This past week, we started to discuss the effects of the modern Internet. We discussed censorship in China which was an eye opening topic for me because I’ve never had the opportunity to talk about different uses/restrictions of the Internet in different countries. I found it crazy to learn that devices are tracked as soon as the server is logged onto. The thought of taking a burner computer and phone just to travel to China is other worldly to me. The fact that the government has the power to monitor individual access to the Internet is crazy because this allows the government to mold the ignorance of their people and allow them to believe that their surroundings are peachy-keen as demonstrated by one of the stories told by a fellow classmate from his trip to China. I would like to learn more about censorship of the Internet in China and have been reading more articles regarding this topic.
We went on to discuss jobs that are most at risk with the rapid development of the Internet. The commonality between the jobs we thought could easily be replaced by automated machines (such as transportation, service, video stores, manufacturing, etc.) were all jobs that require repetitive actions. If these jobs do become automated, a certain aspect of humanity is stripped away because there is no real person to complete interactions with. In a way, this takes away individuality among the people who hold these jobs, but an increased sense of individuality might occur with automation as people who are losing their jobs will be forced to search for new ways to help society. Today’s Internet is an interesting source for the discussion of individuality and authenticity in our world. The Internet can essentially be curated to one’s unique interests which creates an echo chamber of sorts. The Long Tail market shows how the economy is learning to capitalize on the range of interests that span the world. Social media, targeted advertising, and entertainment sites (like video and music streaming) are all examples of trying to create individuality online.
I find it fascinating to look at the different aspects of social media in conjunction with the thought of authenticity and individuality. In regards to individuality, social media is an interesting network to examine because it is a space that allows a person to develop a highly opinionated persona, but this does not necessarily mean that the product is authentic. Many posts on social media have been highly curated to fulfill the certain persona that has been created online. However, other accounts may have highly under-curated posts (as seen in our recent political climate) which can create a different allure to a “spontaneous,” or more authentic feel of a human. “Followers” are a representation of approval of interest in an individual. A “follower” finds people they are interested in to shape their own individuality. Not only do one’s posts shape the online representation of an individual, but one’s followers and accounts one follows add another facet to this persona. In my mind, I picture a sphere where a portion of the surface area represents a person’s online representation, but the actual human interaction and feelings are more like the volume of the sphere. To me, social media seems to play upon human’s innate desire to fit in. This echo chamber of individualism that appears to be occurring fosters more extreme opinions and close mindedness which in turn creates a sense of hostility between individuals of opposing views.
In self reflection of this discussion, I can see that I am becoming more skeptical regarding online presence and the Internet. I am enjoying talking to friends and family about their views about the Internet and seeing the difference in opinions between different ages. I look forward to the discussions we will be having as the weeks become more related to modern issues (and I predict I will become even more skeptical).
One thought on “Echo Chamber of Individualism”
Interesting thoughts; I hope we don’t make you too skeptical over the semester.
There is a great paper by one of the Government professors at Harvard, Gary King, on on-line censorship in China– you can find it at https://gking.harvard.edu/publications/how-censorship-china-allows-government-criticism-silences-collective-expression . I find it interesting not only because it shows what the Chinese censors are worried about, but also because it shows how this kind of research can be done by exploiting the difference between human time and machine time.
We will be talking a lot more about some of the topics you brought up…and some of those discussions will, I hope, end on an optimistic note…