This is a sombre post – but I really need to share my thoughts on this. If you love the internet and what it means, please read on.
Today, after recently hearing of the suicide of Aaron Swartz, the latest 2600 podcast popped on in my headphones. Show presenter Emmanuel along with Mike, Rob, Bernie and Jason shared thoughts and feelings about the tragedy, the federal case involving Aaron, the web community and issues they felt these events may highlight in the community.
The team shared recordings from Aaron’s memorial and respectfully shared their feelings about the dynamic of people in the community like Aaron. And for this, I want to offer my thanks. Also, thank you for highlighting the problem of self-awareness and depression for some in the community – to paraphrase: ‘If I can solve this project on my own, this technology on my own, this problem on my own, then I can solve my depression, my state of mind, my view of any situation’.
As someone who has battled with self-acceptance and depression as a young man, Aaron’s story has profoundly affected me. Listening to the words about Aaron’s personality, achievements and intelligent outlook from his peers and learning of the circumstances that lead up to the 26 year old taking his own life have evoked a strong response in me. For me it highlights a critical issue surrounding the development of the internet and our relationship with it. In an age of unprecedented access to knowledge, information and enlightenment, there is a stark and growing contrast of this freedom of enlightenment with disproportionate censorship and persecution of intelligence – a growing divide between those connected to the movement; and the unconnected.
For us, the community, this contrast can drive us to hide away and bury our feelings in our work and thoughts… must it be this way!? I agree strongly with what the 2600 team said on the pod, [again, paraphrasing] ‘we can’t solve everything ourselves. If things are going badly, if you find ourself in over your head, then reach out! Don’t delve deeper into yourself, your projects, your rabbit hole. Speak to each other! Get some help! Get some balance – it will pay dividends in the long run.’
I did not know Aaron personally, nor do I know what he went through, but I have directly benefited from his work and have been struck by his story; I have benefited greatly from the community that we shared; and I hope that his story and the characteristics he possessed – as so many of our online community folk do – do not remain unnoticed by the wider world for too much longer. I hope.