Remember when the internet was all about connecting with people and sharing information with strangers and no one put their real name to anything? Back then the internet was a tool we used to organise ourselves in the real world. We'd put up a post saying we would be at the trailhead at 6pm sharp for a ride and whoever turned up you rode with. Everyone was in it largely for the sense of community and free sharing of information.
We created mailing lists and forums, built and arranged by us, specifically for what we wanted to achieve. We created usernames, avatars, ICQ numbers and unique handles and never really thought that it was going to waste, that we should be 'capitalising' on all this, or 'building our brand,' analysing how many people read our post, becoming 'brand ambassadors.'
Gradually the place changed. People started using their real names. People began to see themselves as a brand. Who could blame them, they got treated like one. We came out the other side and commodified ourselves.
There are still a few blogs I read where the author remains anonymous, but these seem to be the exception to the rule now. What changed that caused everyone to suddenly want to become their own brand? Or start advertising for other brands for nothing, maybe a sticker, or just street-cred? Now, those forums and mailing lists occupy the run-down, abandoned part of town, having been replaced by a handful of copy-paste, megastructures where everyone is busy rearranging their allotted 10x10 box trying to put their own unique mark on the world.
I find it strange how the word 'profile' has subtly changed meaning. Before social media when I heard the word profile I used to think of doctors and firefighters and the mayor, people with a high profile in the community. Now I think of a handful of private companies collecting masses of data to build profiles on users to convince advertisers to spend money with them.
For a lot of us, the internet has flipped it on us. It is no longer *our* tool. The great potential of it is lost on us. Remember when we used to say 'BRB', we don't say that anymore. We never leave.