Obviously, I’m an internet-phile. What I love about it, both in my work as a philosophy professor and in my personal life, is the information it puts at my fingertips, and the ability it gives me to keep in touch with people. That is what most people love about it, no doubt. But I’m hoping that the technology continues to evolve, because at this point it doesn’t even allow for something as basic as a good conversation (Skype and other audio/video chatting services aside).
I know of families in which a parent will be in one room, a child in another, and instead of talking to each other, they will instant message each other. In my classes, I occasionally see students obsessively “typing” instant messages, instead of making any effort to add to (or even to follow) the face-to-face discussion. More importantly, many seem less interested than students once might have been in debating important issues, or even in forming an opinion on them… Could it be that they fear the mass social ostracism with which any dissenting opinion is met in the echo-chambers of the political blogs? Or in this world of media distraction, have they simply lost the ability to concentrate on anything for more than five minutes?
Our current technology is very good for one-way communications. Either one is transmitting information, or one is receiving it. And these discrete transactions can be done on a massive scale, as twitter has proven. One can post on blogs, and sometimes receive a response to a question or comment in a few minutes, or a few hours. But I’m afraid that the richer experience of real-time face-to-face communication, where spontaneous give-and-take comes to fore, and one must think – and feel – on one’s feet, is suffering badly.