Internet Thought

Twenty years ago, the world was a different place. The Internet was in an infant stage, and mass access would not come for a few more years, and smart-phones even further down the road. Accessing information required more effort on the part of the researcher.  One could not simply reach into their pocket and have access to an entire library’s worth of information.

The advent of the Internet and technologies exponential growth has affected the way that man thinks and problem solves. It has aloud humans to become less dependent on our own memory, or humans have been slowly moving their memory from our brains to the more reliable system of a computer. The way that humans think is evolving, we are now using devices that fit into our pockets to supplement our knowledge and by doing so it is causing us to think and contemplate less. Instead of thinking about an issue, going somewhere to find out more about it and spending time researching, we can now find answers to the majority of life’s problems in seconds by simply typing in a few keywords. Nassim Taleb of MIT makes another interesting point, “By flooding us with knowledge, the Internet causes more confidence and illusions of knowledge.” Humans may feel like their smarter, but they’re hurting themselves in the long run.

This is causing two things to happen to humans, we are getting lazier about learning, but we’re thinking quicker. No longer must a person work as hard to retain knowledge because the knowledge is there waiting for them, all they have to do is remember how to access the information.  Humans now are processing information at a much quicker rate of speed compared to twenty years ago. With pocket Internet access and 24-hour news channels people are now constantly informed, they see a news story, process the information, and move on.

This is surely useful and efficient but there are negative consequences as well. Humans are becoming an A.D.D. culture, if we don’t get all the information we need in a 30 second clip then it’s too long for us to care. Technology has made people impatient; they can no longer wait for anything. If a person were to try and use Dial-up Internet in this day and age they would go crazy and give up waiting for their websites to load. But in the grand scheme of things dial-up is still an immensely quicker wait then it would have taken someone thirty years ago.  As blogger Bruce Friedman claims, “I can’t read War and Peace any more. I’ve lost the ability to do that. Even a blog post more than two or three paragraphs is too much to absorb. I skim it.”

While the creation and utilization of the Internet is an amazing achievement, and the growth of technology has definitely helped mankind, there are some drawbacks to it. Humans are no longer dependant on their own memory. They don’t have to remember when the Battles of Lexington and Concord were, because if they need to know the answer they can use the Internet to find out. Furthermore, it will only take a few seconds for them to find the answer, which creates a “need-to-know-now” mentality where if they don’t get an immediate reaction then interest is lost. The Internet is a great tool, but it still has flaws. It’s warping the human thought process, and if this trend continues then the human mind will suffer.

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We must Embrace Twitter!

Hilary Clinton stated that she couldn’t tell “a Twitter from a tweeter.” I have personally bashed Twitter and other social media sites many many times before, including in the majority of the blogs that I’ve posted so far. I also think that Clay Shirky is dramatically embellishing when he claims that Iran was completely transformed by social media. Perhaps Westerners are just looking for a way to justify hours spent in vain. But I do agree with Shirky that information and communication can lead to change, and that is exactly what these sites provide. In his article, “Does Egypt need Twitter?” Malcom Gladwell argues that people brought down governments before such sites existed. He goes on to say that, “Barely anyone in East Germany in the 1980s had a phone” and “in the French Revolution the crowd in the streets spoke to one another with that strange, today largely unknown instrument known as the human voice” (what a great line). However, Gladwell appears to be disproving his own point. No people didn’t have these means of communication then, so imagine what they can do now that they do. If they could do it then with nothing then today should be cake. Regardless of what we may think I think it is time -and this is very painful for me to say- to bite the bullet and embrace Twitter. As Huber said in class, we have to be there, cause our audience is there. Knowledge. We are journalists; it is our job to take interest in what the American people take interest in. I guess Hillary Clinton and I are both in the same boat in that soon we are both going to have to learn the difference between a Twitter and a tweeter.

 

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A tweet heard ’round the world

I am starting to wonder whether or not we can really credit Twitter for the Revolution in Iran. In his article Morozov compares Tweets to the childhood game of Telephone. As the message gets transferred, it becomes more and more confiluted until the original message is completely lost. Furthermore, most of the Tweets were posted by Americans or English-speakers who have pro-western tendencies, are biased, and do not proportionately represent the Iranian population. He goes on to call this type of activism “slacktivism” which has no real impact. I am not as harsh as Morozov, I do believe that Twitter had some contribution and any type of activism is good activism, but we do need to think critically and consider exactly who this information is coming from and what motives they may or may not have.

 

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A self-destructive revolution

In class we saw that video that told us that the creators of Facebook once work for InQTel and the Deptartment of Defense. I’m not a conspiracy theorist and I don’t think that Facebook is going to become SkyNet, but there is no denying that it is a superb data collector. Upon signing the privacy policy, we are granting our information to the site, which then sells it to advertizing agencies. Teenagers are excellent marketing tools, tell their parents what they want, and their parents buy it for them. My 15-year-old cousin lives on Facebook. She and her friends post everything they do and think. What better way to find out about human behavior, or better yet, what they want. It’s even thrown back at you right on the page; the ads that run alongside your profile are tailored to your interests. In our reading “Iran: Downside to the Twitter Revolution” Evengy Morozov explains how this can be taken to a more dangerous level. “As it happens, both Twitter and Facebook give Iran’s secret service superb platforms for gathering open source intelligence about the future revolutionaries…Once regimes used to torture to get this kind of data; now it’s freely available on Facebook.” I hadn’t even thought of this. If people are organizing protests online, governments can easily track this and preemptively strike. Imagine the irony when medium that helped to coordinate these revolutions is exactly what brings them down.

 

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You must change the same way as everyone else

“Without Twitter the people of Iran would not have felt empowered and confident to stand up for freedom and democracy…Where activists were once defined by their causes, they are now defined by their tools.” This line is from our first reading for the week “Small Change” by Malcom Gladwell. This line, especially the second part, absolutely broke my heart as I read it. Where they were once defined by their causes, they are now defined by their tools?

My boyfriend writes for a small magazine in our hometown, and he just recently finished an article about the “biddie phenomenon.” You’ve seen them, they are everywhere. Black stretch pants, Ugg boots, Northface jacket, cell phone out and fingers furiously texting away. It’s the worst on a Friday night, they stream through the streets, in herds, walking in mini-skirts and four-inch heels over ice-covered sidewalks in thirty degree weather. No jackets, not even tights…come on girls, what are you thinking? I’ll tell you. They’re thinking that some bro is going to think they look good. Because somehow, society has told them that it’s okay that they get the flu, but their ass better look damn good. By the way ladies, you look like idiots, and the guys do not think it’s cute. Sure they’ll cat call you as you walk by, but as soon as you turn the corner they’re shaking their heads and wondering how you could be that dumb. I’ve seen it a million times.

“Defined by their tools,” that’s for sure. These girls (and they are not alone, guys do it to) have completely lost their sense of independence. I’m even going so far as to say this generation has lost their sense of independence. Everyone just follows everyone around them. It’s to the point where if you look around in a bar on a Saturday night, every girl is wearing the exact same outfit. Not just alike, exactly the same: white wife beater tank top tucked into a black high-wasted mini and black heels. Exactly the same. This society runs completely on what you look like and what you own. What your tools are. And if your tools aren’t the same as everyone else’s, it’s not as good.

Now Gladwell tells me that not only fashion and electronics, but now even the way we protest is defined the same way. Not what you are protesting, but how you protest and what you protest on. And if you’re not doing it the same way as everyone else, you’re not cool? Isn’t the point to be different? To stand up for what you believe in because it isn’t the norm? The very essence of activism is a call for change. Watch out though, cause if you don’t change the same way as everyone else you might not fit in.

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Pending Opinion

After finishing this weeks reading, I tried to get on and start blogging right away, but I couldn’t. I am a very outspoken person, but on this particular day I experienced a crazy phenomenon, I could not form an opinion. When leaving class last week, I was pretty confident in my opinions on social media, and felt I had created a solid platform. At first glance, I was excited about the readings, because both sides of the story were present, so I knew I would get well-rounded information that could solidify my stance even more. Wrong. As I read on, I became more and more confused. Did Twitter really play a significant role in these revolutions, or was it just computer-crazed American teens who had no real idea what they were contributing to? Are these blogging sites legitimate ways to find out what’s really going on in the world, or just gossip networks that just happened to get it right once? Although my view is a little shaky, I know one thing for sure, we should definitely start paying attention.

 

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Lines must be drawn

After reading the first article, “Cynicism and the Faltering Public Will,” Rosen left me feeling encouraged, pumped up actually, to go out and do some real reporting. To bring back the essence of the Muckrackers and start making the public aware and bring about some change. And then I read the rest of the articles, and I’m right back where I started…discouraged, and once again questioning my area of study. I am not a tech-savvy person. I don’t blog or Tweet, I don’t go on Reddit, and I rarely even use Facebook. (I should mention I don’t have a cell phone or an IPod either-crazy right?) Not because I hate technology or the media, but because I’m a broke college student. Now don’t get me wrong I like the ITunes and the Internet, but for me it just comes down to the fact that online media is just not as good, all around. Just the fact alone that I hate reading of screens. I always buy novels and textbooks in hard copy. I like the way the binded paper feels in my hands, and physically highlighting sentences I like or writing thoughts in the margins. Call me old fashioned, but it’s just not the same with a cursor. That alone is enough for me. Then there are the small little details that many online sources are not even credible, and even if they have been some form of fact-checked, the information is not well-rounded. Most of these articles come from print sources, they rarely use primary sources. As stated in the article “The death of the news,” “Observation is the building block of not just journalism, but of all human knowledge.” We NEED primary sources, and we need more then one person reporting on them. How else can we get a well-rounded, educated opinion? I am a very out-spoken person and I am not saying people shouldn’t share their beliefs, but opinions should be left for the opinion section, and news should be objective. Provide all sides of the story, and let the public make up there own minds. I’m not saying death to blogs, but lines must be drawn. Go to blogs for someone’s opinion, go to a newspaper for the facts.

 

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