The realization that screen worlds can be deleterious to well-being has a long history. Christians have been wary of the theatre as a simulacrum delighting the eyes in a way similar to Eve's eye-rationale in Genesis 3:6. In my childhood it took the form of being told to go outside and get some exercise rather than watching TV. In the very earliest days of the Internet (before the www), Cliff Stoll, an expert on virtual realms removed himself from them entirely after epic immersion hunting hackers. He wrote about why in "The Cuckoo's Egg".
I think also of the various Silicon-Valley tech gurus who don't/didn't let their kids have smartphones. And that brings up artistic depictions of the danger of virtual worlds (screens in particular) in films like 2001: A Space Odyssey. (Kubrick may have had his own private reasons to warn and confess his culpability in creating virtual illusions... e.g., in The Shining, but we'll leave that rabbit-hole to another thread!)
Lastly (and my mind is still reeling from this one), the book "American Cosmic," by D.W. Pasulka contains some mind-blowing nuggets about how dark spiritual forces seem to love leading us by the eyes. One big idea among many: some of the founders of the Internet, back at SRI, in the 1970s were also involved in dark government experiments into remote viewing... which is basically demonic. Now, think about the Internet (and especially video on it, live or recorded) and let that thought sit for a bit. As for me and my house, it's a paper Bible every morning to get my head screwed on straight before I reach out to "places" like this!
A noun for your localist principles, as they develop for aesthetics and culture: neighborliness.
I never upgraded to a smartphone. In the late 2010s, the twentysomethings would see me take out my flip phone and be like "oh what, WHY, haha gross." Over the last few years, there's been a noticeable change in their reactions—when a person in their early twenties sees the flip phone, they've been more likely to say something like "oh...! cool, good for you."
The thirtysomethings have started saying: "I'm kind of jealous."
Anecdotal. But it's been fascinating to observe.
The internet was founded on the idea of decentralization, but somewhere along the way we lost that. Everything now has to take place inside of walled gardens. This is what's killing it.
I'm intrigued by the "indieweb" movement. I don't think it's very significant / powerful, but I like the idea of returning to *actual websites*. It feels very 90s, but in a good way.
Let's hope that physical and political circumstances will be conducive to the pursuit of localism. My instinct is that this project has major underlying currents which would rise up to destroy it. Localism threatens certain power centers which will fight back and attempt to crush unsanctioned social organization. One of the most powerful uses of the internet has been the been the ability to rewrite the principles of personal organization. The digital reality can superimpose fundamental coding on top of human nature thus causing a type of short-circuit. The heat off the arc is useful to certain malicious agents, until of course, the circuit burns itself out.
It seems to me that a passive localism will be snuffed out. Likewise a localism that is ignorant of the tectonic forces against it, will be decimated. I think if localism is to exist, it must be an aggressive localism. The only localism that succeeds is one that recognizes that a declaration of localism is a declaration of war.
The Rebellion Is Reborn Today, The War Is Just Beginning, And We Will Not Be The Last Indies.
Have you heard of Urbit? They work a lot along these lines. One of yours reminded me of “internet is over if you want it” - which they’ve been using for a while.
It is admittedly a little arcane at first but it’s the real deal. And I believe they’ve had a number of meetups in San Antonio. You might want to see if there are some members nearby.
I much prefer in person interaction where I can actually express myself. I find a lot of messaging on the internet has an undercurrent, a tone if you will, of engagement expectation. It's not stuff people say in person.
I've been on the planet quite a while. Before the internet and later during, I've never cared about distant Princes or Princesses, or the Taylor Swift of the day, and have never understood the fascination. So, no change for me in that respect, but I know what you mean.
By the way, I do get myself up to San Antonio once in while, and it would indeed be fun to say hello, but I won't be heading that way until next Spring. I hope you enjoy your event, William. Thanks for the essay, nicely done.
We certainly could be living life more in person, and to be sure, people do. We're not permanently stuck in the digital swamp just yet. But my point was that there is so much incentive built into keeping people online that disengaging will take greater and greater individual effort. Some will succeed. Maybe more than I think will. I plan on raising my children as digital free as rationally possible, and I know others doing the same. But these are gargantuan undertakings for our current time, and most people will not succeed. What's worse is that most won't even try.