"The momentous arises only from the trivial"


A common tactic in discussions about the Internet as a free-speech medium is to discount Internet discourse as inherently trivial. Who cares about blurry kitten pictures, illiterate YouTube trolling, and Facebook posts about what your toddler said on the way to day care?

…The usual rebuttal is to point out all the “worthy” ways that we communicate online: the scholarly discussions, the terminally ill comforting one another, the distance education that lifts poor and excluded people out of their limited straits, the dissidents who post videos of secret police murdering street protesters.

All that stuff is important, but when it comes to interpersonal communications, trivial should be enough.

The reason nearly everything we put on the Internet seems “trivial” is because, seen in isolation, nearly everything we do and say is trivial. There is nothing of particular moment in the conversations I have with my wife over the breakfast table. There is nothing earthshaking in the stories I tell my daughter when we walk to daycare in the morning.

Taken together, these “meaningless” interactions make up nearly the whole of our lives. They are the invisible threads that bind us to our friends and families. when I am away from my family, it’s these moments I miss. Our social intercourse is built on subtext as much as it is on text - - when you ask your wife how she slept last night, you aren’t really interested in her sleep. You’re interested in her knowing that you care about her. When you ask after a friend’s kid, you don’t really care about her potty-training progress - - you and your friend are reinforcing your bond of mutual care.

If that’s not enough reason to defend the trivial, consider this: the momentous arises only from the trivial. When we rally around a friend with cancer, or celebrate the extraordinary achievements of a friend who does well, or commiserate over the death of a loved one, we do so only because we have an underlying layer of trivial interaction that makes our connection to these people meaningful…

The copyright wars are about all the things we care about on the Internet, and increasingly that encompasses just about everything in our lives.

From Cory Doctorow, Information Doesn’t Want to be Free