Is the Internet an Engine of Information–or Destruction?

I’ve been inwardly debating, as many likely have since the election, as to whether the internet is a “win” for the world; whether it’s more positive than negative. What’s the net of the internet? What’s the ultimate sum of its value? Yes, I can think of many, many positives. For me, a great one is its value to science as an information sharing tool; its instantaneity helps spread scientific data, ideas, so that research is rocketing ahead. This is enormously helpful to medicine, of course–it will accelerate the arrival of treatments and cures. It’s hugely useful in all the sciences. . .Then there’s its social value. The Web helped Obama get elected President and yes that was a *good* thing–no President is ideal for everyone (if any President ever seems that they are, stop taking the government issued Soma). It’s useful in quickly exposing corruption; it’s useful on the street level for organizing resistance to oppression….The internet is useful to artists, to writers, at times. It’s useful to business. It’s useful to isolated people who need help, or just contact.

But the negatives are *powerful*. If anything, lies spread more easily than truths–since lies appeal to something in a way that is as primeval as internet porn’s appeal. Internet media is designed–almost instinctively, perhaps unconsciously–to exploit the set up of the human brain. Our reward wiring, our hormones. Fake news is more exciting, usually, than the contextual complexity of real news…People who are frustrated, scared, find it pleasurable to engage in the release of simple explanations, the outre but exciting explanations of conspiracy theory…or racism. Racist imagery can be addictive, for those people. It provides the embattled a reinforcement that stimulates internal pleasure, a pleasure released by the illusion of belonging. The internet can provide that over and over and over. It’s free drugs. The internet was supposed to bring us together; it seems to bring at least as much divisiveness as unity. Human beings are what they are– in any medium. Do not underestimate the bestiality and malleability of the human mind.

The internet has evolved (or devolved) into a mind control tool. And since social media itself massages our narcissism, social media is addictive–it can be good but one needs self control to indulge in it–and in order to avoid the hard work of going back to my novel, I’m spending too much time online. So…later on.

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