It has become self-evident that the interweb is a game-changer in human society. It is generally welcomed — rightfully so — as a big step forward in terms of access to information. More crucially, it’s a giant step forward in sharing information, which is what Tim Berners-Lee originally intended.
But, as with any powerful tool, there’s a Yang to the Yin, and something as extraordinarily powerful as the web is bound to have a strong Yang balancing that Yin.
If we consider the web as we know it as beginning in 2001, we’ve had 15 years to study the effects.
Perhaps more interestingly, a growing crop of young people have never known a world other than one with a thriving interweb. We’re starting to see the ‘before and after’ picture of the world with web.
Which is all by way of saying: This bottle of bubbly is labeled Interweb!
They all lurk out there in the cyber-world: perverts, predators, bullies. But the scariest threat may lie within ourselves. Author Mary Aiken warns that as the Internet increasingly dominates our world, our life online is fundamentally changing the way we behave as humans. We can look away, we can deny it, but the more we’re online, the more compulsive, more secretive, more cruel and more disconnected from our better selves we are liable to become. This cyber-effect not only threatens adults but also is influencing our children and the kind of grown-ups they will be.
We may debate nature versus nurture, but I’m sure we all agree nurture does affect people. A child reflects its environment.
The consequences of the anonymity of the keyboard are well-known to anyone who’s spent much time on the internet. The same phenomenon that lets drivers feel okay about flipping someone the bird from the safety of their car (but would never do it face-to-face) operates big time when hidden behind an internet alias.
For a bit of comic relief, I caught an article in The Verge about two bat lickers:
Two kids entered a bat cave (sounds like the opening to a joke), licked a hibernating bat (why? because why not), took photos for their Facebook page (share that shit, bra!), and spray-painted their names on the wall.
It was that last item that got them caught when other hikers saw it. That let authorities search the web and find the Facebook posts. Both received fines for their actions.
The article quoted part of their Facebook conversation:
Gill: Bad ass time bro (1:44pm)Name withheld: Oh the things you do to make me soooo [sic] proud? Touching a bat with your tongue…ummm not so much lol (3:15pm)Gill: Lol it was soooooo [sic] worth it. (5:04pm)Name withheld: Bet that was fun Lmao (7:48pm)Gill: Yes it was we both licked a bat haha (8:21pm)
For a more public and notable case of such infantile, idiotic behavior, two words: Ryan Lockte.
I mentioned yesterday that NPR is removing the comment section from their articles due to nasty behavior (The Cyber Effect!). Chris Cillizza applauded their action in his Washington Post article.
He writes about his own efforts to moderate The Fix in 2006:
Then I gave up. Because none of the tactics or strategies we tried had any real effect on the quality of the dialogue happening on The Fix. No matter what the original post was about, a handful of the loudest — or most committed — voices in the room hijacked the comments thread to push their own agendas. Anyone trying to urge the conversation back to the topic at hand — or even something approximating the topic at hand — was shouted down and shamed.
Shit wins, and the web seems to tap into our ability to embrace our inner shithead.
Negative behavior aside, the web affects our day-to-day behavior in myriad ways. In his article The tyranny of messaging and notifications, The Verge, July, Walt Mossberg writes how messaging and notifications interrupt us constantly in ways that seem to demand immediate attention.
Sometimes, I yearn for the old days of email dominance (I can’t believe I typed those words). Why? Because despite the spam, you could be pretty sure you were good if you just checked it a few times a day, since most people used it as their primary means of written communication and they usually didn’t expect an immediate response.
A text, or short internet message, on the other hand, seems to demand instant attention, and may even lead to a whole thread of conversation. This can sometimes be delightful or enlightening, but it takes you away from the moment — from your thinking, reading, working. It steals your attention at a time of the sender’s choosing.
The web is a young but growing beast that we’re still learning how to live with. There’s no questioning its upside. It’s just that we tend to open Pandora’s Box first and worry about the downside later.
Several articles have gotten into the Internet of Shit aspect of IoT (the Internet of Things), but none more than the actual Internet of Shit, which is both a Twitter account and a website of its own.
The founder of Internet of Shit wrote an article in The Verge about the absurdity — and pitfalls — of using an app to control your thermostat. Biggest on that list, and a definite no-go for me, is that it requires the server to actually make the change! You talk to a server, the server talks to your thermostat.
Assuming it all works.
I’ll leave you with this:
Yep. A toaster that toasts in (rather large) individually controlled pixels. Not a commercial product yet; there’s a Kickstarter campaign to fund it.
Printing messages on toast. The mind boggles. Wouldn’t show up on the kind of breads I toast anyway.