There are many things I despise about the internet: the addiction to its use that seems to be spreading like a virus; the disregard of writing and editing standards in its content*, the lowest common denominator tenor of most messages, which cater to puerile, malevolent gossip; its reliance on mass popularity to evaluate worth and value; its emphasis on the herd perspective.
Yet the internet is the great leveler, which can be good. Accessible worldwide, even under despotic governments with enough planning, wriggling, and techie knowledge, people are figuring out how to connect with others. Yes, a number of governments censor use and content, but they’re in roughly the same situation as the little Dutch boy trying to hold back the ocean at the dike. Smart phones leapfrog the purchase of expensive computers, plus they spread real-time images nearly instantaneously. News circulates in the same fashion, and the emotional temperature of a group be captured and distributed to observers around the globe.
Of course there’s the potential for hideous abuses, given the lynch mob mentality that can hold sway. The very rapidity of communications eliminates that period in which thought can amend activity. Arguments extend indefinitely with more strength than face-to-face encounters.
But there are benefits, too. Still since the 2016 national election, the internet has become a source of solace to me. I had real fears that our country had embarked on a period of political suppression and confusion, in which every belief I held dear was to be ignored, even violated. But as the weeks and months passed, people made their contradictory and outspoken voices heard. For every claim, there has been a counterclaim. The confusion remains, but if you’re determined, you can uncover facts, rational discussions, pros and cons on issues, topical developments in news and development.
This hasn’t happened before. Think of Armenian genocide in Turkey and Hitler’s Kristallnacht. If the internet had existed, perhaps more people would have responded to save Armenians or anticipated the Nazi horrors.
Or perhaps not. Starvation, internecine violence, persecution of ethnic groups, and other major issues still surface, indeed, appear to be proliferating. Still, they can’t be hidden any longer. People can reach out to inform one another,organize for improvement and change.
if we could just get people to use rational thought and good will to evaluate their actions before they take steps, we just might be on the path to improve human life as well as preserve the planet.
*People ignore the real need that rules of grammar fill to insure a reader’s comprehension. Yes, they’re arbitrary and nonsensical. But they also provide an agreement on the use of language, so you can tell what the speaker or writer means. Failure to comply not only leads to misunderstandings but also indicates a lack of education in the user. On an official website for a woman’s magazine, I recently read a person described as a “business magnet” rather than a “business magnate,” quite a difference. If a magazine written, edited and produced by professionals can’t maintain clear writing, why should I buy the publication?
Return with me now to the thrilling days of yesteryear. No, not the Lone Ranger, for those of you mature enough to remember that show. But to pre-Internet days.
For four days recently, my Internet connection was down. Frustrated? Yes. Unproductive, friendless, and isolated. No.
After I’d clicked on every piece of equipment in my possession designed to link me and the world at large, then discovered no signal, I panicked. What would I do? How could I work?
I admit pretty much every time I reached for a piece of information, be it a phone number, confirmation of a fact, or the weather report, and couldn’t get it instantaneously, I grumbled mentally. Particularly when I needed to confirm meetings with several people, or actually hold a meeting via Skype, my dissatisfaction increased. But I survived. I visited several locations with free Internet to catch up on essentials.
As I sought alternative methods to figure out when a snowstorm would hit, I wondered what people think Internet access is doing to us. Some are concerned that too much Internet reduces the deep thinkingthat leads to true creativity. Was I more creative without the Web? I don’t think so. My connections always seem to spark more ideas and exploration. However, I believe I got more actual, productive work done during the hiatus.
Then there’s the theory people whoare socially anxious are more likely to use electronic communication so they can avoid interaction. I don’t know if I qualify as socially anxious, but I definitely use email to avoid extended conversations and control the content. During the interruption, I had to use the phone which I hate to do. So only a few people heard from me, which probably was appreciated by all.
During times of crisis, such as the terrorist attack in Paris, I know I’d miss access the most. With television and radio, I can’t search for exactly what I want, and I feel inundated by uncontrollable floods of terrifying pictures and reports.
On the whole, my involuntary exclusion went well. I didn’t have withdrawal symptoms; it was kind of nice not to feel pressure to interact constantly. I missed little but the ability to look up word definitions immediately as I’m reading a novel, but little else. Still I felt out of sync with the rest of the world, disconnected. I was on the dark side of thedigital divide, one, we’re assured, creates an unbridgeable gap and marks the adult needy as surely as a poor child is labeled by being eligible for free school lunches.
To avoid landing in the situation in the future, I know what’s inevitable, I’m forced to be dragged kicking and screaming into the next stage of my techie progress—perpetual connection via a smart phone.