I read an article today that was interesting, it was about how over sensitized some people have become, especially in colleges. Teachers have been fired, Universities embarrassed, and many are still struggling over how to handle it. Essentially, anything can be seen as offensive or uncomfortable to somebody. What’s fine for one student/reader/etc. will be bothersome to another. They’ve talked about making important writings and courses optional because someone might be bothered by it.
There are plenty of examples in the article:
Now, while that seems a little scary and strange, I realized it tied into one of my other theories about how the internet will lead to TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It, for non-survivalist reality tv show types. C’mon, I know you laugh at Doomsday Preppers). I joke about social media and smartphones being signs of the Apocalypse but this is a bit more serious.
Stick with me, this is going to take a little while.
When the internet first got big I was starting High School. My first impressions were that it was going to create connections the world over, which would be a good thing. You could be chatting with someone in Nigeria, color and social differences would seem meaningless, we could connect person to person in a way that has never been possible in history. Totalitarian regimes wouldn’t be able to control their populace once they realized life was different in other places, calling another country “evil” would seem silly as you could chat with the populace yourself. Overall, it seemed like the answer to a lot of the world’s problems.
Well, things have changed as I’ve seen how short sighted those first impressions were. Sure, a lot of those things eventually happened but there were many surrounding issues that I couldn’t have seen at the time.
Again, stick with me, this is going to take a while.
The problem is that there is soooooo much available that we can’t possibly take in all the available information. In fact, most of us don’t want to. So we find people and sites that conform to our world view and stick with those.
Consider this, twenty years ago if you liked to dress up as a Storm Trooper on the weekends you’d have a hard time finding a buddy to do it with you. But now, it’s all too easy to connect with people from various backgrounds that have the same preferences and ideas.
While the internet has to a large degree erased a lot of cultural and geographic divides… we’re dividing up ourselves online ideologically.
Don’t believe me, consider the following fictional example. Say you were a teenager who grew up in a small town in the South with a strong religious influence and very conservative values. You go online and find a lot of sites that make you uncomfortable, that put down all the things you were raised to believe, that introduce ideas that go against your background. There are two options, open your mind and try to learn new things, or you can stick with the sites that reinforce your own beliefs and blow off the others. There are a million places to choose from, it’s not hard to find a site you agree with, whatever your beliefs. Imagine the audience of Fox news compared to that of CNN.
Consider the examples from the article, how the youth are so angry about things that make them uncomfortable that they refuse to acknowledge those things have any value. They want to keep their head in a bubble because that doesn’t require restructuring and questioning themselves.
Rather than uniting everyone under the same global consciousness, the internet has allowed us to divide ourselves up into more and more concentrated groups based on beliefs. You can get your news from sources that agree with you, ‘friend’ people with the same beliefs on social media, isolate your influences to avoid everything else and bolster your own preconceived notions.
Now, combine that with The Monkeysphere and we’re up shit creek without a paddle. If you haven’t read that article, I highly recommend it. Basically, we are not physically capable of comprehending everyone else in the world as actual people. It’s like imagining every grain of sand on the beach at the same time, we can’t do it. We’re wired for social groups of around 150, everyone outside our sphere is the great ‘other’ that is made up of stereotypes and flat characters. They aren’t “real” to us as people, they’re just this thing that we have to interact with sometimes. (Really, read the article. It explains it all in a much more humorous and thorough way.)
Before the internet our sphere was made up of a wide variety of people that we interacted with on a daily basis. Our neighbors, our teachers, our family, classmates, the people on our weekend sports team, etc. People that we didn’t necessarily agree with, that had differing beliefs but were still ‘people’ because they were close to us.
The internet has allowed us to cut out almost anyone that challenges us and replaced them with people and sites that reinforce our core beliefs. And now, all the people that don’t agree with us are outside our sphere, they aren’t real people. Which means there’s even less chance of empathizing with them, they’re the great, evil ‘other’.
The internet is creating mini-networks within the whole that are allowing us to become even more isolated, radicalized groups. Compare #blacklivesmatter with #copslivesmatter. (And if you think that’s scary, check out the fringe group of the former #FYF911) Things get any more radicalized between those two and it’s not going to be pretty. Yet, by all signs, they are not finding any middle ground. They’re outside each other’s spheres.
In other words, the internet is going to tear the world apart, and none of this is going to get any better unless our brain drastically rewires itself in the next generation (or someone fries the internet). Which is just about impossible from an evolutionary stand point. Like Climate Change, there’s very little any of us can do to about it. It might not happen this year, it might not happen in the next five, but just watch and you’ll see the signs.
So, stock up food and water and popcorn, it’s going to be one hell of a show.