Logged On, Checked Out – How ‘Connected’ Are We Really?
If you are reading this article, you’re likely doing so either on your smartphone, iPad, Kindle, computer or laptop, for it is only by digital transmission that it can be received, unless you’re reading a printed copy, which even then, would’ve been obtained via the Internet. It’s breathtaking to consider that in just about 25 years the ‘Internet’ has gone from a relatively small number of users to being the global resource it is. Add to that Facebook is only 15 years old but is now used by 1.15 billion daily, and 500 million Tweets sent every day, or 5,787 every second, and it’s truly extraordinary to see how ‘connected’ the world now is.
If you’re like me, you remember a time when in order to look up an address you had to get one of those enormous phone books with font size 4 you could hardly read, and if you needed to do a term paper, unless you wanted to drive to the library, you’d need to consult the encyclopedia – Britannica if you were lucky and could afford it. The Internet, along with the vast array of information transmission devices or ‘machines’ as Bill O’Reilly likes to call them, has made the lives of everyday people, even the poorest, both easy, more convenient, potentially safer, and in a lot of ways, richer.
Want to learn how to cook a soufflé? Go on Google to get the recipe and YouTube to watch a demonstration. Want to redecorate your home? Look on Pinterest for ideas, and order products on Amazon. Want to watch that old movie that’s not available on RedBox? Order it on Netflix or online from the public library, and you can even have it delivered. Not only does the Internet and whatever device you’re using expand your reach, but it can do so all from the safety and comfort of your own home. I work from home – in my pajamas sometimes – so I know.
Another component of this vast virtual world is Social Media, particularly Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s often said that Twitter is a sewer, and it is. And so is Facebook. And I’m on both of them, so I know. Instagram is often used for different reasons – naked and excessively sexualized pictures for instance – but I’m not on it too much, so I don’t care. I only really go on there to look at hot guys, cool military sites or wild Big Game animals like Big Cats and elephants. And in that case, and with a special thrill of any stories of the animals killing poachers, just saying. Oh, and cats – I can’t get enough of the cat videos!
But back to social media. Facebook’s Mission Statement is in general a modification of ‘to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected’. Twitter’s is ‘To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.’ And putting the ever-increasing censorship and de-platforming of conservative voices or Big Tech collusion with China to censor its citizens aside, it’s true. On those two social media platforms, you can pretty much communicate with people anywhere on the planet to talk about whatever you want, particularly politics. I’m not one of those who either posts pictures on Social Media or goes on other people’s to look at things like what they did on vacation, etc., I use it strictly for politics, and that’s where the ‘sewer’ part comes in, for politics is definitely, as that crazy Never Trump guy says, a Dumpster Fire. Despite the vitriol, it’s fun, useful and a necessary, tool for conservatives.
For years, decades in fact, I as a conservative and Republican voter, have seen my elected representatives both ignore the will of the people who voted them in, (Are you listening Marco Rubio?) as well as roll over at the first twinge of criticism from the Left, so eager to appease and apologize, so unwilling to fight against the mob. Then along comes Trump, and with it these amazing platforms where not only he could fight, but we could fight too – and win! Once the domain of the Left, we’ve not only learned to meme and troll well, we’ve become a force for boycotts or anti-boycotts. In fact, the first time I ever ate Chick-fil-A was in response to the Left’s attacks on them for their constitutionally held right to support traditional marriage. It was perhaps the first time conservatives had fought back on social media so strongly, and won.
According to Wikipedia, on the Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day of August 1, 2012, ‘restaurants experienced a large show of public support across the nation with the company, reporting record-breaking sales. A consulting firm projected that the average Chick-fil-A restaurant increased sales by 29.9 percent and had 367 more customers than a typical Wednesday.’ From Chick-Fil-A to Target’s bathroom policy, Macy’s anti-Trump tie stance, to Dick’s Sporting Goods anti-gun policies…
Conservatives have voted with their feet and their wallets and shown they’re a force to be reckoned with. And so it is with Twitter in the age of Trump. Let a Leftist come out against Trump, one of his staffers or Trump supporters and the TrumpArmy swarms. And yes, I’m part of that Army – and damn proud of it!
Kids, however, are likely not looking at Social Media for politics, they’re looking in a lot of ways either for comparisons or affirmations, with some finding neither, and often feeling inadequate or worse. According to a 2017 Washington Times article on teen suicide, ‘Citing federal data and two nationally representative surveys of more than 500,000 adolescents, researchers found a strong correlation between the time teens began using smartphones a decade ago and a sharp rise in reports of serious mental health issues.’ And it’s not just limited to kids. According to a 2016 Independent UK article ‘A recent survey found as many as one in five people say they feel depressed as a result of using social media.’ There could of course be other reasons for the change, but it does seem to be a growing issue that the voyeuristic culture that the rise of social media and smart phones enables has changed our interactions with each other as well as the way we feel about ourselves. Add to that the increased use of video games, and which if a recent Washington Post study is correct…
‘Since 2008, the percentage of men under 30 who have not had sex the past year nearly tripled, to 28 percent’, the implications on culture and a society is unimaginable. And we’ll have to save for another conversation about the likelihood that the rise of school shootings and the relentless violence in entertainment and video games are connected!
In addition to the negative aspects of Social Media, the virtual world has every type of depraved criminal transaction you can think of, such as on the Dark Web, which enables the atrocity of buying and selling of not only horrific images of innocent children and adults, but the actual humans themselves. Pornography in general and child pornography in particular, is a hideous by-product of ease of online access, and what was once probably difficult to either watch or disseminate can now be transmitted from the privacy of one’s own home with the click of a button, as well as created with a machine that billions of people have in their hands at this very moment – the smartphone. You can now also buy illicit drugs, weapons and endangered and illegal to possess animals online, and though the agencies such as the nation’s militaries and Intelligence and Investigative agencies are tasked with finding and prosecuting, it still occurs, and seems to be only growing. You can’t find or stop everything after all, just look at the U.S. southern border!
So the Internet, Smart Phones and various other devices, as well as Social Media, while they have incredible value and positive attributes, also have very dark and destructive components and we need to examine them, both individually and from a policy perspective, something Tucker Carlson has been relentless about.
If the makers of these platforms and devices don’t even allow their own children to use them because they know they’re addictive and destructive, what does that say about the push to get them into as many hands (& thus minds) as possible, especially in the ‘education’ system?
I’m not advocating banning any of this stuff or even necessarily regulating it beyond general issues like mandates for age-appropriateness or against political censorship, I mean, I wouldn’t be to publish my articles if we did that!
I don’t have all the answers; I sometimes spend too much time on there myself! I just think we ought to consider what it’s doing to us, and that maybe our ‘connectedness’ isn’t actually so connected at all.