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The Internet Might Be An Extension Of Collective Human Consciousness

*  I deactivated my Facebook account last week. I found that I’d lost a portion of the narcissism required to truly enjoy The Social Network. It (the narcissism) detached itself as quicksilver from my gilded, idealistic mind and slithered behind a mirror, waiting to be rediscovered in a moment of self-reflection. That mirror might be a blank computer screen. Not to say that everyone who uses Facebook is a narcissist indulging his need for peer approval, which ultimately reinforces a feeling of self-approval. Facebook can be used effectively as a site for networking and sharing pertinent information with friends. A veritable social media collage, sometimes, of magazine articles and viral memes and YouTube video links where dogs play baby grands and teenagers get hit in the nuts by spiteful tetherballs. But narcissism was clearly my motive behind (up)keeping an account. I pruned Griffin Limerick’s profile by uploading photos in which he looked most fun and spontaneous, typing statuses that would garner laughs of approval from his peers, deleting photos in which he did not look most fun and spontaneous, and clinging to “friends” who could generously be deemed acquaintances at best, just to make them witnesses to his triumphs. So when it came time to deactivate the monster, I naturally couldn’t disappear quietly into online obscurity. I had to announce my imminent departure a few times first. Reactions varied. A “quiter” [sic] here. A “:(” there. A “that’s no fun” somewhere. A more understanding friend asked me if I was finally “unplugging from the Matrix.” This seemed more accurate. I often forgot to consciously exist in the extant world while sitting in a recliner, clicking and viewing and interacting with my computer screen avatar. Even when I did actively exist in the extant world, I was staging photographs and collecting experiences for an online existence; it was as if I were living for a higher purpose – that of social networking. For my college and post-graduate years, Facebook had been an extension of my ego, my personality, and ultimately my consciousness. At least in the social realm.

* Marshall McLuhan was thinking about the visual realm of television when he composed The Medium is the Massage. At the time of the book’s publication in 1967, TV was kind of important, what with its simultaneous international screenings of war, political conflict, sporting events, and other provocative images. McLuhan makes several claims about these mass viewings turning the world into “a global village…a simultaneous happening” – claims that remain applicable to the Internet age (63). But he begins with this very concrete statement about media: “All media are extensions of some human faculty – psychic or physical.” I. McLuhan’s e., the wheel is an extension of the foot, the book an extension of the eye, clothing an extension of the skin, etc. (26-39). Each medium enhances the possibilities of the faculty it imitates while simultaneously offering itself as a replacement for that faculty. My Facebook profile expanded my social presence to a realm without time or spatial limitations where I could interact exclusively with the online versions of my friends, independent of face-to-face exchanges, if I so chose. But, Facebook – with all its eminence and social complexity – is only a single cell in the entire brain of the Internet medium, which is composed of innumerable cells that reflect the various, mutable forms of human thought. The Internet is the most ambitious of all media, because it isn’t simply an extension of a body part; it’s an extension of the world’s collective human consciousness. Our minds have been enhanced by the information we are allowed to withdraw from and deposit into this boundless space, and the constant flux of information is absorbed and altered by the populous in a day-to-day fashion to form a chaotic, yet synchronous universal consciousness.

* For your consideration: the blog is an extension of our mental monologues, retroactively alterable and visible to the public, so that these monologues may morph into dialogues; Wikipedia and search engines are an extension of our trivial brain that is no longer insufficient in a round of Jeopardy! and is capable of diagnosing and fixing the upstairs toilet without prior plumbing experience; online pseudonyms (i.e. Ninjabro69) are an extension of given names that have been used and repeated for identity since birth; Facebook is an extension of vivid memory that presents a reviewable, documented past of your public activities (however authentic that past may be); correlatively, Facebook is an extension of self-awareness, providing the individual with the actual advantage of viewing the self from a third person perspective, whoever that self may be; Twitter is an extension of how you absorb global information – in a much more succinct way, typically delivered directly to you in fewer than three sentences by a college acquaintance rather than verbosely by Katie Couric; however, it could also be delivered directly to you in fewer than three sentences by Katie Couric if you follow @katiecouric; fixed web page advertisements are an extension of the ephemeral publicity that catches your eye, yet these adverts can remain in your peripherals for the duration of your viewing of the web page – more thoroughly affecting your capitalist/consumerist desires; web pages and Internet windows are an extension of the natural environment, to which our minds must react/adapt according to how we view ourselves in relation to these new environments; pornographic sites are an extension of subconscious desires for sexual gratification, where subverted (perverted?) fantasies are acted out more concretely for the voyeur’s enjoyment; YouTube, Hulu, and other video channels are an extension of the passive video entertainment to which we submit our brains for hours of catatonic vegetation without interference;  e-mail and Skype are an extension of how we correspond and form fluid conversation with others, despite vicinity; hyperlinks, emoticons, and GIFs are an extension of the alphabet that we internalize and use to construct semblances of sentences for communication; etc. etc. etc. (etcetera being somewhat obsolete, since every known example is now available to you from the Internet, even if you don’t feel like listing them all on the page).

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