It's meaningless. We're just a bunch of pixels.
Feelings here aren't real. All the cute girls are 50-year-old fat, balding guys. All the guys are 50 years old, fat, and balding as well. Everyone is a pedophile. Did I mention we were all fat? Neckbeards.
That guy who you like talking to is either laughing at you with his friends, or masturbating to your Facebook profile - which, by the way, is made up entirely of photomanipulations to disguise the reality of your 50yearoldfatbaldneckbeardery.
It's just the Internet, of course you won't change anything. It isn't a real form of communication, like a phone or a hand-written letter.
The Internet is entirely a farce, a lie, a cheat, and utterly inane.
I've been on the Internet for - I don't know, about a decade now. For me, it's always been sort of like what I imagine the unexplored Western frontier was like for Americans long, long ago, minus the chance of being bitten by snakes or eaten by my starving peers while we sit, stranded, on a freezing mountain top.
It's the perfect Wild West for the 21st century a wide, open space where one can act without much fear of government, all consequences safely away from the physical realm.
Well, mostly. It isn't completely disconnected from the physical realm. The Internet is still the "real world". What you do on the Internet is still part of your "real life". Were the Internet not real - were you unaffected by it - you would simply not be here. Were it "just the Internet", none of us would be here.
But who cares, this is just the Internet, right? What I'm writing - what you're reading, processing, hiding away bits and pieces of away in your mind for further consumption at a later time - is only important to me on the Internet. Once I leave the Internet, I completely forget about what I've written, who has read it, what people thought, and who I have spoken to. I forget whose words I've laughed at and I forget about the pictures I've seen. It's just the Internet. None of it is real or worthy of remembrance, right? Right? Come on, now. Don't take this seriously. It's just the Internet.
Every time one of us says that, we are discrediting those we are speaking to, the versatile form of communication many of us have come to rely on, and ourselves. When youre speaking to a someone youve come to enjoy and they lash out at you, do you not feel pain? Maybe you cant see their face but youre still left to wonder what youve done. Maybe you cant hear their voice, but cant you tell they are upset? While the Internets notorious lack of inflection can sometimes leave emotions and motives in question, we are all aware that raw, unprotected, evident emotion - unhindered by the social mores of the offline world - is more often than not the reality.
When you say its just the Internet, all youre doing is rubbing denial into your wounds. Its the virtual equivalent of crossing your arms, tossing your head, and saying well, I dont care!, only to have the sinking feeling left in your stomach as a reminder that you are, in fact, human, and you do, in fact, care. Thats why so many people who say its just the Internet still keep Livejournals. Theyre still people, you know just people in denial.
Its also surprising how little credit we, as a culture, will openly give the Internet. Phrases like thank you, Internet are always used in sarcasm or to ironically accent something terrible the speaker has found; information from the Internet even from credible sources is often viewed as lesser than that found in books; people who enjoy recreational activities on the Internet are clearly deficient even to the other people who do it; and words said over the Internet between people who know each other well are regarded as being less trustworthy than what they may say face-to-face, as if to imply that lies only occur on the Internet.
We seem to loathe crediting the Internet with anything more emotionally significant than providing us a place to get free music, even though software to facilitate online communication is extremely popular and viewed as necessary to many Internet users. Dont have AIM, MSN, Yahoo!, or an equivalent? Youre in the extreme minority. Furthermore, even less credit is lent to this attitude because of the fact that many people who flaunt it are dedicated forum posters who spend much of their free time if not all of it posting on that particular forum.
What does this mean? Its difficult to discern what it means for everyone, but I feel the likely source of the problem is the fact that we are the first generation to experience such widespread use, influence, and importance of the Internet, and are not culturally endowed with the traits to handle the often strange and intense emotional and social situations being a regular Internet user can put a person in."IT'S JUST THE INTERNET" can be likened to being a frightened child in school and reacting to the new influences, unfamiliar environment, and aggressive or simply uncaring peers by shouting I DONT CARE! as loud and as often as possible in order to assure peers that he is quite fine in the situation and is in fact above it, thank you, peons. The smarter peers dont believe it, and I believe this remains true in the virtual realm.
However, just like those frightened children, with time a behavior that was originally a defense mechanism can become ingrained and even expressed casually. While it is still a negative and telling behavior, it may no longer indicate an overwhelming fear of the surroundings which is why many seemingly confident, old-guard Internet users are very fond of bandying the phrase Its just the Internet around, even though in this stage of their lives its use is no longer to protect the self, but to undermine the position of a user who is more secure in the Internets social environment (or just more honest) and to protect themselves from the ego threat that user creates. Translation: People who are honest about their feelings regarding things that occur on the Internet are frequently the target of insecure ridicule.
Regardless of how much I wish people would stop throwing the phrase around like its about to go out of style (its so see-through!), it would be unfair not to talk about the unintentional positive aspect of the its just the Internet phenomenon. Our flippant attitude towards Internet communication allows us to maintain the combination of frank honesty and openness that is seen on the Internet and often considered impossible, infeasible (or at least socially questionable) offline. If we took the Internet as seriously as we do face-to-face interaction, the culture of the Internet would change drastically - possibly for, if not the worse, the less revolutionary.
If you truly take the feelings of everybody on the Internet as seriously as you might offline, you can't always tell them when you think they're being a douche, which might be your automatic reaction online. You can't openly discuss your homosexuality with many people offline, while online you can find communities where it's par for the course to discuss your sexual orientation. To do that offline, you've gotta find a support group. To do it online is so normal as to almost be considered asinine.
Furthermore, if we admitted to taking the Internet as seriously as we often do, where would our excuses go? What would way say when confronted with our own mistakes? When you say something online that someone takes to heart and gets upset or comes down hard on you, "It's just the Internet" is a convenient way to turn the attention away from yourself and onto the accuser - and to create the illusion of you as a person who is simply playing the Internet game - what would it matter, in such a case, whether you said something stupid or socially taboo? It's just the Internet, after all, and you're just having fun like everyone else. While the use of the phrase as an excuse is obnoxious, it is an integral part of the permissive way we communicate online.
The culture we've created for ourselves on the Internet - and yes, it is a culture - is a unique one, partially shaped by the negative attention focused on the Internet by its own denizens. A conscious attempt by Internet users to "take the Internet more seriously" would be likely to backfire and create an atmosphere more stilted than what we deal with concerning face-to-face communication.
I hope to live live long enough to see us adapt culturally to deal better with the social arena we've created online, losing the petulant insecurities without throwing away the freedom that defines this communication medium. Here's to hoping we all live that long.