I love the word internauta. The English translation is “internet user” – an accurate but boring term. The Spanish word, typically, is more wonderfully evocative, pairing well with the idea of the internet as a whole new universe; we as users navigate cyberspace. Internauta suggests an element of the intrepid, of exploring new and dangerous territory.
Indeed, the internet is fraught with danger – with beautiful and profound creatures, but also with ugly trolls. It’s something that has to be navigated – but what compass, what sextant, what telescopes are at our disposal? Do we even know how to steer or do we hand over control to our internet browsers and trust them to guide us in the right direction and protect us from unwanted assaults?
Often the internet seems a lawless place. Piracy is rife. Privacy seems non-existent. Saying that we “surf” the net seems more than a euphemism – it seems to trivialise the reality of the situation, of what we are in fact engaging in.
Browsing the internet is no longer just a form of leisure, of entertainment – it’s business, and big business at that. It’s diplomacy and international politics, but it’s also personal diaries and family photo albums. It’s planning a global campaign and planning a wedding.
The internet unites and divides. Just think of social media connectivity that ironically isolates us from those physically beside us, on the train, in the city, and even in our homes. While technology brings us together for a cause, it’s also used to spread hate. Grassroots campaigns and kick-starters show how social media can empower the little people, yet by the same token bullies have manipulated social media to oppress, to emotionally abuse others.
While the internet as a network is about ports and bridges and connecting people, the internet as a net is used to catch and trap the innocent. It has been commandeered for criminal activity – beyond music and film piracy, scams and sex trafficking are cyber offences that also have real world consequences.
The internet is a parallel universe that nonetheless overlaps and merges with our own. We don’t just use the internet as craftsmen use a tool. In fact, in many cases it could be more accurate to say we use the internet as addicts use a drug – in that sense, perhaps, we are “users”. Dependent. Vulnerable.
They say the universe is constantly expanding – so too is the internet, with new content added every second. With every post I publish here, I am expanding this universe.
I’m an internaut and this blog is a bridge I’m building. This bridge made of fragments of my life assembled to connect me to you.