The INTERNETZ is NOT destroying society

Telling the world that the internet is not destroying society is probably not going to get me a ton of hits, because who wants to read an article that is stating the obvious? So I thought I’d draw attention by misspelling internet.  If I really wanted to get hits, I’d lead with some bald face lie like “‘The Demise of Guys’: How video games and porn are ruining a generation” whose main thesis is that young men growing up with video games and easy access to porn is distracting them from normal social activities, or “We expect more from technology and less from each other” whose main thesis is that the growth of texting and social media is making us too social, and we are losing our ability to be alone.  I love it when sensationalist headlines contradict each other.

Then there are the rash of Facebook doom and gloom articles: Facebook is destroying Google, Facebook is destroying Twitter, Facebook is destroying Virtual Worlds.  How long before we see an article claiming that Facebook is a threat to the human race itself? It came out yesterday, actually.

Games and Porn destroying society?

So where to start?  Lets start with the new book The Demise of Guys:

The premise of the book is that a generation of boys addicted to video games and online porn is leading to the decline of the male half of the population. The CNN article cites a lot of anecdotal info without much actual scientific citations.

There is a lot of stuff to talk about here and it is worthy of a discussion.

The book seems to focus on video game and porn addiction in boys, and blames the usual suspects: parents. Then it apparently tries to discuss the problems this is causing to society, and DAMMIT WE SHOULD DO SOMETHING!

Lets be realistic here. Yes, virtually all boys, young men, and even older men are playing video games these days, they are also watching porn. A slightly lesser percentage of girls, young women and even older women are also playing video games and watching porn. This is no doubt having an affect on society, but lets put that to the side for now.

Now what percentage of the people playing video games and/or watching porn are actually addicted to it? Research shows the percentage is actually pretty small, like 3% tops and probably closer to 1%. This is of course varies depending on what you would call an addict, but I’d say the usual definition involves engage in an activity to such an extent that it threatens our health. I’d say that is a very small percentage. Because it is a small percentage, the affect of video game/porn addiction is likely negligible, and therefore it cannot be ruining a generation of guys.

So lets stop beating around the bush and get to the heart of the issue:

Is the prevalence of video games affecting our society, our culture, our relationships, and changing the psychology of young growing minds? Absolutely!

Is the easy availability of porn affecting our society, our culture, our relationships, and changing the psychology of young growing minds? Absolutely!

And now for the REAL debate question: Is this a bad thing?

Considering that every society where video games have become popular has seen a reduction in violent crime; Considering that every society in which internet porn is widespread has seen a reduction in sex crimes; Considering that video games have been designed to make players happy, and that positive psychologists have shown that artificially generated happiness is just as good as genuine happiness. I’d say, the answer is no.

But, but, but, video game playing has been demonstrated to reduce the ability to learn in traditional school settings. Then maybe it is about time to dump the traditional school definition of learning. Learning by playing games, works extremely well.

But, widespread porn is changing young people’s ability to have “healthy” relationships that lead to marriage and family and more children. Time to dump the old fashioned definitions of “healthy” relationships then. Kids today are smarter about sex and relationships than any previous generation. A lot more of them are choosing not to get married, and not have kids, and the ones that are are doing it later in life, and choosing smaller families. Young people are going to have relationships, because that is what young people do, but they have a lot more freedom today. There is no bad here.

Video games and the internet is changing society, that is a given. Some change will be good, and inevitably some change will be bad. But the only real threats are to those that do not want society to change. To hell with them!

(Note, the above was originally posted by me at SL Universe forums where it got over 250 responses do far.)

Texting and social media destroying society?

The second sensationalist headline comes from Professor Sherry Turkle who is someone who is very thorough with her research. Again, she is pushing a book: Alone Together

As I was watching her TED talk on the topic of texting and social media’s affect on society I was making some live notes:

“The illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship” … And this is bad because?

“We turn to technology to help us feel connected in ways we can comfortably control” … You say it like its a bad thing.

“Being alone feels like a problem that needs to be solved” … Actually no, I’m fine with alone. It is other people that need stuff that feels like a problem that needs to be solved.

“Constant connection is changing the way people think of themselves” … Yep that’s the way it has always been. I bet there was someone like her when the telephone was invented, and when the radio was invented, and when the TV was invented. The world is changing, and I am cool with it.

And then she ends the talk, talking about learning to be alone with ourselves. Hmm, as someone who rarely texts, never bring a cellphone anywhere, only talks to people at work because that is what I am paid to do, and does not even have a twitter account, I guess she wasn’t talking to me.

Ultimately this is the same issue with video games and porn above. Getting addicted can be very bad, but what percentage really are addicted?  Probably an even smaller percentage.  But let’s ask the second question: Is texting and social media a bad thing?

Oddly this is a far more complicated issue than video games and porn issues. Social media has sparked revolutions and organized protests that have succeeded in changing the world, so it can’t be all bad.

On the other hand, I remember being able to go to the break room at lunch and actually talked to my fellow co-workers.  Now everyone goes to the break room and jumps on their cell phone.  It is too noisy for a conversation, so I go outside to the smoking area.  Not because I smoke (I don’t), but people actually talk to each other out there.

So yes, social media is changing society.  Some change will be good, and inevitably some change will be bad.

Facebook destroying society?

Once again the author of the sensationalist article is selling a book: Digital Vertigo.

Once again, the author is saying change is bad.  I’ll say change is not all bad, etc.  No need to belabor the points for a third time.

The internet first went online in 1969.  The first author to predict that “information overload” would radically change our society was in 1970.  Toffler was right, society did change, and overall those changes have been positive.

How Google Plus became “Uncool”

You would think that a company worth half a trillion dollars would take their reputation a little more seriously.  Apparently Google is unaware that its latest “social network” offering Google Plus has become the most hated social network ever.  Today admitting that you have a Google Plus account is as bad as admitting you had an aol.com account back in the 90’s.  It has become the symbol of the brazen corporatization of the social internet.  Negative press is coming from major publications and from across the blogosphere.  What is amazing to see is that Google’s reaction to all this negative press is to stick to their guns and make matters worse.

The principle reason for all this negativity can be explained with one made up word: Nymwars.

Google Plus started on June 23rd, and was by invitation only.  Apparently someone at Google saw The Social Network and decided to follow the creed that “exclusivity creates demand”, so they limited the number of people that could join Google Plus, and somehow ended up with 25 Million within a month.  That to me sounded fishy right away.

Then came the Nymwars, Google started booting out people with funny names on suspicion that they were “fake”.  Google demands that all users of Google Plus use their real legal names or go somewhere else.  Being someone who goes by four different names (my legal name being my least used) this debate over “What is a real name?” has been very surreal one.  To me, Google is acting like a narrow minded bigot who thinks all sex is hetero and in the missionary position.  There are lots of different kinds of names.  I am someone who never goes by my legal name, and it is extremely helpful, because anyone who calls or writes to me using my real legal name is instantly someone who I don’t want to deal with. Friends, family, and even all my financials are all under another name.  At work I go by a nickname, a variation of my legal name, that everyone uses for brevity.  Finally everyone online knows me as Ariane, or ArianeB.  I cannot join Google Plus and stay within the rules they prescribe, so I don’t.

People that follow the rules, with foreign names, single word names, and words in their names not normally associated with being names are being unfairly targeted by the Google gestapo demanding, “Papers Please!” in order to get back in.  Their new “Verified” tags are down right embarrassing, and just making the situation worse.  If it was just their stupid social network, nobody would give a damn, but Google is threatening people who don’t comply with termination of all Google based services, some of which people need for their employment.  Such tactics are creating a small but growing movement away from all things Google.

Why is Google doing it?  Why are they threatening their customers on some made up issue?  It is because they think they can get rich off of it. Fake names are not real customers, according to Google.  They want your information, so they can sell it to advertisers.  They are like those ugly naked creatures from Futurama: Bender’s Big Score, who profit off people’s gullability that Google is not evil.

Here is the bottom line.  I work in the tech industry, with lots and lots of fellow computer geeks who are always on the cutting edge of internet culture.  When Google released “exclusive” invitations to Plus, most of the company had invites within days.  Just two months later, and nobody at work is talking about Google Plus anymore.  I can’t find anyone who uses their account, and those of us who do not have accounts, don’t really want them. It is has been shunned as “uncool” by the techie masses.

Google Plus is another flash in the pan idea, from the makers of Google Wave, Google Buzz, Google Orkut, and Google Lively.  I’ll admit that Google Plus is built on superior technology and tools than Facebook, and that is what drove initial interest, but cool tech only goes so far.  Reputation is everything, and the quicker Google figures that out the quicker they will dump Google Plus, Google Profiles, and everything else associated with this marketing disaster.

Are you an RPer or an SNer?

I was thinking of blogging a review of all the changes to Second Life over the past year, and thought it sounded boring. I was also thinking about blogging about the major FUBAR advertising mess at Facebook, but everyone else has already, and the story is pretty over now.

But it got me thinking. I have yet to actually create an account at Facebook. I have gone over to the sight and clicked on the friendly green “Sign Up” and immediately felt intimidated by the fact that they want so much personal info right up front. That and the fact that the sign up captchas dont even appear in my browser of choice (Opera) tells me right away that this is a shady operation I want no part of.

This gets me thinking about the series I did earlier in the year about Second Life at the Crossroads and the two kinds of players you find in Second Life: The Role Players and the Virtual Utopians. It seems to me that the share everything about yourself philosophy of Facebook might appeal to some Virtual Utopians, while the Role Players would avoid it like the plague. But I think the reverse is true too; I’m not sure the typical facebook enthusiast would even “get” Second Life either.

Could it be that internet enthusiasts self divide into Role Players and Social Networkers with limited cross over?

One of my observations of the many changes in Second Life over the past year, is that many recent changes have negative effects on the SL role player community, and yet I have been observing that the Role Player community in second life is probably stronger than ever. In many ways, Second Life was designed primarily for role players. It is probably the best role player program on the web. In fact I think it represents an extreme in that regard. There are Medieval RP sims, Sci-Fi RP sims, Vampires, Goreans, and you can be back in high school if you want too.

Facebook represents an extreme on the social networking side. You can if you want get up to the minute reports on the happenings of all your friends and what they were doing on the web. The “Beacon” advertising program even allowed you to view where your friends are shopping. In today’s Reality TV “I don’t care if the Government spies on me” openness, it is no wonder why Facebook is so popular. Its like a “stalker’s” best friend.

In between these two extremes, you have much bigger entities like World of Warcraft and MySpace which have at least some limited appeal to both camps. If nothing else World of Warcraft is a fun game and My Space is a great place to show off how insane you are.

Anyways its an idea looking into. Do you like to go on the web as yourself or someone else? Are you a Role Player or a Social Networker? Apparently there is little crossover and a lot of weird looks across the divide.