I recently read about an actor, Aziz Ansari, who has unplugged from the internet and rejoices in the freedom it’s given him, not only in time, but in his choice of activities. “I’m reading like three books right now.” (“People,” The Week, Sept. 2017, pg. 10.) Of course, being on the internet never prevented the actor from reading books. He had the same choice before as he does now. Still, I take his point: emails or comments on social media can be addicting. Research bears that out. (Click)
Like Ansari, if I were to unplug from social media, I suspect three-quarters of the messages that disappeared I’d never miss. The advertising would be one example. Selfies, photos of the kids and grandchildren don’t offend me, but I could live without them. Certainly, I wouldn’t miss cyber bullying – messages that say, “If you paste this (article, picture, selfie) to your page, I’ll know you care.”
What I would miss is easy access to information. For example, if I google Aziz Ansari (Click), I learn something about the actor. Much of the world’s data, in fact, are at my fingertips… except for Donald Trump’s tax returns. What Johannes Guttenberg’s press did for the common man in the Middle Ages, the internet has done again in the 21st century: shared information. Frankly, I consider the search engine a modern miracle.
Knowledge stimulates thinking and gives us new ideas. That’s why tyrannies work tirelessly to suppress it. If I knew Aziz Ansari, I’d point this fact out to him. I’d also remind him that the internet is a tool, like a shovel. It can plant a garden or dig a grave. Its versatility depends upon the creativity of the person who uses it.