Sunday, December 4, 2016

I love the Internet, it does not love me back

Paul Young, author of "The Shack" recently gave an analogy of religious zealotry in an interview. He said there are people who go looking for something. Let's say you have a guitar player living in rural Indiana who can't find people who get what the blues are all about like he does. So he straps his guitar on his back and starts hitchiking toward Memphis. He passes through small towns and is given sideways glances and maybe even spit on for how he is dressed or the vision he talks of to anyone who cares to ask.

Then he gets closer and sees a sign, "Memphis, 100 miles". He sits down, so happy he almost cries, plays a tune. People ask him why he's sitting there and he says, "Because I've found it, look, Memphis, it's a sign. I was so moved by this sign. It's real, it's attainable. I'm going to plant myself here and sing songs about this sign and invite others to share in the feelings I've had about it."

The analogy of going to church on Sunday is obvious, but there is also the analogy to social networks. Many people find themselves alone in their communities, with a belief system that is not shared by the people they are in contact with everyday. They go to the internet looking for something else, and they fall in love with the internet. Their friends are named PragPop27 and scrmdidle. It can be very satisfying and also a complete waste of time.

The tools of the information age have been demonstrated to be very powerful. They helped overthrow Qaddafi and bring awareness to many struggling people around the world. They have also been used to recruit terrorists who then can't be traced back to any specific government or entity. Tools are tools, they aren't the answer.

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