The Internet is a strange fascinating thing. I’ve posted videos on YouTube and written blogs like this just to get my thoughts out not thinking anyone will care. Then I get a comment or an email and it dawns on me: oh, right, there are other people who can access this thing.
I’m still not quite used to that, even as I continue to write on here and share stuff on my Facebook and Twitter feed. In the realm of so many millions and millions of web pages and web personalities, this is nowhere and I’m not much of anybody. What actually are the chances that a stranger with Internet access may find themselves reading these words, may find themselves learning a bit about who I am?
My gmail periodically updates me that someone’s commented on one of my YouTube videos, and I’m left surprised every time. I haven’t made a YouTube video in such a long time, and YouTube is such a different world than when I used to vlog. Now it actually has content produced by huge corporate entities. Many YouTube personalities I’ve used to follow fairly regularly have moved on or have become a part of those corporate entities. Yet, somehow, there are still people out there who’s watching extremely low-quality vlogs of me blabbering on in front of a webcam?
Even more surprising is when those people reach out to me.
There’s this really funny story of a colleague I know. We signed up for a legislative policy class that took place in Washington D.C. We ended up as roommates for a week, and when he met me, he told me that he knew who I was because he had watched YouTube vlogs I made about social work and that’s partly what inspired him to become a social worker himself. He graduated with an MSW a year later than me and now he’s a social worker in an ACT Team.
There was also a time I had volunteered to help orient incoming MSW students. One of the students had come all the way from China to be a social worker, and he said he enrolled into NYU because he watched my vlogs about social work.
There also have been some emails. Occasionally, people write me to ask about advice and for me to share more of my experiences and thoughts. Most recently, I’ve formed a connection with someone trying to figure out if social work would be right for them. I gave my honest feedback, but whew, I’m a bit taken aback that sometimes me just typing and speaking into what seems like a void actually means something to real people. I’m not quite sure how to feel about that. It’s just too surreal. A little bit uneasy, but not uneasy enough that I’ll stop, because as you can see, I’m still typing here.
My thought process – and hell, myself in general – is pretty weird. If my thoughts are read by anyone out there past the void, I guess what I hope for most is that they weren’t a waste of time. If I somehow ended up unintentionally inspiring people to take up social work, I hope they find it rewarding, and I hope they change the world.
A small part of me feels shy about all this, wonders if I should delete all my crappy vlogs on YouTube. There’s a truth about life that nothing lasts forever, but does that apply to the Internet? I feel like long after I die, someone out there will still be able to stream an awfully edited YouTube vlog of me stuttering and nerding out about an outdated computer game called Jane’s USAF. Shudder, that’s embarrassing.
Historical legacies in the age of the Internet is going to be really strange thing. People like Yi Soon Shin and Bruce Lee left behind important letters, war plans, memos, and films. People like me are going to leave behind that blog I wrote when I was 13 about this crush on a girl I had, and my thoughts about a video game. I’m not saying I’ll ever become important as those people mentioned. My thought is more centered on the lasting impact of the Internet, as vast and bottomless as it is.
With how big Facebook has become, it’s not really possible to remain anonymous on the Internet anymore. I personally lament that truth. It really is a world in which thoughts expressed can have real-life impact and consequences. I’m not just typing into a void anymore. I’m not sure if it’s possible for anyone to anymore. That’s a powerful, amazing thing. It’s also a tad bit terrifying. What a world we live in.