What has the internet, connectivity and the chance to participate regularly done to improve society?
That’s what I’ve been asking myself all week, and to the contrary of both the Taylor piece I read the week prior, and Clay Shirkey’s essay “Gin, Television, and the Cognitive Surplus,” I’ve developed a few not-so-novel thoughts about the whole mess I’ll refer to as the “Millennial Conundrum.”
I don’t think I’ve been very secretive of the fact that I, as a generality, have issues with the latter end of this newest generation of young adults.
We’ve got hyper-inflated egos; our parents have raised many of us to believe that we are a totally unique, special flower (as I suppose to some extent we are), and that we are somehow exempt from the harshness that life may have exacted on earlier generations.
This coddling, however, cannot, and is not the only fact in this degradation of the psyche of the world’s youth. I blame the internet and the culture of “participation” that Shirkey believed would lead to an influx of new thoughts, ideas and revolutions.
He wasn’t totally incorrect; in fact, on a many fronts he hit the nail on the head. We are constantly revolutionizing our society in a multitude of ways, except the ways that matter.
I say this because for every technological advance—for every social project (like the Wiki projects that track danger)—we’ve neutered ourselves in regards to all the social abilities we once had, and we did it by giving everybody a voice.
Please do not twist my words on this matter. I believe everyone has the right to voice their opinion, as it is promised by the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights, but just because you have that right does not mean you ought to exercise it when you have nothing of worth to say.
Look at the obvious, glaring facts of the case (as it can be verified just by talking to people on the street). Racism, having never been truly defeated, has become terribly infectious during this day and age.
The internet didn’t start that fire; police brutality mixed with the inability to act like regular human beings (I won’t make a racial comment; every skin color has their morons, after all) has led to the resurgence in racial tensions.
What the internet did wrong was give people the means to fuel that flame. Instead of creativity flourishing, all that has flourished is a “trolling” culture, where the best, most creative thing one might see is a suitably marketed meme.
Now we’re headed in the opposite direction it seems. Reagle wrote an article titled “Nazis and Norms” where he speaks about the development and importance of moderators on the Internet.
While I half-heartedly agree, I cannot say that the stench of cyber-censorship doesn’t make me a bit queasy every time I log onto my Mac.
These “moderators” have begun overstepping boundaries, censoring anything they don’t find to be “suitable” in any sense of the word, so much so that I’ve already been called a bigot within my own community because I supported a dress code at our local club, and that was viewed as being racist. I was subsequently banned for making an articulated argument, devoid of cursing or ranting.
Here’s the thing: the internet didn’t fail us—we failed the internet.
We’ve taken the greatest resource to man since the Library of Alexandria and turned into a schoolyard playground where tattletales are the heroes of the world.
It’s only a matter of time that, like Alexandria, it all burns to the ground.
Ryan Wasser is a fifth-year student majoring in English writings track. He can be reached at RW851045@wcupa.edu.