Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Internet and Society

A friend and I were having an email discussion about the Internet and how, unless you're very lucky, you end up having to deal with nameless and faceless souls who just want to cause harm.

The Internet has been likened to the wild west, a lawless place where people can say and do what they like. If they want to flame you, they do, if they want to call you names, they do, if they want to make you look ridiculous, they do.

Civility can be found but it doesn't seem mainstream. I feel fortunate to have run across some very nice people online, but I stay away from newsgroups and from discussion sites where the comments get unruly. I see commentaries at the ends of articles where people are just horrible with their language, insulting and vulgar. I don't need to see more to know what is out there.

Unfortunately, the media has found the Internet a good place to do their lazy work. Instead of standing on street corners to find out what people think, they check a newsgroup from the safety of their desk. Instead of digging through books for old data, they use whatever they dredge up online and that's all you get. It may be a time-saver but I don't know that it actually adds much to the conversation.

I do not deal well with confrontation, and when I get flamed, I just leave. It's not worth the angst and frankly the opinions of those kinds of mean people, who 90 percent of the time don't know what they're talking about anyway, aren't worth the time.

Anyway, I thought my friend had some interesting insight into this line of thinking about the Internet, and I wanted to share it. I've reworked it a little:

Abusing the Internet comes about when kids do their homework on line. Politicians and journalists skim everything from what is
already out there. There's nothing original about it.

It's really very sad and frustrating. It indicates a decaying society.

Our culture crested sometime in the1960s, with the civil rights movement and the various radical movements and the real consolidation of scientific understandings of our universe etc.

But we can't live like that. Not as a species. Most people are scared and crave simplistic, emotional, immediate surroundings. The
womb. The cave. So all this dead-weight is pulling back on us, is pulling us in. Religion is rising again, with people preferring the
certainties of dogma to the challenges of rational thought. Even scientists have decided, after 50 years of scanning the universe for signs of life (and we know now that radio waves, which we are scanning for, decay within a few light years actually) that in fact we are unique, that the universe is
engineered so that in just one place in all its immensity, life shall be possible, and we shall be its summit. Just one step to declaring God did it all, after all - the superstitious easy answer spreads.

And while people soak up new technology, it is for just one thing - to hive themselves off into warm, dark, noisy little cyber-caves where all they do is chant empty mantras together or engage in vicious hate-fests against one
another or whatever.

The creativity has gone. We aren't looking out any longer - we're just looking inwards, at ourselves, all the time. And pretty soon
there will be terrible food and energy crises and the whole infrastructure we depend
on will decay as well.

What do you think? Has society reached its pinnacle? Is the Internet a symptom of the downward spiral? Has the world gone mad?


  1. I think the ability to be anonymous on line causes certain people to let loose what they normally hide in everyday life. But on the other hand, the internet has connected people too in really beneficial ways. It is a good and bad thing I think. In everyday life, I suspect that people feel defensive and hurt by the lack of care most people show one another anymore. We really have become lonely, isolated people in some ways. God and all he taught us has stopped being the center of our society and the glue that helped us stay together.

    Interesting post, though! It's making me really think and it's a great question to raise.

  2. Hum, this is a stimulating post and one that I'd like to muse on a bit.

    On the light side, that can be part of the problem of the Internet. It's instant response without much thought.

    It also lends itself to younger kids that expect everything to be instant. Instant response, gratification, answers. It's frustrating as a librarian to see people that have very poor information literacy skills combined with entitlement issues that want others to do all their research. It isn't must the media, it's throughout all of our society.

    The first time I was ever "flamed" I responded and fired back. That actually only makes it worse. You do better to just groove on your merry way and don't take it to heart.


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