You’re not connected to a network

Oh my. Is that serious Doc? How long have I got? What if the neighbors find out? I hope it’s not contagious, or perhaps – I should hope it is.

A couple weeks ago Alan Jacobs left a note at his (macro?) blog Snakes and Ladders about his efforts to shrink his exposure to the online world. [macro in parenthesis because he also does a micro.blog] Alan is an English Professor at Baylor. He has written a handful of books, knows way more than most about C S Lewis, and appears to me to have a love/hate relationship with online technology.

Now a piece of me wants to inquire, regarding our collective feelings toward online tech – Who doesn’t have a love/hate relationship with it? Responses to such a survey might return results heavily correlated with a respondent’s age. On a scale of 1-10 where 1 is absolute endearment, and 10 is total disgust, my guess is scores would increase as age increases. But I would also imagine survey results might be skewed somewhat (again, by age) due to what a respondent considers to be a positive or a negative experience in relation to online tech.

Tech can fail. Calls can drop or get so corrupted as to be useless.

Tech can get ugly. Online forums can be taken over by trolls. Foreign interests can spread rumor and innuendo. Hacked sites can give up personal details allowing identities to be stolen.

Tech can track us all over – not just online.

Giving up one’s privacy for the conveniences promised by tech seems to be tolerated better by younger folks. The price of all those bells and whistles.

There’s the opposite side of tech. Tech can deliver information in seconds. Tech can facilitate community building across the planet. Collaborations that once might have been impossible or extremely complicated are now far simpler. But this is still a two-edged sword. Bad actors can avail themselves of these advantages as well.

Networks are about being connected. Online tech builds on the very old and very significant human capacity to build social networks. Troops, tribes, family groups – our very distant ancestors knew the value of social networks. Indeed, our very ascent to the top of food chains, our ability to succeed in nearly every corner of the planet relies upon the power of our social networking abilities.

You're not connected

Mobile broadband – is that a traveling female rock act??

Balance. Like so many other aspects of our daily lives, we should seek some sort of balance in our use of online tech. Those who are physically present in our spaces are as much a part of our networks as online ‘friends’. We need to connect to them as well.

Tech didn’t invent bad behavior. And by the same token, tech didn’t create altruism and the better angels of our nature. It’s just a tool; one we should use wisely.

 

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2 comments

  1. Just a tool? I do push back on that. Tools invariably shape the user. And these “tools” as you call them or also some of the largest and most powerful industries/corporations on the planet, hardly a neutral actor.

    Mobile Broadband? Ha! Old Clem still has it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Keep pushing on…

      I still stand behind the “tool” aspect. But I’ll not dispute the enormity of the industry, or its reach. Ultimately we have control over how exposed to this technology we find ourselves. And this control can come in at least two ways: We individually decide how much privacy we’ll trade, how much exposure to the tech we’ll accept. Collectively – through the government if necessary, or through social mores we can modulate what is deemed acceptable. Alan Jacobs may not be a trend setter on par with some Hollywood darling, but he is a serious academic and a sober voice for modern communications technology. IF (perhaps bolding a cap IF may be needed) IF society pushes back because we collectively feel the juice isn’t worth the squeeze then the ‘hardly neutral actors’ will come around. They aren’t evil out of the gate – they are greedy. Take away some of the profits, use alternative sources (eg., FireFox vs Chrome or Edge for instance), and eventually their survival instincts will show up.

      Thanks for the pun notice. So long as puns are on display – one could use ‘tool’ to describe some of the players behind these ‘most powerful industries’.

      Like

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