This long essay by Andrew Sullivan in New York magazine, detailing how his obsessive Internet use wrecked his health and life, is a searing commentary on the dehumanizing effects of pervasive technology. It’s also a wake-up call even to moderate tech hounds and social-media users: Have you realized just how comprehensively technology molds your life? How different your life would be without it? How miserably addicted you are? Do you even have a life?
Here’s me at The Catholic Herald, reflecting on last week’s Democratic sit-in for the policy people like to call “gun control”:
One side of the culture war has been successful in linking all its opinions to the most contentious and guilt-ridden periods in American history. Anyone opposing the sit-in, then, is cast in the symbolic role of Bull Connor.
One might scoff at all of this, but bringing guilt and shame by continually invoking the lowest points in a nation’s history does affect people — see “Germany” — and often makes people assent to things not on their merits but on their emotional repercussions. I’ll always defend the Enlightenment, but it cemented in many Western minds a false idea of how humans actually think and make decisions. We have been trained since school age to believe that if we use facts, logic, and reason to make a case, we can persuade others to our side; if we apply this process to governance, the thinking goes, we can preserve our rights and liberty through superior argumentation.
One of this young man’s thoughts — his description of how he initially fell into the SJW mindset — jumped out at me:
I was depressed at the time, and being applauded for being progressive definitely was an ego boost. Fighting people I perceived as bigoted made me feel better about myself. My SJW tendencies were based mostly out of self loathing — I felt weird, like an outcast, had never had a girlfriend, hated myself, and thought that I was fixing myself by jumping deep into feminism.
What struck me was this young man’s need to be applauded by his peers. Of course, in itself, this is not surprising: it is not a new thing to crave validation from other people, especially from one’s peer group. It wasn’t just that he was seeking approval from others, however; it was that he absolutely needed this approval to survive. He needed it in two respects. First, he would feel miserable and alienated without it. Second, since his social circle was defined solely by groupthink, there was no way to be a part of that culture without the constant approval of others within the culture. (more…)
At PJ Media, I write more about how the Internet ruins lives and is doing so more frequently. I consider two conceivable reactions in the future: either people will reject digital technology to some degree (though not completely) or they will push for more stringent privacy legislation for the web, such as that in Europe.
Here’s a taste:
Though the Internet has been an important feature of our civilization for years, we are all still figuring out how to cope with its effect on our society, personal lives, and livelihoods. As technology improves, it presents us with new social and ethical problems, which we can never resolve before the new set of problems arrives. The backlog is now evident. At every level of our existence we are thinking about, and often despairing of, technology’s encroachment. You can, if you wish, dismiss this as the hand-wringing of Luddites, but we are still not any closer to answering these valid questions. Each week, for instance, a different writer warns about what automation will eventually do to the global economy, offering dark Victorian scenarios of mass unemployment. Entire industries are dying. Media companies still really don’t know how to make money in the Internet age, despite years of trying different models.At a more personal level, people are now genuinely frightened of what social media could do to their lives. There is little room for error. An unfashionable view, a careless phrase, an interaction with the “wrong” person, a tasteless joke, a slip-up in politically correct terminology—all could mean consignment to the pile of the unemployed and unemployable. Do you think that Alberto Iber, the (former) principal of a high school in Miami, thought he’d lose his job simply for saying that a white police officer acted appropriately in a recent confrontation with a black teenager?