The Past is the Future–Sort Of

The Internet might be the world’s largest recycling bin. But things never come back exactly as you leave them, so perhaps recycling factory is a better descriptor–or recycling plant, to use proper terminology (and a great pun).

Old viral videos have a habit of resurfacing every now and again to make (and remake) the news. The same rumors appear periodically (see: Super Moon, Morgan Freeman’s death, et cetera). And old Internet staples come into use again.

For instance, .gifs. They’re silent moving pictures on a loop, introduced in 1987. They fell out of use as emoticons and flash pictures and other forms of expression became popular on the evolving web. In the past few years, .gifs have made a comeback. Why? It’s not really clear. How? Reddit and Tumblr can perhaps be to blame–or thank–as these users seem most fond of these clips, and use them to express emotions (or “feels” to use terribly inane ‘net speak). Buzzfeed also seems addicted to these old school pics, and every item on their endless lists is illustrated with at least one, maybe two if they’re both deemed apropos, or complement each other well.

Another old Internet fad being raised from the dead? Blogs! Well, “dead” may be a bit strong. Blogs have been in fairly consistent use over the past decade or so; the matter is what they’re being used for. A while ago blogs were adapted by everyone–businesses, writers, (some) media sources, angsty teens. Slowly but surely, through the early 2000s, angsty teens took over the blogosphere on sites like Xanga, Blogspot, LiveJournal, DeviantArt. As social media has come into play, many of these blogs can still be found, especially on Tumblr. But blogs have been coming out of their emo-phase funk and are emerging as viable business, promotional, and media opportunities. Not the teen journal-ridden places they once were, blogs might just be the future of writing on the internet.

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Paper Plate Culture

Twitter is not my thing. I’ve known this for years, and that is why I never had one–until half an hour ago. The first sentence of this post is an echo of my first tweet. https://twitter.com/JournaIistish

Twitter enables people to be connected–it lets common people feel closer to celebrities; it lets jokes be passed around; hoaxes and rumors are perpetuated; information and life and art is shared. But Twitter, and its cousins, are contributing to what I call “Paper Plate Culture”. Generation Y (that’s anyone born from the late 80s to 2000) has grown up in a very advantageous stage of a technological revolution: cell phones are commonplace, TVs (usually more than one) in every home, personal computers for every member of the family. And as our technology evolves, so does the way we interact with the environment–and the way it interacts with us. Twitter, Vines, Instagram, and even Tumblr (the “Twitters” of videos, photography, and blogs, respectively) all serve basically the same purpose: condense information. Only see what you want, when you want, and as little of it as possible while still being entertained.

Condensing information lets you know more about the world, and faster; the sacrifice comes in quality. Now, a Vine (a video capped at a mere six seconds) can be funny, enjoyable, informative, even artistic and amazing. But after you watch a six second loop a few times, share it with a few friends, where does it go? Virtually, nowhere. It will sit on the internet collecting views, then fade into vagueness and virtual dust. Tweets can be poignant, heartbreaking, thrilling, evocative–but after retweeting, how often do you remember it? Unless some scandal arises, most of these tiny posts are soon forgotten. Paper Plate Culture: use something once, throw it away.

Paper plates have their place–perfect for picnics! great when you don’t want to do dishes!–but imagine never being able to eat off a real plate again. You’re relegated to having breakfast, lunch, and dinner off of a pulverized, de-pulpled and flattened tree carcass for the rest of your life. It’s a bit sad, isn’t it?

Brevity saves money, time, effort, and forces you to think extremely critically about what is necessary when you share something you’ve created. However, there is always going to be a corner of the market who hold onto that silly nostalgia of wanting to keep things, to contribute to or witness a part of history that will last; those who want to savor every meal using fine china and silverware and cloth napkins and candles and they’re frivolous for sure, but they’re also going to love every last bite.