The INTERNETZ is NOT destroying society

Telling the world that the internet is not destroying society is probably not going to get me a ton of hits, because who wants to read an article that is stating the obvious? So I thought I’d draw attention by misspelling internet.  If I really wanted to get hits, I’d lead with some bald face lie like “‘The Demise of Guys’: How video games and porn are ruining a generation” whose main thesis is that young men growing up with video games and easy access to porn is distracting them from normal social activities, or “We expect more from technology and less from each other” whose main thesis is that the growth of texting and social media is making us too social, and we are losing our ability to be alone.  I love it when sensationalist headlines contradict each other.

Then there are the rash of Facebook doom and gloom articles: Facebook is destroying Google, Facebook is destroying Twitter, Facebook is destroying Virtual Worlds.  How long before we see an article claiming that Facebook is a threat to the human race itself? It came out yesterday, actually.

Games and Porn destroying society?

So where to start?  Lets start with the new book The Demise of Guys:

The premise of the book is that a generation of boys addicted to video games and online porn is leading to the decline of the male half of the population. The CNN article cites a lot of anecdotal info without much actual scientific citations.

There is a lot of stuff to talk about here and it is worthy of a discussion.

The book seems to focus on video game and porn addiction in boys, and blames the usual suspects: parents. Then it apparently tries to discuss the problems this is causing to society, and DAMMIT WE SHOULD DO SOMETHING!

Lets be realistic here. Yes, virtually all boys, young men, and even older men are playing video games these days, they are also watching porn. A slightly lesser percentage of girls, young women and even older women are also playing video games and watching porn. This is no doubt having an affect on society, but lets put that to the side for now.

Now what percentage of the people playing video games and/or watching porn are actually addicted to it? Research shows the percentage is actually pretty small, like 3% tops and probably closer to 1%. This is of course varies depending on what you would call an addict, but I’d say the usual definition involves engage in an activity to such an extent that it threatens our health. I’d say that is a very small percentage. Because it is a small percentage, the affect of video game/porn addiction is likely negligible, and therefore it cannot be ruining a generation of guys.

So lets stop beating around the bush and get to the heart of the issue:

Is the prevalence of video games affecting our society, our culture, our relationships, and changing the psychology of young growing minds? Absolutely!

Is the easy availability of porn affecting our society, our culture, our relationships, and changing the psychology of young growing minds? Absolutely!

And now for the REAL debate question: Is this a bad thing?

Considering that every society where video games have become popular has seen a reduction in violent crime; Considering that every society in which internet porn is widespread has seen a reduction in sex crimes; Considering that video games have been designed to make players happy, and that positive psychologists have shown that artificially generated happiness is just as good as genuine happiness. I’d say, the answer is no.

But, but, but, video game playing has been demonstrated to reduce the ability to learn in traditional school settings. Then maybe it is about time to dump the traditional school definition of learning. Learning by playing games, works extremely well.

But, widespread porn is changing young people’s ability to have “healthy” relationships that lead to marriage and family and more children. Time to dump the old fashioned definitions of “healthy” relationships then. Kids today are smarter about sex and relationships than any previous generation. A lot more of them are choosing not to get married, and not have kids, and the ones that are are doing it later in life, and choosing smaller families. Young people are going to have relationships, because that is what young people do, but they have a lot more freedom today. There is no bad here.

Video games and the internet is changing society, that is a given. Some change will be good, and inevitably some change will be bad. But the only real threats are to those that do not want society to change. To hell with them!

(Note, the above was originally posted by me at SL Universe forums where it got over 250 responses do far.)

Texting and social media destroying society?

The second sensationalist headline comes from Professor Sherry Turkle who is someone who is very thorough with her research. Again, she is pushing a book: Alone Together

As I was watching her TED talk on the topic of texting and social media’s affect on society I was making some live notes:

“The illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship” … And this is bad because?

“We turn to technology to help us feel connected in ways we can comfortably control” … You say it like its a bad thing.

“Being alone feels like a problem that needs to be solved” … Actually no, I’m fine with alone. It is other people that need stuff that feels like a problem that needs to be solved.

“Constant connection is changing the way people think of themselves” … Yep that’s the way it has always been. I bet there was someone like her when the telephone was invented, and when the radio was invented, and when the TV was invented. The world is changing, and I am cool with it.

And then she ends the talk, talking about learning to be alone with ourselves. Hmm, as someone who rarely texts, never bring a cellphone anywhere, only talks to people at work because that is what I am paid to do, and does not even have a twitter account, I guess she wasn’t talking to me.

Ultimately this is the same issue with video games and porn above. Getting addicted can be very bad, but what percentage really are addicted?  Probably an even smaller percentage.  But let’s ask the second question: Is texting and social media a bad thing?

Oddly this is a far more complicated issue than video games and porn issues. Social media has sparked revolutions and organized protests that have succeeded in changing the world, so it can’t be all bad.

On the other hand, I remember being able to go to the break room at lunch and actually talked to my fellow co-workers.  Now everyone goes to the break room and jumps on their cell phone.  It is too noisy for a conversation, so I go outside to the smoking area.  Not because I smoke (I don’t), but people actually talk to each other out there.

So yes, social media is changing society.  Some change will be good, and inevitably some change will be bad.

Facebook destroying society?

Once again the author of the sensationalist article is selling a book: Digital Vertigo.

Once again, the author is saying change is bad.  I’ll say change is not all bad, etc.  No need to belabor the points for a third time.

The internet first went online in 1969.  The first author to predict that “information overload” would radically change our society was in 1970.  Toffler was right, society did change, and overall those changes have been positive.

6 thoughts on “The INTERNETZ is NOT destroying society

  1. Alex Jones May 31, 2012 / 10:57 pm

    Plato thought the invention of writing would destroy society.

  2. phynoxum June 1, 2012 / 12:36 am

    I saw articles about this on CNN and felt pretty much exactly the way you expressed in your blog here. I remember hearing countless stories about how our parents would play outside all the time when they were younger, when it was fun to get a group of guys together and play baseball, or cause some non-malicious mischief in the neighborhood. In the past people were much less restricted, the world was a bigger place, and people in an area or town knew most everyone else in the town as they relied on their neighbors to satisfy their social needs. In present day, the world is a much smaller place, and people are constantly in motion at a faster paced life style that just doesn’t have the time available for people to spend forming strong social connections based on physical location.

    Personally I enjoy my physical friendships and relationships, but being in a lifestyle which changes my physical location with the tide, it is impossible to maintain those friendships and relationships without having a means of “being there” without physically being there. This is where the internet has taken the ever shrinking world, and rapidly accelerating lifestyles of humanity and allowed encounters and shared ideas to actually last beyond just a random meeting and chat on an airplane. Where I live now, I have no genuine friends in this location with whom I can share my thoughts and experiences with in person, thus I rely upon media such as skype, cell phone, e-mail, etc. to make myself present to them, without being physically present. If anything, the internet was a necessary technology to meet the social needs of our rapidly changing lifestyles so that they can allow for us to maintain and nourish the friendships we have made

    As far as video games, I remember playing outside as a child. My mother would not allow us to venture further than a block from the house out of fear that something would happen to us. Being confined to such a small area which had only one or two neighbor kids who I could play with, who I didn’t even like all that much. Finding myself bored with the outdoors, I found myself spending more time indoors with my legos. I would play with legos for hours on end, building landscapes, placing people on them, having warriors wearing suits of armor battle each other, I found another world. My lego world, was an escape from the boring reality which I was offered outdoors at the time, where people could fight, cast magic, build things, destroy things, die, and come back to life at my will. Around age ten, I was introduced to video games, which took the fantasy world I made out of legos, and added sweet graphics and music, from which I tried to further escape the boring reality even further. Now could I have been allowed to do whatever I wanted outside without being reprimanded, I probably would have enjoyed it much better, but that is not the case in this world. Inside a video game, we are able to be as good, as evil, as creative, as destructive, as generic, or as unique as we so desire, without reprimand. Video games allow the subconscious mind which is repressed by the laws, social pressures, and complexities in the real world, to manifest themselves in the virtual world.

    In many ways, video games are so appealing because they allow for an artificial world, with laws and rules different from our own reality, which we can experience, influence, and master; and although it is possible to be successful, or be a master of this world, the probability of success and level of effort to become a master of this world is just too great, and too unrealistic for many people to be interested in. It is sad to say, but just like my lego world as a small child, I find the artificial world proposed by video games to be more appealing then the one we live in, where people will do anything to master or succeed in the game of life. The real world has people who will take advantage of the work you do, people who will put you down to boost themselves up, people who will steal from you, people who will harm you, people who will try to control you, the real world has all these adversaries and opponents who we can do nothing back to against them because of legal issues, or social pressures. For example, in real life, if a murderer killed your father, you are capable of going out, finding him, and trying to kill him to satisfy the justice we are looking for. However doing so will land us in jail for life. In a video game, if the evil monster killed your father in the beginning of the game, your subconscious is able to manifest and be satisfied as you chase that monster down, slay it, and then get rewarded for bringing justice. By no means am I saying that it is moral to kill someone who killed your father… but I may just be saying that because it is what society and the law expects me to feel about that subject. Me speaking as a natural human being, if someone killed my father, I wouldn’t give a damn about the law, I would want to slaughter the individual who killed my father.

    Why would any individual want to live and struggle in the real world as a servant, when they can experience and be a master in a much more appealing artificial world? Hey, for all we know, we may already be living in an artificial world in which there are others, which are not us, who master this game. Supposing this reality was viewed as a game, the best shot you ever have at mastering it, would be to first realize it is a game… I won’t go any further than this, but I would love to continue if anyone is interested, I’ll post an article about it.

  3. mortimyr June 1, 2012 / 10:07 am

    There has, and always will be, speculation about changes in society. Definitions, opinions and predictions abound from all walks of life. I see this as a good thing as it promotes self awareness, and stimulates change.

    That being said, I think it’s misleading and unrealistic to hold any one opinion as empirical fact. I’m not saying there isn’t any truth in some of these assumptions, but to imply that this is the case for a whole generation is totally unrealistic. It’s a bit like saying that because a red-headed man committed a murder, all red-headed men are murderers.

    Also people of older generations (puts hand up) find it challenging to adapt to the speed and complexity of the social and technological changes (a challenge I enjoy actually). Because it challenges many taboo’s or beliefs the hold from their own upbringing, they find it difficult to fully comprehend and they feel intimidated and threatened by it.

    In the sighted cases here however, it is far worse, Many people are too willing to accept opinions of people in some form of authority, or wearing white coats (and frocks) as some form of profound truth. Many people will take these opinions as their own and repeat them believing it makes them somehow insightful and clever.

    If they want to talk about the erosion of society and community, why not talk of the way our governments use ignorance and insecurity to erode our civil liberties? Why not do a poll to find out haw many people feel there freedom is being slowly constricted by laws passed “for our own protection”?The way things are going, the interweb will be the only place left where we CAN interact without fear – at least for now. They’ll get there in the end too.

  4. Quinn Porthos June 2, 2012 / 4:06 pm

    If I could get a USB port put in the back of my head so I could stay online all the time, I would. Then I could get everything I needed and wanted to done and not have to deal with people. Because I really don’t like them. Some individual persons are quite pleasurable to be around. People as a whole are not. And yes, some of the things I want to get done involve video games and porn. I’m 35 and female if that makes a difference to anyone. I like video games and porn. Pornographic video games are even better. I don’t like idiots typing with their thumbs while they drive at 85 mph, or blaring their Twilight ringtones in my ear while I’m trying to explain to the non-English speaking 15 year old that I don’t want pickles on my cheeseburger. So screw society, jack me in.

  5. drrent June 3, 2012 / 12:43 pm

    I can relate to phynoxum in the complications that exist in building long-term friendships when you move around a lot. Although I have been now in the same basic area for going on 20 years, our family moved around a lot when I was young.

    You would make friends only to lose them a few years later. I solved that problem at a pretty early age by not building any friendships. This made me somewhat of an outcast in my youth, but it made every move a welcome change. Of course, that mind set led me to the career path I chose (or better said the path that chose me), so I guess being the juvenile outcast was not a completely bad thing.

    However, had I grown up 35-40 years later, I believe that I would have had those strong childhood friendships because physical distance is no longer an obsticle. Because of job opportunities, my wife and I have been separated by nearly 1,000 miles for over a year, but technology allows us to make that work.

    The one concern that I do have with the exponential expansion of things such as facebook and twitter (two things I have made an effort to avoid so far) is the entire 1984/George Orwell/Big Brother feel that it is giving to life.

    We, as a free society, would never tolerate the Big Brother portrayed in that book if it was imposed on us by a “higher power” such as government. However; we, as a society, seem to be just fine with volunteering to be part of the entire Big Brother thing. Everyone knows what everyone is doing. Everyone spies on everyone. Everyone reports to everyone. The entire concept of personal privacy seems to be disappearing.

    As a general rule, most change is good. We evolve, that is what we do. But even good change can have negative consequences, and I do think that the loss of personal privacy is one of those changes that not much good can come from.

  6. Tulonsae June 11, 2012 / 10:34 pm

    Generations ago, a person’s world was their village. There was little to no privacy. Our world has grown and during that growth, a couple of generations got used to privacy. I think our historical lack of privacy is finally catching up with us.

    If I look at many of the concerns people have – employers knowing too much about our private lives, etc. – these aren’t much different than ages ago.

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