On Intellectual Curiosity and the Online Zeitgeist


In an ambitious attempt to respond to Yentl’s article on Generation Wuss, I’ve come to the conclusion that this characterisation of my generation is actually a confronting, but accurate term for the post-postmodern generation that seems to have it all, desire it all, know it all. We flaunt our lives by underlining the insignificant, taking photographs of the meals we eat, posting selfies in the local gym and making sure that our 400+ friends are well informed on where we are: ‘Ilona Roesli #maagdenhuis 52.3686492° N 4.890201111111111°E – feeling rebellious’. I’m not one to judge though–y’all don’t wanna check up on what’s on my Facebook-biz. However, how can we shake off this painful term in our digital age? I advocate the intellectualisation of curiosity.

There’s something laughable about our online behaviour. Just the other night, my roommate and I were laughing to the point of crying while watching this video about a hamster on a date. While we were both wearing headphones. In separate rooms. In the middle of the night. It’s a sad, sad situation that this accumulation of information is defined according to the number of animal videos we send each other. Is this our modern online zeitgeist?

No, it is not. You can call me optimistic, naïve or full of BS when I say that these social media distractions some deem as ‘obstructions’ are merely one of the elements we should take into consideration in our already failing time management. I have long been a self-declared enemy of a little thing called Wi-Fi, calling it Wireless inFidelity, until I came to realise I was distracted by everything offline as well. I am simply a curious human being.

But where do we place this seemingly innocent trait of curiosity in a world where we have it all (and flaunt with it), desire it all (awaiting likes), and know it all (between the cat videos and the infinite well of information)? Though I see no harm in finding pleasure in nonsense, as Nietzsche pointed out in 1878: “for it momentarily liberates us from the constraint of the necessary”, curiosity becomes a lonesome trait when we allow ourselves to get lost in the online maze. That is why I promote an intellectualisation of the online zeitgeist. It may be hard work, but it is a necessary response to Easton Ellis’s coinage of Generation Wuss. We all seem to ask: “please, please, please, only give positive feedback please”. Now it’s time to stop the weeping and be driven by intellectual curiosity instead. And there’s ample opportunity for our generation to do that online[1].


[1] examples: http://www.hitrecord.org/, an online production company by actor Joseph-Gordon Levitt or free online courses at https://www.coursera.org taught by well-known international universities.

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