Technology in general and the internet in particular have been of both enormous benefit and created a large number of negative downsides.
On the upside, ease of communication is the big gain, directly through email (which is also becoming a handicap through sheer volume of spam and scams) and social media. Information is available in torrents and is instantly shareable. Like minded groups can function together for good, though also for evil.
1. Children and Young People Are Vulnerable
At one level, the nuisance of teenagers texting each other in classrooms; at the other, the ease with which pornographers and abusers find young victims. And this despite parental filters available.
Many criminals and perverts see the world web as a global playground for their games, an endless free supply of dupes.
In the early years of the internet, parents knew a lot less about it all than their offspring. That knowledge gap has levelled out more (though youngsters still win the use of technology stakes) in recent years.
But still the fact remains, that many older people see the separation with younger generations because of technology as a distinct disadvantage.
2. Youngsters Voting For Facebook, Not Politicians
The Electoral Commission has expressed concern that twice as many 18 year olds are registered with Facebook (1.05 million) as are registered to vote in elections (520,000).
The Commission has established campaigns on the social media networks to encourage young and first-time voters to get registered so they can take part in local and county council, Parliamentary and European elections.
Some young people assume the right to vote is automatic, not realising they have to be on an electoral register, though the fact is that fewer youngsters feel the need to vote compared with older groups.
As illustration, in 2010-11, 94% of those over 65 were registered voters, 76% of whom do actually vote. Would totally automated voting (like a TV talent show) make a difference for tomorrow’s voters/taxpayers?
3. Deafness Risk for MP3 Listeners
A late 2011 study by the University of Tel Aviv found that nine out of 10 young people use MP3 devices like iPods for several hours a day (some up to 4 hours daily) and at such volumes that they are endangering their future hearing.
Professor Chava Muchnik said that in ten to twenty years it will be too late that ‘an entire generation’ is suffering reduced hearing at a much earlier age than previous year groups’.
Hearing experts advise the 60/60 rule: listening for a maximum 60 minutes at a time and at no more than 60% of maximum volume. Try telling that to many of today’s teenagers – they’re not listening!
4. The Struggle to Stay Human
In 2008 Lee Siegal published a book, Against the Machine: Being Human in the age of the electronic mob. He admitted to being dependent on the internet himself (if just to check his rankings on Amazon books sales), so it was not an anti-web book, but the main aim was to warn about ‘dislocations’.
Thirty years previously, Daniel Bell had predicted that computers would substitute algorithms for intuitive judgement. The computer was clearly a ‘sort of crystalisation of all the hyper-rationalising trends in human life’. These trends run parallel with the evolution of the internet.
The point is that such developments influence ever more aspects of human life, from employment to investment, from education to family life. Siegal said that ‘it’s not healthy when people are dredging up from the very depths of their psyche their most intimate experiences and then parading them across the world stage, or so they hope, on the internet’.
He went on: ‘people are learning to perform their candour. They’ll put a camera on themselves on YouTube and sit in front of the camera and describe some poignant or ridiculous or sensational experience that they’ve had. By putting the camera on themselves in such a way they’re just turning themselves into objects to be sold on the world market’.
He called it ‘fame sickness’, and the engine driving the blogosphere is ‘mass resentment of people who are not obscure, who have things others don’t’. It’s the anonymity that gives it all respectability and validity. Everybody is now a participant in the prevailing culture rather than being a passive consumer. the amateurish is professionalised on the web.
That was (is?) the downside in 2008. Others saw (see?) it as a strength.
5. Chairman of Google
Eric E. Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google told a conference in Munich in February 2011: ‘children have two states, asleep and online’. To this day nobody is sure if it was meant as a joke or not.
Downsides, yes, upsides too. But would we be without it all? Probably not, Just as well we can’t uninvent what has been invented!