BG 110 – Thoughts on the internet and social media

There is nothing inherently wrong with the internet and social media.
They are very useful and popular.

But because politics, education, healthcare and legislation always lag behind technological developments, especially since the exponential growth that is inherent to digitization, a number of things have been messed up.
– A handful of computer geeks have become absurdly rich with the introduction of the internet, online commerce and social media. It’s time we pump those extreme riches back into society. We could even use that money to solve climate problems and restore nature.
– That same handful of computer geeks have become far too powerful for lack of appropriate legislation. It is high time we gave that power back to our elected representatives.
– A large group of users of the internet and social media have inadvertently become addicted to dopamine kicks, addicted to shopping, victims of psychological problems and/or convinced of extreme and incorrect ways of thinking.

But now back to the technology.
The internet is a wonderful system that gives the majority of people access to almost all existing knowledge. We all benefit from that.
Social media were created to facilitate and revolutionize our social interaction. That also worked out well.
But not in the way we envisioned.

Guess what? Social media are not an exact representation of society, as many users seem to think and fear, but rather show us the (often false) highs, the lows, the excesses, deviations and exceptions of human society.
Of all the people who use the internet, only a small group generates the most content. Then there is a slightly larger group that responds to that first group. And then you have the vast majority of internet users, who do not produce any content themselves.

What is posted? People usually post and share what they care about most.
And the people who respond to that, usually do so quite violently. They often either strongly agree or strongly disagree with what was originally posted. They also often feel compelled to ‘protect’ the original poster against different opinions, or to attack him/her because of their own differing opinion.
Sensible people, who don’t think in black and white, but realize that life is made up of countless nuances, usually refrain from commenting, which often results in a lack of common sense, sound knowledge and fact-based arguments.

What do we prefer to see and share on social media?
Unusual and exceptional opinions, images and events.
They make our hearts beat faster, so that’s what we want to see and share.
We mostly post and comment on things that make us angry or excited.
Those things stay with us longer than beautiful, good and positive things.
Because of this, social media threads often quickly turn into cesspools.

Then there is the continuous nature of the internet.
We used to rely on news media such as newspapers, TV and radio to keep us informed about what was going on in the world. There was some competition between those media, but they had a common goal: to inform us as accurately as possible.
Since the introduction of the Internet, there have been thousands of full-time newsmakers who want to provide us with news 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and who compete fiercely with each other for their advertising revenue. As a result, there is now much more news than we need. The result: newsmakers no longer show us together what is going on in the world, but they all try to attract our attention with exceptional reports. With clickbait, with those exceptional opinions, images and events that make our hearts beat faster.
And they give us the opportunity to react (strongly) to that news of exceptions, making the cesspool even bigger.

The entertainment media have also faced competition from anyone with a computer or mobile phone with a built-in camera and microphone. In this way, exceptional entertainment and news is continuously posted on the net and the net is flooded with messages from pseudo-specialists, such as influencers. And the group of commenters is also very vocal about that! The distinction between news and entertainment has virtually disappeared and the average internet user finds it difficult to distinguish between truth and fantasy.

And so, the internet has turned not into a mirror of our society, but into a grotesque distorting mirror that deforms everything.
Now don’t think that the internet and especially social media have “brought evil into the world.” Of course not. They just show us what was already there, who we humans already were, but by grotesquely magnifying some aspects.

My advice?
Use and enjoy the internet and social media, but take them with a big grain of salt.
Keep in mind that there are other, less insane, exceptional, angry, commercial, and dopamine rush-oriented ways to spend your free time.
And that there are ways of interpersonal contact that are not based on excesses, on commercialism, on false pretenses and on ‘Look at how great I am!’, but on friendship, patience, creativity and respect.
Use the internet and social media in moderation, to leave room for all the beauty and everything interesting in the non-virtual world around you.

Finally: take my advice with a grain of salt too, because I’m of course not a specialist.
I just wrote my own thoughts on my own little piece of the internet.