In the year 2016, everything is on the internet. We are now a society largely shaped by our virtual interactions with the world, as well as with ourselves. Who we choose to be in the virtual space transforms us in the real world.
My generation and the generation coming after me has been largely criticized for being too obsessed with sharing everything about ourselves. With social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat, we chronicle our everyday lives with such fervor and at times obsession. The line between who we wish others to think we are and who we truly are becomes blurred. And we divulge private information about ourselves - such as what we eat, what makes us sad, or what excites us - without restraint. We are the generations of oversharing.
While our parents still continue to have difficulty talking about sex, the younger generations are engaging in detailed discussions about their sexuality, their experiences, and their pleasures. The taboos of years past are often fractured in today's society. The age of the internet has allowed for people from all walks of lives - and every corner of the world - to interact and engage in conversations not had before. This is where many argue that the World Wide Web has connected people far more than it has divided them. Groups can be formed online, and virtual communities spawn in the various corners of the cyberspace. For many, these virtual relationships become far more integral to their happiness than the physical ones. We can't blame them, either. To a lot of people, who are forced into isolation in their physical environments, the internet provides a safe space for them to express a side of them previously repressed.
But where does the utopian image of the internet crumble? Where does the criticism begin, and really where does it end? Where the internet and social media can be used to express oneself, it also becomes a mirage of what we believe society to be. Time and time again discussions pop up around the "fake-ness" of social media; we are all curating an idea of what we want people to think of ourselves. And in turn, we lose connection to who we truly are. The idea of underachieving also begins to propagate, as people internalize that they should be doing more: have more followers, have more likes, make more money, more projects, more success. Rather than looking to the internet for inspiration and community, we at times look to it for self-loathing. There are people out there having "better" lives; some people are traveling the world, other young entrepreneurs are birthing successful startups. And inwardly their images and lives scream to us: "What have you done with your life?" So begins the perpetual struggle of self-doubt and comparisons. The phrase "I am not good enough" tumbles about our brains, making us second-guess ourselves.
The internet is a powerful space. Some have, and will, use it for "bad". Though the word "bad" can be ambiguous and holds different meaning for different people. But perhaps I choose to define it as those using the internet to segregate, to hurt others, and to propagate ideas of hate. Everything else isn't "bad", merely complicated. Should someone who aspires to be "Instagram famous" be considered bad? I don't think so. That is a question for themselves, and I can only imagine the kind of internal struggles that have led people to believe that the number of followers equates success - and even worse, that it may equate happiness. There will always be gray areas in the virtual world. But we cannot argue that the internet has given voices to many who previously did not. Movements gained strength online, and people fighting for similar causes have been able to connect. Social movements such as Black Lives Matter have benefited from the web, as it has given a window to the movement and to the voices in that community. People victim of rape, previously left isolated in their experiences, have now found a support system, and community that has provided them strength, support, and most importantly justice. Knowledge has been shared online. A politician cannot make a statement without the keyboards of individuals fact-checking them. Lies are harder to make when the majority of the world can uncover them.
The age of oversharing is complicated. What a person chooses to put online about themselves is solely the right of the individual. Society is likely to take a stance, and while there will be people who disagree, there will be others who applaud it. The same has been true for everything that has become such a large part of our society. We're all simply using the internet and social media as a means to creating something. Whether it is an image of ourselves, or a new company or project, the possibilities are endless. There is no "right" or "wrong" answer. Hatred has always existed, and the internet has merely become another medium for it to inhabit. But if you look carefully, there are many more people creating inspirational content and sharing revolutionary ideas. We simply have to start pointing our eyes in the right direction.
After all, the internet - as anything in society - is what we make of it. What it becomes in the years to come will be solely representative of what we have chosen it to be. I can only hope that it is used to create a better world.