Why It’s So Hard to Criticize the Internet – The Brock Press


Photo: Brenden Cowan

Heysham Nawaz

For some time, the Internet has been viewed as an extraordinary product that connects the world through the free flow of information. But this utopian vision makes it extremely difficult to legitimately criticize broad aspects of the Internet.

For digital natives — meaning you grew up with the ubiquity of the Internet — the idea that the world’s largest database brings nothing but sunshine and rainbows into our lives seems dubious at best. However, when it comes to the negative social effects of the Internet, frustration is something that Gen Z has had a monopoly of experience since the 2010s, as parents have become attached to social media.

The truth is that most of us are internet dwellers, more than half of the human population has access to the internet. The hard question is how do you criticize aspects of something you use all the time?

The first step should be to see what most people use the Internet for, but that’s where the statistics get muddy. Most studies agree that the number one reason people use the Internet is to “find information.” The point is that “finding information” is vague. For example, scrolling through Twitter hashtags to learn about the latest Kanye West scandal is finding technical information, such as intensive reading of the UN climate report online.

A study by Kepios this year shows that as of October of this year, there are 4.74 billion social media users worldwide.

The point is, most people know that social media technologies are addictive and often harmful to the mental health of minors — especially girls and young women — but it’s hard to articulate this in a progressive way. If you want to bring people’s attention to the issues in question, there are now a few places where you can often get attention: that social media.

However, there are voices that manage to effectively communicate the harmful aspects of internet addiction and social media addiction. The first is musician-comedian Bo Burnham shown the fact that social media is based on the current economic model “Growth, Growth, Growth!” Instead of finding its object in the expansion of territory, as in the past, the growth is numbers in terms of attracting attention to generate advertising revenue. Burnham describes the mental separation that occurs due to this new growth pattern:

“Kids know that. The whole joke on the internet is that everyone is like, “This place is bad, isn’t it?” is like… That’s why their memes are ironic and detached and self-referential and 12x deep, because the truth is dead to them and they know it.”

Burnham’s Netflix special from last year, Inside, can be seen as containing a specific set of criticisms of social media habits that are shaped around the fact that the truth is “totally dead.” The point of Burnham’s critical rhetoric is that he politicizes this issue using the language of aloof, sarcastic youth—infiltrating it, so to speak, “awakening” it all from Socko’s last special speech.

People forget that many of the changes that came with Web 2.0 made the Internet highly profitable, lowering the financial and technical barriers to entry for those wanting to market their business, as the ever-evolving model of user content—YouTube, MySpace, Google, etc. . based sites like It is important to politicize this change.

Plus, artists have been at the forefront of internet criticism for some time.

Highly regarded independent music acts from this decade and beyond, such as JPEGMafia, Phoebe Bridgers, Death Grips and others, owe their rise to the Internet. Feelings of overstimulation, post-ironic isolation, entry point narcissism, even violence enter the work of these artists in one way or another.

The 2011 Death Grips track “Culture Shock” explores this lyrically with almost prophetic foresight given the year it was released:

“You’re talking in shorthand ’cause real life talk is so slow / You’re the creator of the media, yeah, your free will has been taken away and you don’t know… What will you be when you young blood grows up? / You’ll be a helpless drone / You’ll never have to think / Your head won’t be directly connected to your cell phone / The virus is alive, I can see it in your eyes / The infection is on full blast”

Politicizing and aestheticizing the resentment that Internet addiction creates among young people is one of the most effective ways to get the ball rolling to change the most addictive aspects of the Internet. Artists who do this in highly effective ways like the ones mentioned above are the first step in getting this message out into the mainstream. The hardest part is turning these issues into legislation and system change, and getting people with political power to take them seriously.

If social media didn’t operate on a growth model, it could be completely reimagined as a place for truly productive, wide-ranging interactions that lead to actual, concrete change in the world, rather than a relentless scrolling that serves the interests of advertisers and advertisers. rich





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