Friday, January 21, 2011

Those Left Behind

It still amazes me how many people don't "get" the Internet. I can understand technophobes and older individuals, but there seem to be a lot of people out there that still can't grasp how much the internet has changed the world.

I was reading an article about how the unemployed are looking for jobs, and a so-called "expert" advised individuals that looking for jobs online was a "black hole" that might be a decent first step, but the only way to really find a job is to buy a newspaper from 1985 and back-slap at the local Shriners. (I think. I may be mistaken in that last bit.) I mean, really? I can understand the sentiment of not wholly relying on just the Internet--you have to go to that interview at some point--but the internet is such a valuable tool for things like that it just seems criminal to advise people to downplay its influence.

Harper's Magazine has been undergoing some turmoil--too complicated to list here--but its publisher, one mega-rich Rick MacArthur, seems to have only a tenuous grasp on what the internet means. (This, of course, is why many blame him for said turmoil.) He hates the iPad and Kindle, he believes the internet "wasn't, in essence, much more than a gigantic, unthinking Xerox machine," and doesn't really like e-mail. As the individual pumping money into a loss-generating magazine, I suppose he can say what he wants, but one thinks that someone with such an odd grasp of technology should probably get out of print media.

And a lot of noise was made about the vast expanse of Facebook accounts--and, of course, a movie about it that very well could win Best Picture-- and I've witnessed a little bit of backlash from many corners. Mostly those self-important purveyors of internet culture state things like "I don't have a Facebook account, I have a life" or "I don't want to have to check statuses every five minutes when it's mostly teenage drama anyway." While Facebook isn't perfect, it's also one of the best aggregators of information and communication we'll see for some time.  What you put into it is what you get out of it, of course, but it's not simply a fad. (Granted, people were saying the same about MySpace, which is now effectively dead in its old form, but that was different; MySpace focused in style and letting 12-year-olds post glittery pictures of ponies and playing The Cure.) Even though Facebook has its own set of issues and drama-filled content, at least it looks halfway professional regardless if you're a middle-aged professional or a FarmVille-playing preteens.

In all of these cases, it's easy to glam onto the negative aspects of it. Sometimes, these thing can bring down an otherwise useful site--again, think MySpace--but like everything else in this world, if utilized properly these can be great benefits to society. And at this point denying that the Internet is a world-changing tool is simply foolish.

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