My wife very often says very insightful things. I am not always smart enough to understand the full depth of her meaning. I could give you many examples that would make you laugh at her wit and also cry at my stupidity. This particular moment I am thinking of, was less comical and more just plain thought provoking. She said “The internet has changed everything.” and before I could chime in and naively say how obvious that was, she went on to explain that, in particular, she meant everything that wasn’t even on the internet or seemingly related.
She was referring, specifically, to the subject of racism and how the internet has given people a forum to discuss whatever radical toxic idea they want, and for those wishing to hear it and find support for there own radical position. That the internet had transformed public awareness of radical views into the more mundane dialog of everyday. I think she is right.
It seems to me that 20 years ago people were more careful not to say racist things in public even if they believed them, but the fact that they’re exposed to extreme racism every day on the internet now has alleviated their fear of isolation or judgement. Crazy things seem to start on the internet and escape! Its a giant all-connected cross-pollinating petri dish of new and old memes. Some are good and some are very bad.
The internet has given us truly great benefits, such as being able to connect with almost anyone in the world and bring excellent ideas and valuable resources to people and places that desperately need them. It has, in many instances, been an agent of great positive change.
As I have discussed before, technology, like any other tool, can be used for good or bad. The internet is more than just a single tool. It is a tool that spawns, or makes possible, even more tools. It’s an enabler of other innovations, technologies, methods and forms of creative expression. It makes the impossible possible, even if it shouldn’t be.
Whether you think porn is good or bad is irrelevant to the fact that young people have far more access to it now with the internet and therefor hear about it a lot more in the school yard without a wireless connection to the net. That racist of every kind have many more groups to belong to than just the KKK. They can hold a meeting on-line any day of the week, but also, because of that, there are more real life meetings organized and attended as well.
If we turned the internet off now (something I would object to passionately) we could not undo the social impact. We need to understand how it has effected us. What realities have changed. What has the internet become and what have we become because of it.
The internet has made it likely for far too many people to correctly answer the question: what is Bukkake? Its a Japanese word we don’t need to have in our popular culture (judge my judgement all you want). To many people can quote racist comments, justifications and rhetorical garbage that certain internet and media icons have said and then been captured by the Google (no offense to the great Google, I don’t want to get any letters or have my domain name cancelled).
I mentioned earlier that I don’t think we should or could turn off the internet. I also don’t support censoring it (at least not by law, government or private enterprise). I don’t support banning books but there are many I have kept out of the reach of my children and I wish I could warn all adults about them as well.
What do we do?
We should talk about it. Probably on the internet since its one of the best ways to reach people.
The problem is us. We are the corruptor of the internet and the creators of the content in it. We need to fix ourselves.
Let me know if you have any specific solutions and remember I am not a book burner.
In my next blog I’ll post my own suggestion.