Is it Time to Destroy the Internet?
By Gregory Myers, Toptenz, 16 June 2019.
By Gregory Myers, Toptenz, 16 June 2019.
Today we live in the age of instant information and instant gratification, and many people feel they cannot live without the internet. However, for the longest time humanity did just fine without it in their lives, and we could do so again. In fact, the truth is that at this point, the internet is probably doing more harm than good to humanity, and it would be better if it just went away for a while. While that may sound radical to some, we have our reasons for saying so, which we will explain in today’s article.
10. The Internet Can Connect People, But It Can Also Isolate You To The World Close To You
Many people like to talk about how it is such a great positive that the internet connects people from all over the world on sites like Facebook. However, when you really stop to think about it, while it seems like it is keeping us all connected, it can also keep us isolated without us even realizing it.
The problem is that when we see the little status updates, and get that dopamine high, especially when we are already busy with real life; it fulfills this part of our mind that believes we need to stay in touch with people and spend time with them. That psychological fulfillment makes us think we are being connected, but unless we are actually at least having conversations and talking to them through messenger, we are more alone than ever, despite being able to see pictures of their children and leave a like or two. We may be more connected, but we are also more isolated than ever.
9. The Internet Has Almost All Knowledge, But It Lacks A Filter To Help You Evaluate It
The internet is often praised because it is a repository of pretty much the sum total of all human knowledge (minus certain things that are secret or classified). However, while this may sound like one of the greatest things ever, it is a double-edged sword and comes at a great cost. We were always able to get to the vast majority of humanity’s non-secret knowledge through libraries or other sources, but it took us longer to do so, and required us to go through more trusted sources first.
Now, through the internet, we can find thousands or even millions of results about the same thing, and there is no guarantee they are going to agree on any given bit of information. In fact, more often than not, they don’t. When researching anything online, you have to be careful about who is and isn’t a legitimate source. This can be tricky because the internet has made us all think we are experts on everything when we really aren’t. Evaluating information when you don’t know a subject well already is extra hard, and if someone wants to build a foundation first to understand the information they found on the internet, they usually try to build that foundation of knowledge…on the internet.
8. Facebook Has Become So Omnipresent It Is Sui Generis In Terms Of Power
Sui generis means “in a class of its own” and that is basically what has happened with the social media site Facebook. It has become so dominant and so powerful that its influence can practically be compared to that of many governments, and there is little in the way of real regulation to control how or why they do business the way they do. Some countries have occasionally turned Facebook off for a bit in times of crisis, but the backlash is usually so fierce that it quickly returns.
This brings up the question about what to do with something like Facebook in the long term. As a single company, without taking any of our money, they have managed an insane amount of influence over our daily lives, and no social network, or social habits, seem currently capable of breaking people of that influence (or addiction, as the case may be with some, due to the constant dopamine high we get from scrolling through). The truth is that something like Facebook is simply unprecedented in known human history, and it could have unknown ramifications decades from now - it is already hard to quantify just how much it is changing the way we interact, and removing the internet entirely may be the only way to stop it.
7. No Bad Idea Cannot Be Found With Detailed Instructions And Advocates For Its Use
The internet is a place where you can find information about pretty much anything - and sometimes you don’t even have to look that hard. Unfortunately, this isn’t limited to just the good stuff. If you want instructions for how to 3D print a gun, or make bombs or other dangerous things, you just need to hop online, and that’s really only the start. If it’s illegal and you can think of it, it’s online.
And the internet just isn’t policed that well, as people are uploading things constantly and creating new web pages all the time, and there is little oversight. The FBI and other international organizations are constantly looking for things like child pornography and some of the worst, most illegal things that are being shown, sold, or given instructions on how to do, but it’s like trying to remove all the water out of the ocean with a bucket. And, to make matters worse, a lot of legal gray areas make the information hard to take down as long as the person says they aren’t actually using it, and that it’s just for educational purposes.
6. The Internet Has Normalized All Kinds Of Bizarre Fetishes Into The Mainstream
Now, don’t get us wrong, we aren’t saying we are prudishly against pornography or that there is anything wrong with something that consenting people do in their own bedrooms. However, the proliferation of pornography on the internet, as satirized by South Park, has often made it harder and harder for a lot of people to get off simply by watching, reading, or thinking about normal, vanilla sex. It’s practically boring now to some people (you can find dozens of articles online about whether or not you should “shame” people for liking vanilla sex), and almost every piece of sexual media now has some kind of strange fetish, or some special element to it to make it more interesting.
In a way this is not surprising, as the internet has led to a renaissance in terms of high quality entertainment, but it has also led to a situation where many young people start getting into sex and expect things that may not necessarily be reality. And also, while it may be easy enough to find people into the stranger fetishes online, it may be a lot harder to find a partner who is also into it, and the internet is full of people talking about how they are struggling either to get their partner to accept their fetish, or deal with their partner’s strangeness. This doesn’t mean it’s wrong to have a harmless but weird fetish, but it has made a lot of young people have unrealistic expectations about sex, and maybe given them an inaccurate view of how easy it is to find a compatible partner that shares a rarer fetish.
5. Child Pornography Has Proliferated Like Never Before
In the age of the internet, child porn has become a huge problem, and it isn’t showing signs of stopping anytime soon. The problem is that the internet is worldwide and people can upload things from any corner of the globe, which makes it hard to actually punish or get to a lot of people even when you do realize who is the one perpetrating the wrongdoing. You may have to refer things to their country’s law enforcement and wait, while children are suffering. And of course, that is if you can track them to begin with, as evil child pornographers are constantly using new tools in an attempt to stay anonymous with the authorities.
And for webmasters, you cannot just ban people in most cases from posting pictures at all (you would have no one left using your websites), so instead, with a combination of automated programs, and often traumatized humans, we as a species play a grim game of child porn whack-a-mole. But as long as the internet exists, especially as the mostly unregulated international entity that it is, it is unlikely we will ever be able to eradicate it from the worldwide web entirely.
4. Bullying Has Now Been Taken To An Entirely New Level In The Modern Age
Back in the day, if you wanted to bully someone you had to at least have the courage to face them in person, or maybe call their house, which required a little more nerve than a quick message on Facebook. Now, people feel emboldened to simply be mean, and to constantly attack others all day on social media, even when they know full well if they pulled that in person they would probably get a very real punch in the face. Now, whole gangs of kids can easily harass one person without leaving the comfort of their homes, and drive them to suicide.
And it’s rather hard to properly punish them for it. Unless they are actually demonstrably encouraging someone to commit suicide, that kind of intent can be hard to prove, and punishments are much less harsh for minors anyway, from a legal standpoint. The truth is that as long as the internet exists, at least as such an unregulated entity, it is going to be a hotbed for bullying, whether it is just an individual or an entire group ganging up on other kids, and it is going to be very hard to stop. It gives bullies a feeling of power, and it causes the victims to feel like they never have a place they can go to escape the pain. Some would say just go offline, but with the youth of today, that pretty much involves social isolation, so it isn’t really an effective or long term escape from the bullying.
3. No Matter How Bad What You Believe Is, You Will Find Friends Online
Before the dawn of the internet, if you had really awful ideas, such as racism, it would be really hard to find that many people who agreed with you that vociferously, especially depending on where you live. However, with the help of the internet you can find people who will agree with any bad idea you have. You could believe that young boys should be able to consent to sex like NAMBLA, the very real organization satirized on South Park, or that sex with animals is okay, or whatever bad idea you can imagine. You will find friends on the internet. And it has gotten bad enough that you will find people who not only think it isn’t so bad, but will defend it (and you) to the ends of the earth.
This allows bad ideas that were on the fringe, and dying out, to see a sudden resurgence in popularity, and infect an entirely new generation with some of the same old bad ideas and behaviors we once thought we had eliminated. With the help of such mass communication, it is all too easy to ensure that no bad idea ever truly dies, and sometimes even returns stronger than ever.
2. It Is No Longer A Bastion Of Free Communication, And Its Usefulness Is Ending Quickly
Net neutrality has officially ended in the USA, and despite efforts to curtail the inevitable, the telecoms are winning the battle, and their money is winning the day. However, after all that spending, all they really may end up doing is killing the internet once and for all, and as such foolishly killing their own business off like the greedy idiots they are. The truth is that the free enterprise and fairness and ability of anyone to do anything on the internet was what made it useful, despite the double-edged sword aspects, and with that gone it will slowly become more like a slightly interactive form of cable television.
When the big telecoms start to control more and more corners of the internet, and independent and burgeoning websites begin to die off, people will find it less and less useful, and perhaps spend more time interacting with each other in person for a change, or at least reach out through telephone chatting more, instead of just “liking” or “retweeting” things. The fact of the matter is that when something that was all about free communication becomes…well, not that, it’s hard to expect it to exist much longer, at least in anything close to its current form.
1. It Has Almost Become “Too Big To Fail” and The Consequences Could Be Dire
Now, the argument by some when we talk about moving on from the internet is that it’s almost too integral a part of daily life, and “too big to fail.” However, the argument against this is the same one many made against bailing out certain banks after financial collapses. The idea is that if something is too big too fail, then we need to let it fail anyway and fix the mess regardless of the pain, because something that we can live without, but that is “too big to fail,” is overall a detriment to society that will eventually collapse on its own.
If we control the collapse, we can at least mitigate the damage. However, if we wait until it’s too late, until the internet really starts to fall apart on its own, the damage to our social and other physical infrastructure is going to be much harder to contain, as it will not really be a “controlled dive” off of our dependency on the internet. However, the good news is that we have lived without it before, and we can live without it again. And if we could end our dependence on the internet, we could still be technologically advanced and have quick communication, but go back to a better, more thoughtful society that spent more time on real life, personal, meaningful interaction, and was happier and better for it.
(Then again, until the internet does in fact die, we encourage you to keep coming back to TopTenz and maybe checking out our YouTube channel.)
Top image credit: Generoso Abenante/Wikimedia Commons.
[Source: Toptenz. Top image added.]