebook is” be the subject of another article.
#talkofthedevil, then came Facebook. It would not be too far fetched to say that our cyber Avatars went through a Darwinian selection. And #dearmarkweallknowwhichspecieswon. At least on a personal, non-artistic basis (we think) we do. At around the same time, using any non-professional e-mail service that was not Gmail became almost a social disgrace.
Then came Twitter. Then came Tumblr. At around the same time, Time as we know it melted into thin air. #insearchoflosttime became an instagr.am tag. Who would read the whole goddamn 7 volumes when you can #getagistofit in a total of thirteen lines? (Could also be crucially tagged as #marcelproustgetalife presently)
And all of a sudden (#notreally) it became yet another skill to juggle Internet. Not that long, just about thirty years ago, reading a certain wing of the New York Public Library was enough to make you a firm intellectual. You would be #goodtogo for a while, too. #fastforwardtonow, within half an hour, more is written on Twitter than by Shakespeare in his entire life. This is obviously not a #quantityversusquality argument, yet the data still remains sonorous to me. Not to mention some of the most amazing music, art and fashion that keeps flowing into our everyday lives while we wander the vast meadows of Cyberland. It takes a little bit more than a pair of determined eyes to remain a part of the intelligentsia nowadays.
#speakingofintelligentsia, I would like to introduce Eric Hobsbawn, who brings forth the role of the “participant observant” within history in his preface to The Age of Extremes (in which he gives an account of the “short” 20th century). He concludes that the individual’s experience through Time and history is similar to that of an open-eyed traveler. In other words (and as conveyed by one of my favorite professors once) you will never forget where you were and what exactly you were busy with when you first heard of 9/11.
My question is, at an age of infinite knowledge that comes with the slight side effects of frenzy and blur, are we determined to stay as open-eyed travelers or have we already started throwing up? Will there be life after the #hashtags that make revolutions come true?
By the way, I still occasionally find myself aimlessly browsing through a local newspaper’s website, only to find #thatredbandana I was wearing in the summer of 1998 adorning the wrist of some á la mode passer-by.
Follow Busra on Twitter: @busra_erkara