The Best #SXSW Insight: “The Internet Is Over.”
Writer Oliver Burkeman went to SXSW in search of the next big idea, and after three days he found it: the boundary between 'real life' and 'online' has disappeared.
In other words, "The Internet is over."
When I saw that Burkeman declared that the Internet is over, it didn't strike me as insightful. In fact, it struck me as obvious.
Yet the more I think about it, the more I like the subtleness to his assertion.
It's clear that the boundaries between real-life and online have fallen, and that this represents a massive cultural shift. But like many things, it didn't feel like one.
The change occurred slowly.
Like you dear reader, I remember the joys (read: trials) and processes of dialing-up to the Internet, typing up the phone line, and disconnecting once I finished.
Now, everything I touch has the Internet. My Kindle, laptop, cell phone, and iPod Touch all are connected. I don't log on. I am always-on. There is no phone.
The only time we're disconnected is when our ISP has troubles. In that moment, for anyone whose work depends on using the Internet, the feeling of being unable to connect breeds frustration and the anxiety of needing to commute to a place where the Internet does work. Increasingly for the hyper-connected, losing one's Internet means being unable to work, listen to music, watch movies or TV, play games, keep up with friends, and many other things. But it's interesting how the idea of being unable to connect has evolved from a fact of life, i.e. "sometimes" the Internet doesn't work, to if the Internet doesn't work, what does one do with themselves beyond reading, sending text messages, and cleaning the house?
For me, I realized that boundaries between real life and online had fallen about two years ago. I had been invited to speak at Next Big Nashville. The moment that I arrived at the conference, I had a great insight. For the first time ever, I became an Editor at Hypebot. Now, I'd been writing for Hypebot for quite some time, but my identity in my physical reality never meshed with my online life.
When people greeted me, they said, "Hey, you're Kyle Bylin, I read you on Hypebot." I got to meet readers in real life that had only known me online.
In that moment, I watched my identity converge in a way that it hadn't previously.
Now, I know that's not quite what Burkeman means when he says the Internet is over, but I'm betting that many artists out there have had a feeling like that too.
When they finally met several of their closest fans or saw their affluence online lead to connections in their physical world. Many of you professionals have had moments like that too. Thus, I'm curious, at what time did you realize that the Internet is over? When did boundary between real life and online fade?
It's odd, we accept the end of the Internet as a fact of life, but it's not.