Selichot for Yom Kippur: We surfed the web, we sinned
We said that the Internet is freedom, Facebook is wonderful, and talkbacks are an arena for meaningful debate. Will you forgive us?
Sorry that we told you that the Internet is free. Sorry that we told you that the Internet would increase production, making life faster and more effective. In reality, we created an insatiable time-eating monster.
Sorry that we flooded the country with mobile devices, and hailed them as a communications revolution. It turns out that the old slogan by Israeli cellphone company Pelephone, “turning a lost hour into a work hour,” is optimistically stupid: Cellphones, smartphones, and tablets have turned us into anti-social robots, so much so that all hours of the day have been lost. Lost to feeble-minded computer games, which it seems, like viruses, have a single objective, to multiply at the expense of their hosts, and spread to other people.
Sorry that we sparked your imagination with exciting reports on Facebook, that we inspired you to surf, or perhaps tumble down that slippery slope, the both endless and pointless news feed. Hell is other people, as are insipid updates about their lives, which encourage insipid updates about yours. And in that regard, sorry that we made you agree with Gunter Grass, who said in an interview last that “Facebook is crap. My grandson told me that he has 500 friends on Facebook.” Grass replied, “If you have 500 friends, you have no friends at all.”
Sorry that we gave you the idea that the Internet was founded on the beautiful principles of freedom, and brotherhood, for the good of humanity. Sorry that we led you to believe that it will release us all form the chains of government and corporations, and that we promised that it will turn us into global citizens, with equal rights and equal power on the web. The Internet was founded by DARPA, the investigations branch of the American Defense Department, as a communications network meant to withstand nuclear attack. The attack never came, and the web fell into the hands of the spy agencies, as Edward Snowden as revealed.
In that same regard, sorry that we forced you to get anti-virus software, and put up firewalls. It seems that the NSA has already embedded itself in your underwear.
Sorry that we promised that Talkbacks would be a platform for fruitful discussion between writers and readers. What you got instead was a swamp of curses and bitter slurs, frequented by self-interested people who don’t understand that their comments harm only themselves, and the majority of whom you wouldn’t want to sit next to in the waiting room at the doctor’s office.
Sorry that we praised the tablets as a convenient device for web surfing, watching movies, and even working. In reality we created the ultimate weapon against your ability to be a responsible parent, and sentenced you to a life of uncomfortable typing on a smudgy glass screen.
Sorry that we made cute cats the official animal of the web. In reality they are wicked, capricious, ungrateful creatures, that leave hair all over the house, scratch anything made of cloth, or not made of cloth for that matter, all during the few hours of the day that they aren’t defiantly sleeping while you work hard to put food on the table.
Sorry that we turned Apple into an empire. Steve Jobs was a dictator that told his customers what was good for them, that randomly fired employees during chance meetings in the elevator. He created fashionable products with outrageous price tags that do nothing but advance their owner’s self-preoccupation, but still manage, with our help, to garner zealous, messianic-caliber praises.
Sorry we gave you the illusion that everyone is online, so you should be too. According to the latest data from the Central Bureau of Statistics, in 2010, only 68.1% of Israeli households had internet connections. The digital gaps get larger when you compare percentiles. 93.4% of the richest homes had internet connections, while only 37.% of the poorest could make the same claim.
Sorry that we opposed initiatives aimed at censorship and shutting down websites. The ability to protect oneself and loved ones from the darker sides of the web is based only on familiarity with the internet, which of course is not evenly distributed, as it is based on free time spent browsing, decreases as we go down the socioeconomic ladder. It’s lucky then that only 37.8% of the poorest households have internet connections then, isn't it?
Sorry that we’ve made Google omniscient. The significance of this is that whatever doesn’t pop up on the first page of Google results simply does not exist, and that countless web personalities receive the same amount of influence and importance, and sometimes more, as those authors and thinkers and artists that are forced to work use ink, pens, or typewriters.
Sorry that we brought you down with us.
One last depressing thought to go out on
Sorry that we presented Yair Lapid as a running joke on Facebook. From a joke that we set up along with political analyst Yossi Verter, it turns out that this is a real person, whose stand-up routine on Facebook, and the feuilletons he posts in his newsletters are just a hobby. It turns out that he makes his living as the Israeli finance minister.