Sunday, March 22, 2015

Why the Internet Has Ruined Everything For Everyone Ever

The internet is a wonderful place. People are better connected, business can provide personal service in an efficient manner, and the increase of total knowledge is at the fingertips of nearly everyone. What's not to love about the internet?

And yet there's something unfortunate about how we've taken the greatest invention of modern times and ruined everything.

Okay, "ruined everything" is probably a bit of an overstatement, but not by much. While you can easily find the awesome on the internet, it's also easy to stumble upon its seedy underbelly. I mean, have you ever read a newspaper article and accidentally scrolled down to see the comment section? It's like a cesspool of ignorance and bad judgement, except that would probably be unfair to cesspools.

Let's take a look at some of the things that the internet ruins on a regular basis. First, let's look at perfectly acceptable pop culture icons. I've already written about my annoyance that the internet has taken one of our icons of innocence and joyfulness, Kermit The Frog, and turned him into a passive-aggressive asshole. But tomorrow it will be something else, some other beloved character that should be nothing but kind and decent and will be turned into the modern-day equivalent of Calvin pissing all over a Ford logo. Even today, Facebook feeds are full of blurry pictures of Minions--you know, the incredibly cute creatures from the Despicable Me movies--and turned them into horrible, petty jerks who spout off bumper-sticker insults.

I've long maintained that the internet--rather than bringing us all together--actually does the opposite. The literal worldwide connection that everybody has with everyone else is overwhelming, and thus, instead of expanding our horizons, we retreat to our comfort zones and surround ourselves with those who already think and feel and believe exactly like we do, which is incredibly easy.

In previous generations, you were more or less forced to engage your ideas with other people. Your ability to bounce ideas off of individuals was limited to who you knew, and chances are you knew a relatively wide range of personalities; moreso if you went to college or the armed forces. If you had a stupid opinion, you were probably going to have it challenged by someone at some point, and while you may not change your mind you were at least exposed to different viewpoints. No, not everyone was like that--it's very easy, especially in small towns and in certain regions, to be surrounded by like-minded people, but it was far more common to normalized your opinions.

Today if you have a stupid opinion, you can easily go online and find hundreds, if not thousands, of people who will back you up, and you can easily isolate yourself so you only ever engage with people who agree with what you already have. Thus you will never critically question your own beliefs. If hundreds of people in the internet agree with you, how could you possibly be wrong?

And the internet, in its quest to be efficient (and rightfully so), also has the effect of exacerbating this isolation. When you search for things on Google or shop for things on Amazon or bid on things on eBay, your computer tracks you, finds out what you like, and tries to refine your searches and behavior to match what you want. At first glance, this is awesome--the internet is going all the hard work. And yet that also means you'll never be exposed to new things or stumble upon something different yet awesome, which has the exact opposite effect of what the internet should be doing. (This is especially true when dealing with political issues--you often get caught in a circular feedback loop, since your search results will respond with things you already believe, giving you the perception that everything everywhere agrees with you.)

I'm a decidedly enthusiastic consumer of the internet age and social media; the far does, in fact, outweigh the bad. But let's all not pretend that the bad doesn't exist, and in fact the trends may be adversely affecting the younger generations who have not been exposed to any other system. There's a certain value in stepping away from the isolated world.

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