Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Question to Ponder...

"With the exponential explosion of online tools and services, at what point do we say that it's all worthless junk? At what point does it stop adding value to society and start detracting? For example - the proliferation of partisan, polarized blogs and even cable news channels is having a profound impact on our ability to function as a responsible democracy. What about Facebook, Twitter, you name it? Discuss."

(submitted by Jake C.)

1 comment:

Pam said...

This is an interesting question partly because, in general, I haven't tended to think of these things as junk -- first and foremost because I am under the idealistic assumption that they don't take up real, physical space and don't waste paper. I suppose, however, that this is a naive assumption. In fact, all of these websites require man (and woman) power to run and as with anything that requires human input, there is bound to be some waste involved. And, there is much hardware required to run each of these websites, so although it may seem to not take up space while I'm browsing on my tiny laptop, the reality is that *somewhere* it is taking up space.

Aside from that, I suppose my problem with all of these internet ventures is that we, as a free market society, are choosing to invest our capital into them INSTEAD of into other things -- real, tangible things that matter. [Like what, Pam???] And, what do they really contribute to our society? Spending more time on our computers is causing us to become even more sedentary. [*Wall-e* provided some disturbing scenarios of our potential future...] Also, it's forcing us to become more and more dependent on our computers -- as though the computer itself were our friend, and not just a means of communicating with friends.

What I have gained personally from the internet is an ability to access information quickly, which is like crack to a girl who loved to just leaf through the encyclopedia to learn new things as a little girl. The information I generally get from social networking sites is pretty limited. I learn where someone I haven't seen in a long time is and what they are doing and that's about it. Maybe I get to see pictures of their baby or husband/wife or new cat. It's harder to forget their birthday. New technologies that allow us to chat, play scrabble, and co-write stories together are fun. They certainly don't replace face to face interaction, but they add a new dimension to what's possible to do socially. We are combining what it means to be private/isolated and social - a totally new concept for the world, I think.

I think, like everything, there is need for moderation. The more time we spend on our computers, the more we long to take a break, go "off the grid" for a while, get back to nature, use our bodies, exercise, etc. I think it would be unfair (and inaccurate) to call everything on the internet worthless junk, but I would admit that there is much out there that doesn't add value to our society and does, probably, detract from it.