2 thoughts on “What’s “wrong” with the Internet and social media?

  1. A contrarian view might point out, according to Steven Pinker’s study of death records, that Hobbesian Man had a 14% chance of a violent death. Even after WWII and the atomic bombs were dropped, this danger had been reduced to 1-1/2%. Today, anyone in the world faces, on average a 0.25% chance of dying violently.

    I would argue that we have become better ping-pong players. The Internet reflects our quicker ability to reach conclusions from information, because we have so much more of it. We are far more completely informed now about almost everything, and make good decisions in the same way we respond to traffic lights instantly — precisely because we have already thought through the issue of who should precede whom on the road. We don’t need to sit at a light reading a book about intersections or call a tribal meeting to decide it.

    The ego trap we always fall into is to assume that “everyone else is dumb and getting dumber.” Not true. If the average Joe with an IQ test took today the test given in 1919, he’d have a score of 130.

    People aren’t getting more off-the-cuff about thought. They just know more answers. Many topics which used to puzzle people have been solved in their lives and they can respond almost automatically — like using a door key without reflection.

  2. Statements like “the Internet lures us into thinking with half a brain” falsely blame the Internet instead of social media for what’s wrong with discourse these days.

    Just like the difference between the “printing press” and “print media,” the “Internet” and “social media” are completely different things.

    Print and social media define content (i.e. what is communicated) whereas printing presses and the Internet define the transmission mechanism (i.e. how content is communicated).

    It is plainly obvious that content may consist of nothing more than simple “talking points” or “callouts” no matter how it is communicated. If printed, that content might look like a newspaper having only headlines and block quotes, but no articles — and would be no more relevant for our “slow” loop than a Tweet or your garden-variety Facebook post.

    It is equally obvious that content could comprise enormous mountains of information that would be no more relevant for our “fast” loop than a copy of Tolstoy’s War and Peace bought as a printed book from the bookseller instead of a PDF file over the Internet.

    In this context “fast” and “slow” refer to the time it takes someone to read and digest the content, not the time it takes to transmit it.

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