Yes, I know this is terribly long-winded. I also know it may straddle several forums as it touches on the Jazz, on basketball in general, on politics, on music, and probably a few other things.
What’s my basic point here? It's that for all its amazing effects, internet has also made us worse people by allowing us to create imaginary communities at the expense of real, physical ones. This has lead to a real sense of alienation of people from other people, and what I believe is a development of a virtual world where we can play whatever character we want. Our virtual lives become intertwined with our real lives, and there is a real contamination going from virtual to real.
Internet allows us to find like-minded people at the touch of a button, which is not a bad thing in and of itself, but it can be bad because it creates a situation that allows us to completely shield ourselves from different people, different opinions, and different views. It allows us to create a virtual community that mirrors real, totalitarian communities in some senses. Much has been said in the media the last few years about how polarized society has become, and I believe that most of it is due to our new-found ability to isolate ourselves from everything we don't agree with. It is quite possible for any one of us to only physically be present in our place of domicile, but essentially live out our intellectual life in an imagined community.
You can live in the most right wing county in the country and discuss politics every day with people as left wing as you'd like. All you have to do is go on the internet. This creates a sense that your community is not the people who live in your immediate vicinity and who you actually share a living space with, but rather the people anywhere in the country you share your views with. This ready-made community of people who believe the exact things you do is very much an ersatz version of an actual community, as it requires no cooperation, no compromise, no consideration of criticism or differing viewpoints.
There is no compromise on the internet, and frankly, no need for it. Anonymity and lack of physical contact allows us to both be highly caricatured versions of ourselves, as well as subconsciously pretend that our interactions are not with other humans with feelings, but with similar caricatures of other humans. It's so easy to be a jerk on the internet. Just look at this forum, and we're even one of these imagined communities. We all love the Jazz, so we're obviously all here because we agree on that, and yet it doesn't stop us from insulting one another based on whether we agree that Al should be traded or not. It's actually fortunate that this has not seeped into real life as much. It's still a little harder to be that much of a jerk in real life, because when we have face time with people, it's not as easy to hurl insults based on trivial things.
Internet magnifies issues and magnifies differences to a shocking degree. Worse yet, internet creates its own narratives. Do you remember when the refs robbed the Kings in the 2002 Conference Finals? I do, but only because of what I've read on the internet the last 5-6 years. I watched that game, and at the time thought little of it. I mean, it's the Lakers, of course they get calls, but I didn't thinking it was the crime of the century. Thanks to people on the internet, I just about became convinced that it was. What about MJ pushing off on Bryon Russell? I watched that game, too. Crushed my 14-year old heart. But I don't remember MJ pushing off. I didn't realize he did until years later, when legions of Kobe fans on the net told me he did. That's why the Bulls won. Silly me. I thought it was because Rodman stripped Karl when we were up 1 and because the Bulls somehow managed to come up with a big play in just about every one of those 12 Finals games.
Fringe voices are louder on the internet and able to create narratives much better than in real life. 9/11 conspiracy theories? Birthers? Sure, mainstream media gave them some publicity, but it's really the internet that drove this stuff. Worse yet, the internet works in such a way to discourage criticism and questioning. Why would you, when it's so easy to find a community of people who agree with your completely? If so many people agree with you, how could you not agree with yourself?
Internet allows your views and interests to narrow. I grew up a Jazz fan far from Utah. I also grew up a son of middle-class, professional parents in a middle class neighbourhood in Canada's richest city. I knew very few people who even liked the NBA, let alone the Jazz. I was happy if I had someone to talk or watch NBA with, and the idea of knowing other Jazz fans seemed like science fiction. Now, with a touch of a button, I have a whole community of Jazz fans to talk to. It sometimes shocks me how much more of a Jazz fan the internet allowed me to become. And I thought myself a huge fan 15 years ago, too. Funnier yet, the border between real and imagined community gets blurrier every day. I know more about Utah as a result of this board(and the two old ones), then I have any business knowing. I think I could drive into Provo tomorrow and know exactly where to find slutty girls looking for a party.
Same thing goes for music. I was a lanky, artsy kid with glasses. I got a guitar at 14 and really got into Nirvana. How many other kids at my school were as into them? One. We formed a band together. The drummer and the bass player? One of them liked English punk a lot, and the other one was a big GN'R fan. Yeah, those bands aren't that similar. Hell, Kurt and Axl hated each other. It's all we had, though. Grunge and hair metal are still closer than grunge and whatever else the cool kids listened to at the time. Freaking Ma$e or something like that. I was just happy to have someone I could talk about and play music with. Again, nowadays, I could just use the internet to find 4 guys who like the exact bands I do(I live in a city of a million people, after all) and I'd never have to deal with a drummer who wears eyeliner again.
All this is great, but this ability to pick and choose exactly what we are exposed to makes us more intransigent, more obdurate, more rigid in our views. Internet allows us to isolate ourselves from everything we don't want to hear or consider. You look at politicians, especially younger ones, and you can see this at work. How many of them act like they represent only a certain group of people with identical views? How many acknowledge that in most elections, the other guy gets 35-45% of the vote? That you have to represent those people, too? That getting 50%+one of the vote that wins you your seat does not give you a mandate to ignore the rest of the voters? Not to make this partisan, but how the **** did we end up living in a world where congressmen sign pledges NOT to compromise once they get to Washington? Insularization of imagined communities, that's how. People feeling like they represent only those who voted for them, or worse yet, those who helped them get elected in other ways. Remember about 10 years ago when a constituent wrote to his congressman about an issue, only to get an angry letter back saying "Well, you didn't vote for me, so don't come to me to fix your problems"? How depressing is that?
I know this is hard to fight. I find myself realizing how much negative I am about the Jazz as a result of this message board. When you read dozens of posts daily ragging on Al, it's easy to internalize it. I'm actually much more optimistic about the Jazz in real life. I don't get as mad, I don't call for everyone's head all the time, and I don't turn off games. Until I log into the board chat come game time. Then I do all those things. Why? Because of enablers. We all enable each other. I didn't think Karl Malone was terribly unclutch 16-17 years ago. I didn't think, watching those 1996 Conference Finals that he sucked. Maybe I would have, if internet was what it is today. It's so much easier to be negative when you have someone else to be negative with.