I’m really thinking about starting a regular feature around here for the sole purpose of chronicling all of the things old people claim the internet is destroying. It’s becoming almost comical. Wait, actually, it already is comical. And maddening. There are ten things that I’ve noted experts constantly freaking out over in regard to the Internet destroying. They are:
1. Our sanity.
2. Our intelligence.
3. Our physical fitness.
4. Our eyes.
5. Our posture.
7. Our hands.
8. Our ability to write.
9. Our sex drives.
10. Our personalities.
Now the freakouts are being taken to a new level. The latest things the web are destroying: Love and biodiversity!
First, author Jonathan Franzen penned an op-ed in the New York Times over the weekend whining about how technology and the Internet and social media are sucking the love right out of us. Or something.
Let me suggest, finally, that the world of techno-consumerism is therefore troubled by real love, and that it has no choice but to trouble love in turn … A related phenomenon is the transformation, courtesy of Facebook, of the verb “to like” from a state of mind to an action that you perform with your computer mouse, from a feeling to an assertion of consumer choice. And liking, in general, is commercial culture’s substitute for loving.
To speak more generally, the ultimate goal of technology, the telos of techne, is to replace a natural world that’s indifferent to our wishes — a world of hurricanes and hardships and breakable hearts, a world of resistance — with a world so responsive to our wishes as to be, effectively, a mere extension of the self.
And, since our technology is really just an extension of ourselves, we don’t have to have contempt for its manipulability in the way we might with actual people. It’s all one big endless loop. We like the mirror and the mirror likes us. To friend a person is merely to include the person in our private hall of flattering mirrors.
I may be overstating the case, a little bit. Very probably, you’re sick to death of hearing social media disrespected by cranky 51-year-olds.
Franzen then went on in the piece to detail his overwhelming love for birds. Yeah.
Now let’s get to how biodiversity is being destroyed, according to an official at the UN.
Young people’s fascination with television, the Internet, video games and other electronic entertainment is making it more difficult to protect the world’s biodiversity, a UN official warned Tuesday.
Because many young people are urbanised and alienated from nature, they may not realise the value of protecting natural ecosystems and species, said Ahmed Djoghlaf, the United Nations executive secretary on biological diversity.
“Our children are behind their computers, their SMS, their videogames, watching TV. They are living in a virtual world and we need to re-connect them with nature,” Djoghlaf told a Southeast Asian biodiversity forum in Manila.
“They don’t see how a potato is grown. They just see potatoes at a shelf in the supermarket.”
My question in response to this is this: Were children who lived in urban areas in, say, the 1950s more familiar with how a potato is grown? I would argue that modern technology makes it a hell of a lot easier for young people of this era to learn about such things. The knowledge is all right there at their fingertips! Has Ahmed Djoghlaf never heard of Farmville?
(Biodiversity mural via Oakwood Elementary School)