There are some questions that will never be answered. In some cases itisa matter of context. Inquires such as to the meaning of life, the universe and everything. Other questions cannot be answered because they are either too complex as based on too many variables or are too subjective to have a single, pat answer. Things such as the best brand of laptop or the correct way to eat a slice of pizza? Then there are questions that are complex and have a subjective aspect to them, that are difficult to answer for another, more sinister, reason. The answer goes against the prevailing thinking on the matter. An action well known, in historical terms, to get turned into a social pariah in the best of circumstances and tortured and burned at the stake in the worst. It is just this sort of question that is the subject of this article. Get your torches ready. Is the internet killing our happiness?
Humans like to label. More than that we need to to it, as was discovered by sociologist Dr. Howard Becker. It is how we organize. It is also how we cope. Not only with the things we do not understand but also the things we do no like and do not want to face. From jazz to rock 'n' roll to heavy metal and from comic books to horror movies to video-games, the 20th century was rife with scapegoats. Things 'experts' and 'concerned parents' were certain were, or would soon cause the ruination of youth and the destruction of society as they knew it. Spoiler alert. It did not happen. Despite their utter, and laughable, failure to predict what was coming, the likes of Dr. Frederick Wertham, Tipper Gore, Mary Whitehouse and Jack Thompson still live on. As Chumbawamba put it in their song “Enough Is Enough”: “The Nazis changed but they never really went away.” Now before the cries of “Godwin!” reach levels that can be heard from the moon, the meaning is not meant to be literal. I am not comparing media censors to Nazis in any substantive sense. I am more than happy to leave that up to Twitter and the YoutTube comments section. I simply mean it as an example of how a way of thinking can persist even after the failure of its originators.
The original media censors did not have much to say about the internet in the beginning. Many were too busy putting stickers on records and calling for a ban on DOOM and MAGIC: The Gathering to really notice. It was not until the first decade of the 21st century, after the internet had established itself as the dominant media force, that things began to change. The message began to shift for the new medium. Questions began to arise about what the internet might be doing to our minds. Terms such as “addiction” began to appear alongside words like “Youtube” and “text”. Much as how they appeared along side words like “violence” and “video-game” back in the old days.
No. The internet is not “killing our happiness”. It is only as good or as bad as we make it. If we are unhappy we need to look to ourselves and stop using modern digital technology as the most recent in a tragic parade of scapegoats and straw-men.