We can’t live without the Internet. It’s on phones, on laptops and, if you’re lucky enough, on your fridge. But how much net is too much? And what are we really using it for?
At the moment I, like thousands of Uni students around the state, am on SWOTVAC. That’s “Study With Out Teachers VACation” for those playing at home. I had big plans, in fact since week 3 I’ve been putting aside stuff to do, just waiting for one glorious week of 24/7 study …. that’s so far just turned out to be a three day YouTube and “Damn You Auto Correct” binge. Drat.
As my wrists begin to burn from my (apparently poorly ventilated) keyboard, I thought it best to consider what I was actually doing. After all, my excuse of Net Comm research can only last for so long.
The Internet has evolved from its original, and arguably more important and useful, purpose as a decentralized communications network capable of surviving a nuclear attack, into an online library of time wasting videos and blogs. Oh, and porn. Delightful.
Media scholars have long touted, and probably will continue to for a while, the potential of the Internet as the new public sphere. Promoting its ability to facilitate instant, international and truly democratic discussion; benefiting society through the development of brilliant ideas. With its lack of censorship, ease of use and global access, expectations of the Internet are by no means too lofty, and yet they have no where near been realised.
Is it the fault of society? It can hardly be the technology, since computers are just a bunch of circuits and ones & zeros at the end of the day. So it must be us, the users. With such a great tool at our disposal, why are we wasting it on “Keyboard Cat” and Perez Hilton. In this image conscious age, does anyone really care about democracy, the public sphere, or intellectual debate anymore? It would seem not. You only need to pick up a mainstream newspaper to see that sex and crime sell, that politics is only popular when it involves sex and crime, and that the only social issues discussed are, well, sex and crime. While revolutions and uprisings spring up trying to achieve democracy overseas, it seems that western democracies just want to read gossip on their iPads.
And the real question is how will we ever become interested in the more important things, when we’re too busy watching stupid (but brilliant) stuff like this?
(The first and one of the best videos from The Lonely Island. First aired on SNL.
HINT: It’s mirrored to avoid copyright infringement. Sneaky.)
Liberal democracy is resting on its laurels, we’re in a perpetual Lazy Sunday. Yet, ultimately it’s up to us. With so much to solve and so much at our disposal, maybe it’s time to log off YouTube and get back to work. A digital detox. For Uni and the world. For ourselves, and for our futures.
(But hey, while you’re here, check out this from the same guys. One of my favourites. Over 100 millions views. Well done democracy!)