Virginia Heffernan

Is the internet really a collective work of art?

My name is Michal Prymak (go by the American version Michael) and I am a student at Bard High School Early College Queens. I attend 11th grade (junior) and my biggest hobby is probably just staying occupied, being productive and striving for success. By that, I do not mean sitting in books all day: quite the contrary actually. I value my education but I feel like our educational system is flawed, and long school hours are probably the biggest thing holding me back from developing as a person. More specifically though, my hobbies include powerlifting, urban exploring and simply engaging in social activities. I hate being home and doing nothing as I feel like I am missing out on a chance to enjoy my life and when my main group of friends and I are together, we are probably the most hyperactive band of (“slav”) knuckleheads you will ever meet.
An accurate depiction of the things my friends and I like to do when we do have free time

After reading a little bit through the beginning of Heffernan’s book “Magic and Loss,” I certainly enjoyed the preface and found the language to be very engaging. The focus on the birth of YouTube and one of the first videos titled Guitar certainly grabbed my attention as I myself reminisce about the times where my dad and I used to watch dumb videos on the old, clunky YouTube website design. The watching dumb video part we love doing to this day, but sadly not together as we can just send the videos to each other through messenger in a matter of seconds. I can completely see how the first few pages lead up to the concept of the internet being a collaborative piece of art and a work in progress (the gist as summarized by The New York Times).

However, one thing I did not mention in my little bio was the fact that I love Socrates and his philosophies and parallels on knowledge. After reading Plato’s great work on Socrates, questioning things became a new way for me to learn myself. And, essentially, that is what I am about to do here. Indeed, the internet can be seen as a collaborative art; it is certainly a masterpiece that has changed the way I live. I am grateful for its existence; however, in the book, when technology is being compared to painting, it says that “if [a painting is] successful, [it] hints at transcendence or at least luminous silence, something whereof we cannot speak.” So does the internet fit that category? Well, looking back at it yes and no. Going back to the example of my dad and I bonding over dumb YouTube videos back in 2006–2010, it does appear that the internet is a successful painting. It is a piece of art that my dad and I would stare at, almost mesmerized and always wanting more. It is something we still stare at to this day. However, there is another side to that, and it is the fact we do not stare at that painting together anymore. The internet is almost a bridge between continents, eliminating distance in its own beautiful and virtual way. However, in our case, it is like a wall as we no longer watch anything together only because that distance between my room and his room in the house is inexistent thanks to the internet and our smartphones. So yes, maybe the internet is a painting that is a piece of art that is still in progress; however, I question whether this piece of art is truly a masterpiece or a drug that makes us crave it more and more as it takes our human relationships and tears them apart.

So, all in all, do you truly think that the internet’s magical ability to conquer distance is a gift or a curse?

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