Wednesday, April 16, 2014

All this useless beauty

I've been forming a realization lately, which either means that I'm gaining some form of enlightenment or I'm getting old (or's probably not an either/or situation). I've been realizing that the Internet has become a source of frustration and disappointment.

Don't get me wrong, there are many reasons I love the Internet, even beyond funny cats. I can connect with people all over the world. I can save time and money doing research, planning, shopping and working. I can find information about just about ANYTHING that I want to know.

It's this last one that is actually pushing me over the edge. While I can find information on anything I want to know, it's often the case that that I get more information than I NEED to know. Finding what I want, when I need it, is priceless. Finding 1000x as much as I need and having to weed through it, or often getting distracted by it, costs me whatever time and money it might be saving me.

Worse, for every Upworthy-esque story I might read, there are just as many troll comments or Kardashian-bashing references. People say all kinds of mean things online, mostly to people they don't actually know, without thought to what the impact of their words are...or worse, with intent to hurt. The Internet is an amazing place and one that can suck the light out of you.

A few weeks ago, I got a song title stuck in my mind: All this useless beauty. It's a song by Elvis Costello. I read somewhere that he wrote it after watching people's reaction to art in a gallery, but it wasn't the song that got is that one lyric, the title: all this useless beauty.

I live in an ridiculously beautiful place now and it often amazes me how many people who have lived here for a long time stop seeing and appreciating how beautiful it is. I can round a corner on the freeway in the morning and see the waves crashing against the sand, palm trees framing the Santa Barbara shoreline and I literally stop breathing for a second and sometimes some interjection escapes my lips, unintended. It is that beautiful.

All this useless beauty.

What good is this amazingly beautiful place if people don't appreciate it and protect it? What use is beauty if it doesn't inspire us to do good?

I'm starting to feel the same way about the Internet. There is beauty in the Internet, in what it can do to make the world better. There is connection and emotion and yes, even love. And yet, there is so much ugliness and hate and pain and despair and injustice that it has begun to eat away at me. It can paralyze me and it can distract me from the things that bring me joy and inspiration.

I can only make the world better if I can focus on the beauty. Because for me, it's not useless. It inspires action. It inspires hope. It spurs me on when I'm feeling discouraged. It reminds me that life is beautiful. The Internet has become a place where it's harder and harder to find the beauty, masked over and over again by the ugly. It's not the Internet's fault; the Internet is not the bully. People are. People who hurt and use this tool, this forum, this technology, to spread negativity and banality. The Internet has become the focus of that song lyric for me: all this useless beauty.

I'm going to do something about it. I'm going to step away from the things that distract me and focus on what inspires me. I'm focusing my energy on appreciating and protecting the beauty of the Internet and I'm letting it inspire me to do good. I have a plan, so stay tuned. The Internet doesn't have to be useless beauty.


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