Techno Punks / Nine myths of the digital world
Technopunks guide you through the Nine Falsehoods and onto the noble path of digital enlightenment.
Myth 1: Facebook is a social network.
Generally speaking, browsing Facebook is time ill spent. To adapt the famous words of Rolling Stone blogger Matt Taibbi in describing the American investment bank Goldman Sachs: The world’s most powerful social network is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its cutesy funnel into anything that smells like intimacy.
Facebook is not "The Social Network," it’s an anti-social network, populated by loners and other social pariahs – as well those of us on our way to becoming such people. While it may seem like the Sweet & Lo of friendship – most of the fun with none of the regrets – it's actually a drug, enabling and furthering people’s isolation from one another.
On Facebook, people can peek into the lives of others – usually people they are not close with, will never really know and would have nothing to say to in real life. It more or less makes everyone into the eavesdropping Stasi agent in the Academy Award-winning film "The Lives of Others."
Hopefully, some of your Facebook "friends" will show up to help when Big Brother comes to take you away, but by then they may be too anti-social for that kind of direct confrontation.
Myth 2: Twitter is a way to engage your friends in informed dialogue.
Are you joking? Twitter forces you to condense your thoughts into an incredibly limited number of characters, and you never really know who’s reading your tweets. The best bets are your boss, the government and your mother – who else would want constant updates about your whereabouts and opinions?
Basically, it’s a cry in the wilderness. You have no idea if anyone will hear you, and odds are it won’t save you from being eaten by a pack of wolves.
Myth 3: Instagram is the social network you absolutely have to join!
Do we really? There isn't much to do on Instagram other than look at uninteresting photos taken mostly by uninteresting people. You can learn what people eat, how they look in their bathroom mirrors and what their pets do around the house.
It’s a little like those mundane conversations you have with your significant other right after you get home from work.
The most absurd thing about Instragram is that most of the photos on the site are altered to look like they were taken with old-school film cameras. In the world of techno punks, using advanced technology to mimic antiquated technology is a sacrilege of the highest order.
Myth 4: The new model is better.
This is often but not always true. Need we remind you of Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system? I know, we're still traumatized too. We’ve been using a picture of Paul Allen’s head as a dartboard ever since. But it had to be mentioned.
And really, why do you need to upgrade from the iPhone 4 to the iPhone 4S? Remember when you waited with baited breath to ditch your iPhone 3 for the iPhone 4, with all its life-changing new features? Well, this time they didn’t even bother adding a number to the model. Apparently, the upgrade is less about technology and more about how much an “S” is worth to you.
Myth 5: The whole Internet is buzzing about X.
Really, the whole Internet? Or maybe just the five friends who visit the same three sites as you every morning?
Does a planned demonstration with 500 “likes” on its Facebook page – 450 of which were probably accidental – really count as a “protest group,” warranting media coverage and an official government response?
Does two bloggers posting a link to another blog they are friendly with really constitute a “digital storm” in the blogosphere? Or is it just water cooler talk for computer nerds?
It worth keeping in mind that blogs tend to have less diversity in both opinion and lifestyle than a typical gathering at the office coffee machine. And there’s a much higher likelihood of someone getting burned.
Myth 6: The Internet is full of viruses.
That’s not quite correct. How many times in the last year was your computer actually infected by a virus – the kind that ruins your day and takes a techno punk about that long to fix?
True, when it does happen, it’s not a pleasant experience. But think of it this way: Every winter you catch the flu or some other virus and waste three to five workdays (plus the odd Ferris Bueller’s day you blame on the flu) recovering. At least Internet viruses don't cause that kind of damage.
Things like anti-virus software and computer warranties are only forms of insurance. And just as you still have to drive carefully in an insured car, you should remain vigilant when browsing the information superhighway.
Myth 7: Kids today are too technologically “wired” and have attention deficit disorders.
Yes, the iPhone, iPad and plasma screen TV are amazing and addictive advices. But let’s take a step back here. Who really started digital addictions and microscopic attention spans?
It couldn’t have been the kids of today, who were born into a world already chock-full of Nintendo nuts. Nor could it be your parents, who we know still haven’t entirely mastered their email accounts.
So let’s face facts. It was your generation, dear reader. It’s you who doesn’t like to be caught on the toilet without your iPhone or Blackberry. It’s you who can’t relax after work without a little time in front of your flat screen TV or computer.
And it’s you who rush home with the latest gadgets and spend days playing with them in a state of near euphoria. Do you really need to give high-fives to everyone in the room when you get through another round of Angry Birds?
So what do you expect from your children? That they should use their imaginations and play in the dirt with some pebbles? Wait, who's that knocking on the door? Look, its Mr. Hypocrisy here to join the fun.
Myth 8: Google search is ruining your memory.
It’s probably true that we remember less these days because we can always look things up on Google. But who said we need to remember all the things our parents had to?
Instead of phone numbers, we have to remember our iPhone passwords so we can look up phone numbers. Instead of memorizing encyclopedia entries we have become professional knowledge grazers, sifting through endless fields of news, opinions and professional information.
Google is a tool. Just like a hammer or an airplane, it’s a means to an end. It makes the skills of the previous generation irrelevant and gives us the time and mental space to acquire new ones.
Myth 9: Technological progress makes happier as a species.
Humanity has always longed for a better life – one that’s supposedly just around the corner. If we can just make that turn, we know we’ll be able to do all the things we’ve always dreamed of.
But there’s a reason Steve Jobs journeyed to an Indian ashram in the days before he founded Apple Computers. And it wasn't for tips from a business or technology guru.
Computers today do incredible things that would have seemed impossible just a generation ago. But there’s no reason to think they’ve made us any happier.
On the other hand, the iPad 3 hasn’t come out yet.
Stay tuned for Techno punks’ upcoming list of the seven worst digital sins.