Click Here

I’ve written before on our clickbait culture.  I’ve also written about how social networks like Facebook are ruining the Internet.

And personally, I left Facebook a long time ago (I recommend you do the same).

It’s all getting worse.  I hate being negative, and I’m actually an optimistic person.  But in this case, the problem will be much more challenging to overcome.

In fact, we are heading down a proverbial slope where we may never be able to get back to the top (some solutions are pointed out at the end of this post).

Now, we are living in a “click here,” “look at me” culture. We want to be the “first” to report, instead of being accurate.  We are judging each other based on links and other digital media we encounter, holding each other to standards of perfection we don’t even know how to define very well.

Some people’s lives are ruined in the process, and we all laugh and joke (sometimes brutally) as the person’s life is turned upside down.

(NOTE:  I’m guilty of these things too, I’m human after all, we all are, but I’m working on improving)

Do some of these people deserve to be treated like this?

If you immediately said “Yes” … that is one of the problems with our new “click here” culture.

Because while it may be true that using digital technologies to find a terrorist (for example) seems good on the surface … it doesn’t always work out that way (re: Boston Marathon bombings, where Reddit helped “catch” the wrong person initially).

The offense might be terrible, tragic, disgusting, putrid, etc… (rape, child molestation, bombings, bullying, racism, etc…).  But just because the crime is terrible, doesn’t mean the speed and efficiency of digital communities is the complete and total solution to the problem.

We have a court system, we have Police, we have laws. Convicting someone in the “Court of the Internet” isn’t the solution.  Our culture already has one of those.

We just have to be patient enough to let it work.

And sometimes, the crime being perpetrated “online” isn’t what it immediately seems on the surface.  Although Buzzfeed, Gawker, and other clickbait-oriented sites might have you think it is (not great sources for news, btw).

In our rush to be the “first” to break a story, some of these publications needlessly ruin someone’s life.

I mean, have you ever dealt with the high-profile media?  Have you ever had to fix your reputation in a circumstance where it shouldn’t have needed fixing to begin with?

Nobody wants unnecessary exposure.

And Facebook, Twitter, the soon-to-be-extinct Google Plus et al aren’t helping.

Without the “walled garden,” “data-slurping” social networks, without clickbait, without listicles that lead to brainless content that has been repeated 10,000,000 times on the net … I wonder where our society would be?

Obviously the answer is not an easy one.  For the Internet, there are positives like exposing Government fraud, and holding elite institutions and individuals accountable.

But the Internet has also empowered the elite, and marginalized our culture because of their use of the Internet.

The question is…

Is our culture worth preserving in the face of these institutions, or are we going to sit idly by and let the data monoliths turn it into a binary playground?

And that brings me to a possible set of solutions…

  1. Don’t fall for the “pre-packaged” and tabloid-ish media culture.  Learn how to think critically, and if you do, further develop the skill.
  2. Don’t use social media all the time.  Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus et al are existing for one over-reaching purpose … data in exchange for profit.  They prey on you by stimulating a “fear of missing out” and by making it easy to “click and get feedback.”  They are NOT “the” Internet itself, they are walled gardens that exchange your data for playing by their rules.
  3. Turn off your phone unless you’re using it.  This can be a challenge for some people.  Let people get your voice mail, let the texts build, and don’t respond to every living thing. Talk to people face to face at a coffee shop instead.  Deepen your human (read: not digital) relationships.  Use your phone as the communication tool that it is, don’t let it use you (like it is, right now).
  4. Develop a strong B.S. “filter” for media (especially digital).  If you read a story in Rolling Stone magazine about a woman getting raped, don’t immediately “fall into” the story (as tragic as the subject of rape is).  Understand that for now our media culture is focused on “reporting first” instead of “reporting accurately.”  My guess is this is because of the nature of the digital medium, media can report so quickly, that the “fear of missing out” sets in … encouraging the “report it first” behavior.  Do some homework, or wait until the “media hype cycle” plays out before falling for the “click bait” of reporting first.
  5. Take many digital sabbaticals.  You don’t “need” digital media (or the Internet itself) to survive.  It doesn’t feed you, it doesn’t give you water, and for most people doesn’t put a roof over your head (one of the exceptions).  So, as many times as you can, take a break from it.  I try not to use it after 6pm every night.

Of course, these solutions are only partial of the total number of solutions.  I’ve also not gone into depth here, so dive further into the “how to” of what I point out above. Your brain will thank you, and if the majority of the population would ever take this approach to online media, we could get to work on solving the overall problem.

I’m not holding my breath, mind you.  In the future, if we don’t start to develop the skills to handle these tools and information sources better, we will be reduced to a binary society of people choosing red or blue, A or B, Pepsi or Coke etc…

I’m not looking forward to that, and I think we’re better than that.