A few of my students were quite upset at the tone of the article we took up in class. The subject was social media and the author wasn’t very positive about some of the effects that continuous access to the internet and social media has on young people. When I said that the author might be right and suggested they were blind to how social media is programming them–I think I may have used the word “addiction”–they were indignant.
They wrote off the author and their teacher as being part of the older generation that didn’t understand the technology–we are blind to the vast benefits of the internet and social media.
A few days later I read an article that popped up on Facebook called, ‘Our minds can be hijacked’: the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia. In it Paul Lewis tells us that the people responsible for making Google, Twitter and Facebook so addictive are disconnecting themselves and their families from the internet. They are, apparently, even more concerned about internet addiction than I am. Another article came across my desk through Twitter: “How a half-educated tech elite delivered us into chaos.” Here John Naughton argues that tech leaders know a lot about science, technology, engineering and math, but very little about the Humanities–and had they received a whole education–studied some Literature, History and Philosophy–they wouldn’t be surprised that their inventions have not taken us to the bright future they anticipated. They thought they were providing a beautiful link between producers and consumers for the benefit of all. Instead, we have ended up with “fake news and the weaponisation of social media.”
On Facebook again, I came across the New York Times video called “How China is changing your internet.” It warns of an Orwellian future if we allow internet giants to go the way of China’s “Super Apps.” Since we have been reading Orwell, I thought I’d show this video in class.
After watching it, I concluded:
Perhaps I am too hard on the internet and social media. Perhaps I have been reading too many articles bashing these sacred cows, and not enough material from the other side. But if I am, it’s because the algorithms that run the social media platforms have determined that I like to read about how bad the internet is–so they keep giving me more of these types of articles to read. These constitute and reinforce my views and biases–they begin to shape my thinking.
Or, these articles are right.
Either way, I win.