I was born before the internet spread across the world. This statement is true for less people every year and soon it won’t be true for anyone.
In his book, Program or be Programmed, Douglas Rushkoff addresses our lack of understanding when it comes to how the internet works. He brings up an argument we all tend to make: “I know how to drive a car without being a car mechanic.” In other words, does one really need to know programming or how servers, algorithms, and big data work just to use the internet? Isn’t that the bliss and magic of technology? It just works.
The reason this view is frightening is because by and large people use the internet as a passenger, not a driver. That is to say, most people don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes when they use the internet and modern technology, and the tendency is to imagine a sense of control in a playground-like environment. The problem is the only real control we have over our phones or technology or the internet is control that’s been given to us by another person. In almost every case, we don’t know that person at all. It’s not natural. Everything is architected. You are not driving your own car.
In fact, you can’t see the driver. The only window is a tiny peep-hole in the passenger side window. This is the ride you take when you use an app or software or a website you don’t understand.
Since 1995 internet users have increased by over 100-times. Now everyone seems to have a smartphone, including kids in elementary school. Our culture has become so impersonal and the days of “MySpace” have exploded into a full-fledged media persona which is often only a part, or worse, entirely different from the reality in which we live.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of this. I’m not going to recommend you stop using the internet. That’s nonsense at this point. The internet is here to stay. What I’m going to do is share some recommendations for boundaries and rules to establish for yourself and your family that can save you from getting swept away in the digital media age.
Elsewhere I addressed the horrific future of big data and some practical step you can take to keep your information safe. In my next post, I’ll suggest a boundary you can create to help you take control of the “Always-On” mentality that so often keeps our heads down as we miss personal interactions all around us, and we will never get them back.
If you don’t control your technology, it will control you. It’s designed by people to get you to stay longer, pay more, and come back more often. Our misunderstanding is shifting the way we search for the truth. It’s changing the way we see people. It’s violating our right to privacy. It’s corroding the foundation of who we are as humans. We are losing control, and it’s time we take it back.