The Internet and Us: Who’s in Charge Anyway?

Earlier today, our very own David Swindle alerted me to this documentary Douglas Rushkoff directed for PBS’s “Frontline.” The subject: how the Internet is changing us.

We used to do one thing at a time, drink a cup of coffee with our friends in our favorite bar and read a book at night. These days, we’re writing blog posts, checking our email, text messaging our friends and watching a movie; all at the same time and in the same place.

What do these new behavioral patterns – this constant multitasking – mean to us and especially the youth (to whom I belong as well)? Does it influence our brains? Has the Internet made our lives richer or poorer, or both?

Is the Internet a blessing or is it quickly becoming a curse? Rushkoff asks these questions and tries to answer them in Digital Nation.

As one would expect from Rushkoff, his latest film is absolutely fascinating – especially for those of us who recognize themselves in the “victims” of the Internet revolution.

Due to lack of time, I’m not going to write a long post on it – not now anyway – but the only problem I have with it is that it labels people too easily as victims. It does this for instance by talking about Internet “addictions” regularly and by blaming teenagers’ habits of playing computer ten hours a day instead of studying, to it. It might just be me, but it seems to me that not the Internet but these kids’ parents are to blame. If your 12-year old refuses to study because he likes to play World of War Craft all day long, well, then it’s your responsibility as a parent to force him to exit the game and write that English paper he is supposed to hand in tomorrow.

These days, we often use “addiction” for “bad behavioral habits.” This mix-up may sound innocent to some readers, but it’s not: the former term implies someone is a “victim” of something (or someone else), while the latter puts the responsibility for the destructive behavior squarely on the shoulders of the person himself.

In any case, if you have time to spare today – and even if you don’t – I highly recommend you watch Digital Nation. It’s intriguing, to say the least.