If it happened online, it still happened

Techno-Sphere Swatch

This was the Techno-Sphere Swatch. I owned one in the late '80s. It, too, is obsolete.

There’s pervasive concept that things that happen online deserve a whole different set of words to describe them. We contend daily with new words that there really don’t need new words for, such as hyperlocal, content, and that gossipy reduction of a complex social trend, meme.

In the beginning of our collective online existence, techies invented scientific-sounding new coinages as a way of legitimizing their offshoot world. But now that world has essentially merged with the Real Time world, but the colloquial segregation endures. For a movement that likes to view itself as expressively free and nimble, the onliners quickly burdened their communication with a lexicon of stultifying jargon, and they stubbornly resist using everyday language. Their writing is often as impenetrable and lifeless as the memos shuffled around in a mammoth corporation.

That’s annoying, but it’s not where the divisions end. The online world is treated like a separate kingdom even by those reporting on it.

Keep your ears open during the next newscast. Again and again, events are reported as being a story “online.” It instantly diminishes whatever happened.

If it’s a story, it’s a story, period. Why do we keep pretending that online happenings happen in some other universe?

When they talk this way, it’s as if TV journalists are still contorting to prove that they even know what the Internet is. We’re hip to the Twitter, gang!  So hip, in fact, that it’s going to take 45 minutes away from reporting news to make sure you’re aware it knows what Sassypants87 tweeted about Taylor Lautner.

Its probably a form of Luddism to hold technology in a separate sphere from the rest of life. But that’s what we are still doing, 15 years after most of us adopted email and the Web fully into our lives.

The TV news channel journalists would probably excuse themselves by saying they always name the source as a way of citing sources, but their patronizing presentation hints that’s not quite the simple truth: They often show Web comments on a separate screen, complete with the logo of the originating site. They condescend, they switch into a new style. It’s not as if they broadcast the logo of a newspaper if it happens to run salacious or controversial remarks by a political candidate.

If you wonder if I have a point, it may be that you haven’t noticed. Go ahead, listen. On Twitter, Kardashian defended herself… Here’s what the candidate said on Facebook… Nine times out of 10, you could strike the “online” or “on Facebook” from the script of any TV report. It doesn’t matter anymore. They said it no matter where it appeared. Our online lives are integrated with our other lives.

So much news is drawn from the Web these days, anyway (kitty-cat YouTube videos on NBC Nightly News? really?), that surely by now it’s redundant to keep repeating it in many cases.

If it happened online, it still happened. The Internet is part of our lives. Let’s absorb it, accept it, and start talking that way. All of us.