DMX, Earl Sweatshirt & Jean Paul Sartre: The Effects of The Internet on The Human Condition


* DMX was recently admitted to the hospital due to a heart attack. Prayers & condolences to his family & anyone who knew or loved him, my condolences to anyone like me who's loved his music & felt like they knew the person. His words resonate now more than ever before. X was more than just his party records, even though Party Up (Up In Here) is the greatest party song of all time. Go back and listen to his albums, listen to the words in the songs. X was an artist with a message he wanted to convey, & like all great artists, he was a medium for a transcendent & timeless message that resonates on a bunch of levels. Get well soon X!*

There’s no protocol for the Internet. There were no guidelines, no rulebooks, no stories. There was nothing your parents could tell you, or school could teach you, for what you were getting yourself into.

I don’t remember getting on the internet. I am the first member in my family to not remember getting on the internet. My older siblings and my parents remember their first time on the internet. My older sister remembers the first computer, the first iPod, & the first iPhone, all as particularly remarkable changes to her life. I just remember all of that being in the house. I just knew how to use paint, I had my own Email account at 6, I was constantly going through various websites. I would spend hours after school on YouTube and MSN in the 4th Grade. My parents were still figuring out how to type. This isn’t because I’m smarter than anyone, it's because I’m the first generation of humans to be born into the internet.

In the 90s people were still figuring out Home Computers, the internet required dial up connection, it was clunkier, and much smaller. The changes that happened to Technology from the 2000’s-2010’s is nothing short of remarkable. It changed the world, but we didn’t know that.

I was born in 1998. Growing up, I had a vague idea of how "new" the internet was. I knew my parents didn't have computers until around the time I was born. We were allowed completely free access to the internet, without any supervision or restriction, because those older than me didn’t understand what it was, better than me. Our parents got us computers because they wanted to prepare us for the future & it was the thing to do.

I remember when that first iPhone came out & how big of a deal that was. Kids at school wouldn’t stop talking about it. It was this cool, futuristic looking device, we didn’t even know what it was but we wanted it. I saw the rise of smartphones, I saw the changes it caused in my generation & I’m seeing the changes it’s causing in the next generation.

The internet changed my generation visibly. We were the first generation to have access to internet fame, influencers, mass connection, & internet challenges. All of my friends in Middle School had YouTube channels, most of them had videos up. We made vines & used Instagram. I remember when all of these things were created & today the effects might be obvious, but they were not at the time.

My parents had no clue what we were doing on our devices. They didn’t know I was pirating thousands of movies, songs & tv shows. They didn't know about blogs, forums, Cracked, the cinnamon challenge, Reddit, 4Chan, PornHub, Yahoo Answers, Creepy Pastas, Smosh, Ray William Johnson, scary maze game, Vines, Memes, or Tumblr. Internet culture was this weird thing outside of the world. My parents don’t understand the trauma I faced when I looked up what Blue Waffle is, or when my friend made me watch 2 Girls 1 Cup. They don’t understand the scars grooved into your brain when you see, what you see, when you go through Omegle. It was a very, very, fun time to be a child.

The level of freedom we had on the internet was also a symptom of the times. The internet wasn’t completely monopolized by tech companies, we were allowed to connect and meet with strange human beings on the other side of the world. We had friends in different time zones we’d stay up so we could skype.

Then something strange happened, the internet began merging with the real world. I saw kids get suspended from school for doing Smack cams because of vine challenges, I saw the beginning of the WorldStar age. I have seen internet culture become mainstream reality. My mom sends me memes now.

YouTube wasn’t restricted, very few people had millions of views, it was actually just a video social media. You could reply to other regular peoples videos, & reply to their comments . Now YouTube is a studio with its own artists, & brand deals. YouTube sold out. But so did every other company. The internet became real life. A lot of corporations had to begin censoring in order to appease the masses, just like television networks.

The internet abandoned individualism for conformity. Individuality and differences of opinion are the backbone of the internet. You would meet the strangest, most insane & most authentic people in the world. All of those slightly racist drunk people you’d meet at 4 am have been replaced by Instagram models, YouTubers & Tik Tok dance moves for Fortnite.

A guy like Alex Jones is built specifically for the Internet, you can’t have that man on network television. But all of these tech companies that have monopolized the internet have blackballed him. The problem lies in our sources of information becoming centralized, based on Payola & marketing. If most people's access to information is the internet, & their access to the internet is through corporations, that gives those corporations & apps a huge ethical responsibility to providing the most accurate sources of information.

But that’s not how the Tech oligarchs operate, which is why many of them are in court battles today. But outside of limiting information, they’ve privatized the human mind. These platforms tell us what we are allowed to say, when we are allowed to say it & how we are allowed to say it. They understand all of our habits, they have designed these things to be as addictive as possible, yet they also take political & social stances, that no companies in the past would dare take. We are made to believe there is a correct ethical team & that is the one this corporation is backing. Twitter takes political stances, and in doing so, censor free speech, which they are technically allowed to do, because it is their platform, but there is something sinister about it, because we didn’t know what we were getting into, & they did.

“I feel tremendous guilt,” admitted Chamath Palihapitiya, former Vice President of User Growth at Facebook, to an audience of Stanford students. He was responding to a question about his involvement in exploiting consumer behavior. “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works,” he explained. In Palihapitiya’s talk, he highlighted something most of us know but few really appreciate: smartphones and the social media platforms they support are turning us into bona fide addicts. While it’s easy to dismiss this claim as hyperbole, platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram leverage the very same neural circuitry used by slot machines and cocaine to keep us using their products as much as possible.

I didn’t know what I accepted in the terms & agreements contract, both literally & figuratively. I was too young to understand the ramifications this device had on my mind. I am conditioned to autopilot through apps for several hours, I seek the dopamine from the likes. I’ve had a general internet notoriety since I was a kid, I had a WWE Memes page with thousands of followers when I was a kid, & now I have a media platform with over 2 million reach, but I didn’t understand what it meant then, & I don’t understand what it means now.

When guys like FouseyTube, who have ascended to levels of internet fame that few have ever reached, come out to discuss the effects internet notoriety had on their mental health, I don’t take it lightly. An unhealthy need for social validation breeds mental illness, generally, but especially at such wide scales. Our brains aren’t used to consuming this much stimuli, information and feedback about ourselves.