Posted by: Anne | August 10, 2013

the Internet is like never leaving junior high?

I found this article to be food for thought.

The Internet: It’s like never leaving junior high

Remember when you were 12 years old and you’d pass notes in class, making snide remarks about members of the opposite sex? Remember the rollercoasters of emotions, the whispers of gossip, the crying because your best friend betrayed you, the molehills made into mountains?

If life is just like high school, then the Internet might be an age group lower. Much of our digital world means never having to leave junior high school behind.

Sure, the Web has plenty of mature, resourceful people who create clever online projects or crowdsource solutions to global problems. But some experts also believe it perpetuates childhood.

Janet Sternberg, a communications professor at Fordham University in New York who’s written a great deal about online civility, sees a reverse of a pattern created by television. If, as cultural critic Neil Postman asserted, TV ended childhood — the medium provided an impetus for young people to act older, which created hand-wringing about generations growing up too quickly — the Internet has done the opposite, she says.

“The Internet and digital media have produced this ‘Peter Pan effect’ where we never grow up, we’re perpetual children, we never have to be responsible for anything — we keep this juvenile mentality,” she says.

Looking for a fight on the playground blacktop? Check out Facebook and Twitter, where complete strangers assault each other with name calling. Want to be part of the popular crowd? Try YouTube, full of instant celebrities who have done little except mix Diet Coke and Mentos in their mouths.

Of course, if you don’t like any of it, you’re free to post in the comments, where the level of discourse is somewhere between “This sucks” and “You suck.” It’s all instantaneous, thanks to the always-on aspect of digital media — available at the swipe of a smartphone. Who needs to think?

“We say whatever’s on our mind,” says Janet Sternberg. “Restraint is one of the signs of adulthood, and our whole culture is celebrating a lack of restraint.”

It’s really two distinct if not unrelated issues. On the one hand, there’s the concept of immediate satisfaction. It’s in the very core of our lizard brains, the cries of “Act now!” and “Just do it,” the things that give us a squirt of dopamine and keep us coming back again and again. Marketers and media people have always known its value, and the Internet — in the form of catchy headlines and eye-grabbing, multi-frame galleries — does this very well.

And then there’s the stuff that appeals to us on a gut level, whether it’s graphic images, blunt language or a longing for attention. Perversely, it sometimes creates an antagonistic response: A recent Pew survey noted that a distinguishing aspect of Twitter chatter is its “overall negativity.”

Still, like television in the 500-channel era, the Internet is many things, many of them worthwhile. Along with the spitball-blowers and OMG hyperventilators, there are smart sites that use smart prose and smart graphics (and are quite capable of satirizing everybody else). They’re the kids who are actually trying to learn something — respect for others, at the very least.

In other words, they’re growing up. But, in the meantime, it’s going to take some work to leave the schoolyard. Sternberg, for one, isn’t optimistic. She mentions Freud and his “Civilization and Its Discontents,” which argues that civilization relies on restraint of childish behavior. The Internet, of course, is just a reflection of our larger civilization — and she doesn’t like what she sees.

“The idea that being an adult is prized in our culture — that idea is evaporating,” she says. “It’s really uncool.”


Read the full article at the source:
www.cnn.com/2013/03/27/tech/web/internet-junior-high-school

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