When Bowie Broke the Internet

The many alter egos that were David Bowie remain an enigma to us all and even himself. In a 1999 interview with Jeremy Paxman, a renowned journalist for the BBC, Bowie broke down several enigmas and predictions that had yet to be confirmed. Before watching this interview, I too, felt I had much left to uncover. In fact, I’ve been called an enigma myself. But after getting the breakdown on all things Bowie, some things in life are meant to be left to the imagination.

Bowie started off thinking he would write musicals for a living. Soon after creating Ziggy Stardust, Bowie’s career opportunities at the time were slim. He then chose to play the character himself and claimed he was a “natural performer”. Luckily, he felt more comfortable going on stage as someone else, continuing his creation of characters.

By the late 70’s, his characters began getting in the way of his writing and so he transitioned to a career as a singer/songwriter. In the 80’s, Bowie realized much of who he was stemmed from his many enthusiasms and that it was not up to him to try and identify what that meant. He had always been a very curious and enthusiastic person since he was a teenager. Bowie eventually became comfortable with himself after accepting his short-attention span and reoccurring boredom.  

“The less questioning, I did about myself as to who I was, the more comfortable I felt”, said Bowie. Similarly, I have come to realize that the less I try to understand the more comfortable with myself I’ve become. Afterall, growth does not derive from comfort, but instead from our conscience. 

Bowie moved on to further discuss the Internet and its effects on the music industry. He then predicted, “The potential of what the Internet is going to do to society, both good and bad, is unimaginable. I think we’re actually on the cusp of something exhilarating and terrifying”. 

Paxman responds, “It’s just a tool though, isn’t it?” As a millennial, I would have asked what in his narrow mindset gave him the audacity to undermine the future of technology? I digress.

“No. It’s an alien life form. Is there life on Mars? Yes, it’s just landed here,” Bowie exclaimed to Paxman. “The actual context and state of content is going to be so different to anything we envisioned at the moment. Where the interplay between the user and the provider will be so in simpatico it’s going to crush our ideas of what mediums are all about. It’s happening in every form.” 

The Internet decades from now, can you picture it? Bowie did. Mind you, this was back when internet navigation consisted of dial-up connections that brought you to text-heavy websites.

In 1999, the potentially catastrophic computer crisis, Y2K, lowered our expectations of computers and coding. 

However, Bowie looked beyond the barriers of coding and predicted a different type of revolution. A revolution where online fandoms take center stage. He saw the potential for artists and audiences of all forms to communicate with one another. After launching his own internet service provider, “BowieNet”, the importance of fandom online became increasingly prevalent to the media. A social network centered around music produced years before the arrival of Facebook. 

“That grey space in the middle is what the 21st century is going to be about,” said Bowie. The ‘grey space in the middle’ may just be another enigma left undetermined, but was Ziggy right, or what?

May we look to future innovations with open minds and optimism as we navigate through our own ‘grey space in the middle’. In life, there are many things that appear mysterious, puzzling, or difficult to understand, even so may we accept the beauty in the demystification of our surroundings, ourselves and ultimate possibilities.

As Bowie once said, “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring”. 

One thought on “When Bowie Broke the Internet

  1. I love this! It’s so interesting that Bowie imagined a form of what the internet has brought us. And I love the last paragraph and ending of this piece – hopeful and positive. Left me smiling at the end 🙂


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