Readin’ with Rachel: My recent revisit to Childish Gambino’s “Because the Internet”

Rachel Scully, Campus Editor

Over the weekend, I binged part of the newest season of the Dissect podcast, which thoroughly analyzes an album every season. The podcast looks into the album’s themes, lyrics and music. This season, Host Cole Cuchna explores the ins and outs of the 2013 Childish Gambino album “Because the Internet.” While the podcast originally caught my attention because it featured one of my favorite artists and albums, I grew more interested because of Gambino’s philosophy behind the album — how the worst and best parts of living in the internet age impact us.

Childish Gambino, also known as Donald Glover, wrote the album in 2012 during a dark time in his life when he felt very alone, according to Billboard. However, his work on the album does not stop at the music. Glover wrote a screenplay, created a (now defunct) website and made a short film to watch before listening to the album.

But why put in all this effort just for an album?

Glover wished to create a universal representation of how our lives on the internet impact our lives in reality, Cuchna explained. Glover even presented in his music how the two became intermingled in recent years. For some, life on the internet is reality. 

Each song displays how the main protagonist of the album, who is known only as “The Boy,” goes through a philosophical journey of self-discovery. Using Glover’s first words on the album, he asks himself, “Who am I?”

“Because the Internet” comments on the control the internet has on people worldwide. For example, the song “Worldstar” explores how people in the internet age strive to capture content in hopes of going viral for temporary “clout,” even if it means putting themselves in serious danger. The song’s name “Worldstar” comes from the website Worldstar HipHop, which is known to frequently post fight videos as well as other negative public displays. 

Listeners hear The Boy witness a shooting of a man outside a club. Instead of getting help, The Boy records it, and listeners later discover that The Boy’s coat was grazed by the bullet. He put himself in danger just to capture content for internet clout. This crucial moment changes The Boy’s life for the rest of the album. It was his wake-up call. He and many others just watched a man die without showing any sort of empathy. 

It makes you wonder when we started to lose our sense of compassion for others.

Instead of standing back and watching his life unfold through his phone, The Boy resolves to take control of his life in the songs that follow. 

While there are numerous layers to this album, the main takeaway is that we are thoroughly impacted by the internet, in both good and bad ways. Numerous studies show that social media have a negative impact on our mindset with some studies even linking them to depression. I have realized I need to take a step back from the internet sometimes — to turn off my phone and live my life without trying to impress others.

After re-listening to the album in full, I started to understand Glover’s philosophy, which is a continuation of the preceding album “Camp.” You can’t live life in the passenger seat, or, in other words, take control of your life. Don’t watch it go by through the window.