Courage of conviction seems to be a value that is swiftly emptying from the moral systems of everyday citizens today. I’m loathe to flag the media again, but it seems that the old adages of ‘knowledge is power’ and ‘don’t believe everything you read’ exist in sharp conflict. In the ensuing era of apology, indeed it seems that no-one really needs to worry about what they say or do because the hot topic phenomenon allows it to fade from public record and memory the minute a celebrity falls pregnant or a bomb falls on an economic epicentre. If you haven’t worked out by now that I’m writing on the fly, then well done you for keeping up! Let’s see where we end up!
Holding true to one’s values looks a lot more like stubbornness now that Google and Siri confirm or deny every topic of conversation where previously debate, rhetoric and knowledge earned determined the outcome. I make this point because being accused of a wishy-washy nature is something I hope to avoid my entire life and to this point I have done. Enraptured in a weekend conversation over the sexual exploits of the Elmo voice actor, it occurred to me that what we say has more power than it ever did. One accusation can destroy a career, two accusations can take a life. And these accusations may be founded or not, to the point where commentators find themselves counter-intuitively hoping that heinous personal crimes are taking place so at least the outcomes will be just, awful though that is for the victims. Furthermore, right and wrong are less clear divides than ever before simply by virtue of the power of public opinion. This power the public do not even know they possess which is why they fling it around so incandescently, because they know justification is one click away! And if we’re wrong? That’s ok we’ll just apologise and bask in the valour sure to gush over us because we were so humble. Never mind the damage done by speaking out of turn, and uneducated.
The beauty of blogging is that my paragraph continuity is void, and everyone who points it out I can call a troll. And thus my jarring statement about disjointedness segues perfectly into a poignant point about social media….
The internet, and social media particularly performed a miracle for society (well the ones with broadband anyway) in that it provided us all with the potential to have our voices heard. Suddenly our opinions we only tested at the dinner table, or by the water cooler, could be sent out into the world for anyone to rebuff, validate or respond to. We taught everyone that their contribution, their content, was valuable. But somehow, no-one was taught how to actually value their voice: the amount of opinions is countless, but educated opinions are rare. Users weighing in a topic? Innumerable. The amount of weight those users have on the topic? I’d like to say little, because in essence that’s true-most people just run their mouths. But the amount of suicides resulting from cyber-bullying and trolling is far too scary an amount to discount what that dribbling leads to. It appears that education around intelligent and responsible use of the internet has been the major failing by government, teachers, and the law upon society in the modern age. It is yet another example of misuse of a public resource. Sometimes I do wonder about the value of internet restrictions and monitoring. I mean free speech is a human right, but if it were classed a privilege I have no doubt it would have been revoked by now, considering the way many-too many-choose to wield, weapon and brandish this right.
If I could boil it down to three things I think are what creates the issues around this, they’d be:
- People underestimate the immediacy and permanence of what they contribute
- People don’t know the difference between contributing and an attention addiction
- When directed to use the internet, it is always as an exploitation-either for other people’s information (Wikipedia, anyone?), of our own personal information (thank you Facebook), for others’ success (Instagram) or failure (YouTube).
I put myself on the pyre first and admit I am guilty of every one of these crimes-although I have never trolled or abused anyone on the internet. Nor have I ever created a fake profile for any reason to misrepresent myself, nor have I knowingly plagiarised anyone’s intellectual property. Nonetheless I use the internet far less for knowledge than entertainment of late, which is mostly because the internet makes it easier to navigate to be entertained than educated. Therein lies the real tragedy, I can’t help but think such electronic perversion and voyeurism was exactly the plan to begin with.
What do you think? To what degree do you agree? Or am I just another pariah? I do not profess to have any solutions, so have I just proved myself right? Perhaps this whole thing is an exercise in attention-seeking! Email me your thoughts firstname.lastname@example.org tweet @papabayj. No trolls please.