How we screwed up the in­ter­net and how fu­ture gen­er­a­tions will fix it

The Saline Courier - - FRONT PAGE -

“Congress shall make no law ... abridg­ing the free­dom of speech, or of the press ... . ” — From the First Amend­ment to Con­sti­tu­tion

I’ve been think­ing a lot about the in­ter­net re­cently. On one hand, it can be a won­der­ful source of in­for­ma­tion where any­one can find the an­swers to just about any­thing.

You want to know how to build a lovely shelf? Watch this Youtube tu­to­rial!

You want fig­ure out how to make that dish that your sig­nif­i­cant other likes? Again, Youtube! How about learn­ing facts about World War II or some other his­tor­i­cal event? There’s plenty of sites for that!

On the other hand, though, the in­ter­net can also be a cesspool of mis­in­for­ma­tion and ter­ri­ble peo­ple who are try­ing to ma­nip­u­late the world it­self. It’s usu­ally the politi­cians who use it for their own evil means ... well, them and Rus­sia, of course.

The problem is that my gen­er­a­tion (the proto-mil­len­ni­als or Xen­ni­als, if you will) has had to learn how to tra­verse this mas­sive fron­tier called cy­berspace mostly by trial and er­ror. We were the ones who re­ceived such things like so­cial me­dia and Youtube and we are the ones who con­tinue to screw things up.

We also like look­ing up a lot of free porn.

Yes, we were given a dig­i­tal Wild West to ex­plore with­out al­most any re­stric­tions and we’ve done some naughty things with it. On the flip side of all of that, though, there is the next gen­er­a­tion (the true Mil­len­ni­als). They have grown up their whole lives with com­put­ers and some form of the in­ter­net.

This gen­er­a­tion gives me hope be­cause they are al­ready bet­ter than us at pointing out the BS that is pro­moted on­line. They’re also get­ting away from so­cial me­dia plat­forms such as Face­book and Twit­ter, two plat­forms known for dis­play­ing and not deal­ing with mass amounts of mis­in­for­ma­tion and data min­ing.

Even my nephew, who will be grad­u­at­ing high school soon, has al­ready deleted his Face­book ac­count and I couldn’t be prouder as I con­tinue to rant on my own pro­file.

Now, I’m not com­pletely con­demn­ing my gen­er­a­tion for screw­ing up the in­ter­net. As I said before, we were the ones who had to take the first steps in ex­plor­ing this new fron­tier and with ev­ery new fron­tier, you hit a few road­blocks along the way.

But again, we were the ones who used it to pro­mote our own agen­das, spread mis­in­for­ma­tion and we also shared way too many pho­tos of the food we or­dered that one time we went to the fancy restau­rant.

So, while I come with some bad news about how the in­ter­net was gifted to us and we helped screw it all up, I ul­ti­mately write this as a mes­sage of hope. We had to help our par­ents re­pro­gram their VCRS ev­ery time the power went out so it would stop blink­ing 12:00 all the time.

The next gen­er­a­tion will help us re­pro­gram how we think of the in­ter­net and hope­fully teach us how to dis­cern what is real in­for­ma­tion and what is sim­ply some­one with a de­vi­ous agenda.

With ev­ery­thing from ter­ri­bly big­oted com­ments to elec­tions that have been proven to be med­dled with by for­eign pow­ers, we can’t just say that we’re go­ing to be bet­ter with this in­for­ma­tion pow­er­house that we now hold ... we need to do bet­ter. Our very free­dom de­pends on it.


J.T. John­son is a guest colum­nist for The Sa­line Courier. His opin­ions are his own and do not rep­re­sent this pub­li­ca­tion or its em­ploy­ees in any way.


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