Internet effects #1

August 23, 2023 4 min


The other day, I saw a tweet (x?) that stuck to my head. I tried to find it, but I couldn't. It was something like this:

The internet killed the coolest guy in campus and the hottest girl in town.

I often talk to some of my friends about the internet effects and how we have no idea of what impact it will have on us in the mid/long term. But this quote made me stop what I was doing (probably endless scrolling) and meditate about this.

Before the internet, there were a lot of first places. The prettiest girl in college, the richest entrepreneur in the neighborhood, the fastest boy in the P.E. class… Nowadays all of these first places know that they’re not truly first places because they have access to every single human on Earth, and with this access, they know that there are thousands of people better than them. The prettiest girl watches Kendall Jenner’s stories daily, the richest entrepreneur knows every billionaire on the Forbes list, and the fastest boy sees highlights from Usain Bolt before going to bed.

Ignorance is a bliss

I hypothesize that those old first places were happier back then because of ignorance. They didn't know that such extraordinary people existed. The prettiest girl in college believed that she was at the top and had no idea who the fuck Kendall Jenner was.

Thinking from the perspective of Bhentam’s utilitarianism, I have the feeling that the total amount of happiness is reduced. One can argue that there’s some compensation for that, in other words, Kendall Jenner is also much happier now because she has millions of people reaffirming every day that she’s the prettiest girl in the world. That’s true, but it’s clear that the amount of happiness subtracted from all the other older first places is bigger than the one Kendall received.

The “good side” of this is that people have higher standards and can aim higher in life. That’s great, more people reaching their full potential, but what about those people who won't live up to their expectations? The impact of knowing what other people achieved while they can’t will make them sadder, and let’s be honest, everyone’s setting their bar so high that only a few will reach their goals.

The problem is that this kind of omniscience experienced today has been around only for the past decade, which, again, means we have absolutely no idea how we will manage it in the long run.

Will we have a great depression #2 but with actual depression? Is it happening right now? Will people adapt and become more mentally resilient about their failures (seems too optimistic)? Is there going to be a point where we realize our expectations are becoming so high that we’ll adjust them to be more realistic and conform to a more “average life” in a stoic way? Or maybe I’m just misinterpreting the scenario and there’s no such thing as happier or sadder, everyone just adapts.

I’m one of those people who sets their expectations high because of what I know it’s possible. Let’s see how that plays out…

For the record, I don’t think that utilitarianism is the best way to determine if something is good or bad, I just like the concept of the total amount of happiness that’s used in their process. Right now, I’m reading Justice by Michael Sandel, where he presents other perspectives on how to discover if something is good or bad like theories from Rawls, Kant, and Mill (it’s still incredible to me that these ideas written so long ago are still the basis for everything).

After a month, I found the tweet I was talking about.