*edit, March 29, 2018 – I see that the link to Michael’s article has been hijacked. It leads to a page that says that “zcommunications.org” is for sale, which isn’t true. Note that the correct url is: “zcomm.org”.
Z Blogs | Facebook Vs Civilization. – by Michael Albert
*edit, November 11, 2015 – I just noticed that my statement a few paragraphs below (staring with (MA goes on to…”) was messed up. The idea I was trying to convey isn’t complex. I tidied it up. I say what I intended to say.
*edit, October 29, 2011 – I went on to move another three times for a total of 5 times in a space of about 14 months! Once, I was robbed by a loser who took two months rent from me for his apartment, the lease to which I was taking over. He insisted that I talk only to him and not bother with our landlord. The landlord didn’t pay much attention to our deal other than to ask if I smoked, which I don’t. Then that turd told our landlord that I only gave him one month’s rent. Additionally, I had taken that apartment too quickly. I was in a bad situation. I would be sharing with another man who didn’t clean anything. At all! You can’t imagine. After I spent hours cleaning for both of us, the light went on. It was a costly enlightenment, but it was better than suffering with a very negative situation. I left for my brother’s house in Oshawa, which was more hell for other reasons. I only recently (Sept 2011) had a break in the bad luck, landing a good apartment on a trendy strip on Avenue Road in Toronto for next to nothing.
I probably should email Michael Albert and ask him whether this is okay. I have, afterall, lifted his entire article for this post. But for now, I’ll leave it. My commentary will be italicized.
“At the risk of pissing off a lot of friends, I have become steadily more concerned about Facebook to the point where I am beginning to feel that coupled with instant messaging and certain aspects of the world wide web, Facebook is precipitating the end of civilization, not just as we know it – but period. That is extreme I know. But, I can’t shake the feeling.”
MA goes on to deliver much text in an effort to show how we are not evolving the way we’re supposed to. But he doesn’t really want to discuss it. I know, because once when I commented in the long gone, open to everyone, forums on ZNet, explaining that there is no evidence for biological evolution out there, Albert had a real issue with it. And he wasn’t reasonable about how he went about making his case. I simply ‘had’ to agree with him because he agreed with everyone else. Case closed.
“Over Thanksgiving at a family affair, I watched a group of teens navigate their reality. They weren’t just avidly using their portable devices – ranging from modest cell phones to large screen laptops. Rather, they were inseparable from those devices. They were constantly at them. And they didn’t even have Ipads! Okay, big deal, you might say. But yes, I think it is.”
MA would love to divert some of that attention for important things, and so would I. We, however, care about ‘how’ we do that, which, naturally, makes it a challenge. Like the Bible says, the road to destruction is wide and spacious. The road to life, which is what most people actually want even while they pass on it, is cramped and narrow. Meaning? We don’t just give lip service to laws and principles. There are things we ‘can not’ do therefore, because they would be wrong. The cramped and narrow aspect of the road we travel isn’t a negative thing. Those who, at this time, have chosen to survive and have decided that how they do that isn’t as important as just surviving are therefore free to do that in a myriad of ways. Principles don’t hinder them and the road they traverse is therefore wide and spacious. (Matthew 7:13,14)
“The young people, and some of the elders as well, couldn’t even watch TV and focus on it much less seriously converse about anything at all. They had to, instead, at the same time as watching TV, send and receive instant messages while periodically, almost convulsively, visiting and revisiting their Facebook pages.”
Well, If you have intellectual power, whether you’re decent or a cad, and you’re forced to share space for any length of time with people who are intellectually deficient, and worse, voluntarily intellectually deficient, then it can make you… nuts. I experience this often enough. We (who think) all do. When I visit family, who I love, in my home town (Oshawa, Ontario), I’m freaked by the Alice in wonderland reality I’ve shifted into. You can’t tear anyone away from their tv sets. Even weirder, They will disagree with me that they are hooked on tv – while we are all right there watching it! Non stop! They aren’t much into devices or computers, partly because of poverty but partly because we aren’t dealing with a great deal of sophistication here. The conversation isn’t really happening, partly because when it does happen, I find myself listening to mostly noise (to be blunt) and ignored at the same time. Then I might get a call from a concerned family member, later when I return home (which happened recently, home being Toronto), who noticed I was quiet when visiting earlier and who concluded that I was really down or something. No. Well, Yes. I’m down. But I was quiet because in the ‘conversation’ that did take place, I wasn’t once asked for my opinion. About anything. Everyone else knows everything, so why would anyone ask me for an opinion? And I don’t enjoy hollering in order to be heard.
At least my family loves me. And they are there for me when I need them. But ‘my’ family needs to be everyone, which I’m sure Albert would agree with. As for the idea of ‘voluntarily intellectually challenged’, which involves making choices – tv rather than books or a newspaper, for example – that, when made regularly over time, literally make you dumb, I notice there’s a similar condition that I would call ‘willful ignorance’. You’ve met people, no doubt, who, when you think you are having a discussion with them about this or that, not only have no time for any opinion but their own, but they brag about their ignorance, saying things like “I don’t know and I don’t want to know.” They know they don’t know much about certain subjects and they choose to take great pride in not knowing anything about those subjects, hoping to make you feel like you’re a loser for showing the interest you show. With that, you get a variation of ‘misery likes company’, which would be ‘stupidity and attitude likes company’. You’re supposed to respond to such responses with “Yes, I agree. I don’t know why I bother thinking about that crap. I won’t be doing so any longer. What was I thinking?”
With such ones, there not only never was any evolution happening, but they’ve embraced their darkness and that accelerates it. Darkness is it’s own reward and, unfortunately, those who are still conscious, which doesn’t mean evolved (biologically), must endure the pain of seeing our civilization (continue to) disintegrate before our eyes, for that’s what we are observing.
“One parent said it used to be that they felt like TV was antisocial compared to sitting around dinner and talking at length. Now they wished the group could even just watch TV as a group, without being enmeshed in self creating absolutely individualistic personal spaces defined by access to their mobile devices.
“Indeed, I finally understood why various network TV shows now advertise their web sites, telling viewers to visit those while the show is still on, and thus, seemingly competing with themselves. Are they nuts? Of course not. The answer is, they do it because these kids multitask like that, whether they are invited to or not. The kids, and many adults too, can’t not be doing a bunch of things – not so much literally at once, which is real multitasking, as one after another after another, back and forth, which is what I have come to call flitting. In this case this yields a little attention on TV and some on messages and Facebook and some on frequent forays to web sites – but no attention for everyone else in the vicinity, even.”
Yes, But I feel MA is missing something here. I share his frustration with the idiocracy our world has become. But those of us who can still need to think clearly about it. What the evil tv networks, and device makers like Apple, are doing that we should also be doing is making things interesting. They are exploiting human minds that not only are capable of advancing civilization, but are capable of going forward, in the workplace and outside of it, creatively and in interesting ways.
Negativity is what you get when you automatically disagree with people. You demonstrate negativity when you fail to examine a situation or statement critically and judge it on it’s own merits. Steve Jobs might not care whether Apple, and other big corporations, like Google, pay their fair share of taxes so that the little people don’t have to pick up the slack, but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t artistic and that others aren’t responding, partly, to the beauty he creates. Jobs may not care that his company’s tax evasion (in my, and others’, opinion) means that fewer little people will be able to afford to spend money on his fancy and interesting devices, but that doesn’t mean that he’s not clever or artistic enough to design devices that have usefulness, beauty and appeal. Acknowledge that.
Negativity, or automatically disagreeing with views that aren’t your own, is a variation of willful ignorance.
“This is also why more and more TV shows and web sites, clutter things up with quick info bulletins, constantly flowing at the bottom. It is so the new audience of network aficionados can keep changing what they are doing, without literally, entirely, leaving the show. You can see it on talk shows, too, as the talking heads change topics as fast as they can. In fact, what many people find cluttering nowadays isn’t so much clutter, as it is anything that threatens to require serious time.”
Agreed, with the qualification I offered.
“The point is, and i am serious about this, attention span is plummeting toward zero.”
I’ve wanted to study Parecon. Honestly. I’ve made fitful starts at it. Honestly. But it’s… like watching paint dry. I. Just. Can’t. Do. It! Sorry Michael.
“We have been schooled already for some years by the habits of browsing on pages flitting among many choices often as quickly as possible. Now added to the mix is Facebook with its never ending flow of snippets of personal gossip and news, and of course, talking about snippets, we have Twitter. We can tweet – yikes, they aren’t even embarrassed by naming the behavior incredibly accurately, we tweet, or we even follow an avalanche of other people’s tweets. Are we birds? Thousand of years of intellectual development and struggle and now we can tweet, tweet, tweet – speedy and vacuous.”
“Kids now sit in school ensconced in their mobile devices – tweeting, messaging, [and] otherwise twitting about. One wonders, do the sons and daughters of the rich and professional do this all the time, too? If so, their brains are doomed to decline. But I bet not. I bet many are in private schools that keep a lid on it. I bet they go to clubs and homes which put a lid on it. But if not…and if maybe the poor don’t do it for want of access, perhaps we finally, a saving grace – the poor may inherit the earth due to alone not becoming bird brains. But, alas, inquiries evidence that no, the poor twit too.”
You have no idea MA. Chaos, which the poor are prone to, doesn’t make us tweeters. I don’t tweet nor do I blog with much (relatively speaking) material. Why? I’ve moved twice this year. I moved the first time in order to save money. I don’t make a living wage. Even so, Over the years, I’ve spent a considerable amount of money buying used and new books that I then use, as reference material, to construct arguments that I then present on my blog or in forums. (And I buy the same books again, in used bookstores, and give them away for free.) I can’t afford tv. I can’t even afford basic tv, which I regret because I’m interested in knowing about big events that I may want to know about. Suppose there’s a chemical spill on the route I take to work. The news would tell me. Other than that, I have no use for tv, which isn’t to say that there aren’t a few tv shows that I enjoy as mindless (sort of) diversion. But I simply download those.
And capitalists aren’t happy with the large amount I pay them for access to the web, but must still complain about the meager downloading folks such as myself do. Do they care that I don’t earn a living wage, largely because that’s the way they want it? (Check out: “Why are U.S. Net Services Slow To Migrate North?,” by Michael Geist ) They call me a pirate and will happily punish me for my crimes – while they avoid paying taxes, using all manner of legal channels to do so, because they’ve managed to persuade people that governments are bad, which has has left governments to capitalists to use as they wish. And they’ve redesigned those governments to serve their special capitalist interests. Governments that they’ve redesigned to meet their needs only are certainly bad, but that never had to happen.
The first time I moved, the notice we security guards regularly get in the mail (or did) informing us that it’s time to renew our guard licences went to my old apartment. So I missed that notice. There I am in bed at my new apartment (a room in a guy’s rented upper floor of a house) and I get a phone call from the ministry informing me that I cannot go to work until I renew my guard licence. I was down for about 2 weeks. We are talking about someone who always uses all of his overdraft every month and who goes to payday lenders regularly. I moved to ‘save’ money.
While I’m moved, the knives come out. Crap happened (and I didn’t really deserve all of it) and I had complaints against me (including one from a girl whose employer let ‘her’ go and then later told me where I could find, possibly, better paid work, which he would help me obtain by allowing me to use his name as a reference!) that the useless woman in charge of the building (owned by a R.E.I.T. or real estate investment trust) I worked in cited as the reason I could no longer work there. I had worked at that site for about 9 years.
Now I’m floating. Try focussing when you’re a low wage security guard, going regularly to payday lenders and wondering whether you’ll ever get a decent permanent gig again. It’s not tweeting or Facebook that’s got me unable to focus.
The apartment I found was rented to me by a liar who said it was just me and him in a house that he hardly lived in. I discovered later that there was a crazy woman living in an apartment in the basement under my room. She banged incessantly and loudly and angrily on my floor when she heard me. And my landlord would have a succession of girls in and have sex with them in front of me. I would not be interrupting them. They’d start while I was there in our shared space! I’d have to come out of my room to use the washroom. Once I was cooking in the kitchen, which is sort of open to the living room where they went ahead and made out after I had begun cooking. (Nothing was said to me. I wasn’t asked whether I wanted to join in. I wasn’t asked to go away and come back later. They didn’t use any of the two empty bedrooms, with doors – for his kids who he had over periodically – that were available.)
I had to move – again. I found a place I can afford (but must still visit payday lenders). It’s overrun with cockroaches and other bugs. I have to kill them every day. I eat at my computer desk. The bugs sometimes come out and walk across my desk toward my plate as I’m eating! No biggy? Yes, It’s a biggy. I have to act fast and I can’t be squeamish. I have to slap the bugs and kill them, quickly, then get up and wash my hands and dispose of the corpses. And I’m not talking about now and then. This is constant. Every day and the whole time I’m at home. The first thing I do when I enter my apartment is head for the kitchen sink where the bugs seem to enjoy hanging out and quickly flush them down the drain. The bigger ones are fast and will exit and flee if I don’t get brutal and smack them down fast. If they are at least stunned, I’ll be able to flush them down the drain.
I’m distracted. Doing the one useful thing I do, namely political activism via blogging, isn’t easy and it’s not because I’m distracted by flashy devices that I can’t afford. And somehow, over the course of moving twice this horrible year (worst of my life actually), I’ve lost boxes of books, some of which books are new. We can’t figure that one out. Someone literally had to walk off with those boxes as we set them outside in my brother’s Torrent when he was moving me. But we never saw or noticed anything. I just don’t know. I can’t simply go out and buy new (used or new) books. I’ll replace some of them, over time. But…
Now, If I could teach the roaches how to dance and sing…
“Am I exaggerating sure – well, I hope so, but maybe I am not so sure of it.
“We are told about a massive increase in communications. Okay, yes, I admit that – there is certainly more sending and receiving – more bits and bytes are transfering – but the content conveyed is declining even as the number of messages is climbing. The duration of each communication is approaching zero. Fast, faster, fastest. The content of each communication is approaching nil. Short, shorter, shortest. And here is the scariest part, the individual and thus also the collective brain is rewiring itself in accord.”
Feel free to back that up with authoritative sources, MA. I’m sure there’s something to the claim mind you. Collective brain? Has MA been reading Teilhard de Chardin? I wouldn’t be able to ask him, easily. When I tried to comment on this post of his on ZNet, I was reminded that I need to be, at a minimum, a sustainer, which is a regular donator. I’d be happy to donate. I understand that we, namely those of us who support it and those of us who don’t, live in a money system. That’s reality. Nothing is free. But why is ZNet the only progressive site (that I know of), with interactive features, out there that disallows the voice of the poor on it’s website? There’s something wrong about that. There’s an arrogance there that stinks. ZNet is an awesome resource. Those of us trying to learn about important things so that we can teach others about those important things rely on it. But, I’m sorry to report (to MA), ZNet isn’t my savior. I ‘can’ live without it, if I must. If I had to live without it entirely, I could. If I fail to survive what’s coming, it won’t be because I lost my connection with ZNet. It’s my connection to the Creator that matters. Really.
“Think about exercising to become good at some new function. I am medically entirely ignorant, but my intuitive impression is that one thing that happens, more or less, is that you become attuned in your muscles and expectations and habits to the new function. Maybe it is shooting foul shots on a basketball court or ice skating. Or perhaps it is some kind of mental calculating or playing a musical instrument or even listening to certain types of complex music,. Or maybe, nowadays, the new function you master is literally doing any one thing after any other thing, after still another thing, after another, with the function that is mastered being the fastest and most efficient possible re-attuning of one’s brief focus over and over.
“In the former cases of learning a new skill, we know that we eventually get quite good at something, and we tend to want to keep doing it and we feel good doing it, and so on. It may even become a bit habitual. Given the opportunity to our thing, we feel a pressure to seize that opportunity and do what we have become expert at.
“In the latter case, however, where what you are doing over and over to become good at it is literally efficiently and repeatedly quickly switching what you are doing, then what you are getting good at is flitting. You become a good flitter. But in that case too, we might anticipate, you will start to want to flit, and even need to flit, to manifest your new flitting talent. Who you now are is, well, in part a great flitter. It is almost like your muscles becoming attuned to shooting baskets or skating or whatever. Your brain becomes attuned to flitting. Experiments show that for this functionality your brain even reorients itself, rewires itself – a bit – to maximize your flitting capacity.
“And here is the scary part – the rewiring to facilitate flitting has a by-product. You gain flitting ability, but you also lose inclination to and perhaps even ability to focus for more than a smidgen of time on any one thing. You become disinclined to appreciate activities that require you to pay close extended attention, much less activities that require you to think many connected thoughts over an extended time without repeatedly taking off on some other very brief path. So you start to want short, shorter, shortest. You start to want fast, faster, fastest. You keep moving your attention until your attention can’t sit still. You are a flitter. And there goes civilization.
“Maybe I am paranoid, but this is what I see happening. I can even feel it in myself at times, when using an Ipad, say, which is a marvelously designed and powerful instrument that, however, like most instruments, can be used for good, but also for not so good – including for flitting. Okay, again you may say, so what.
You’re not paranoid Michael. Just somewhat ignorant. Although I note that you almost picked up on the subject of ‘being interesting’ there when you referred to the “marvelously designed and powerful” Ipad.
“Well here is what.
“The internet and even social networking can most certainly be tremendously beneficial tools for human and social enrichment. I can just hear people reading this and saying to me – or screaming at me – but Michael, we use Facebook to send good left articles to people. It is a wonderful thing. We use it to organize demos. We use the web to read massive volumes. And so on.
“Sure, these are good possibilities. And some people do mostly these things. But the good here is getting swamped – and that is much too weak a word for what is happening – by the bad.
“The potential of the internet is getting hijacked. And we – the people using it and even the people using it for good – are, when we use the commercial and fundamentally deadening parts (taking good from them while also legitimating them and ignoring the need to build better alternatives) abetting the hijacking.”
MA understands responsibility. Good.
“It is hard not to do it. If you are a teen and you don’t tweet and you don’t message and you don’t Facebook, you are decoupled from your community. You have no time to build and contribute to and advocate for better networks and sites and practices – because you need to go back and check your Facebook page – and, in any event, you have come to think it is perfect, or nearly so. After all, if it wasn’t why would so many people be using it so much? This is now starting to occur even for adults. Age creep – up toward those of us staring at senility on one side, and at techno babble on the other side, wondering which is duller.”
For the record, I ditched Facebook. Twice. I ditched it the first time after a redesign by that tool, Zuckerberg, that rendered it utterly useless for any good purpose, ubiquitous references by activists mentioning their Facebook pages notwithstanding. And I ditched it again recently because it’s just too damned weird and cold, not to mention useless. I only rejoined in order to have a look, to see whether it looked the same and to perhaps use it as an excuse to say hello to a few people who I knew, who I had no real reason to bother otherwise. And I alerted everyone I ended up connecting with that this was mostly likely temporary, since my opinion about Facebook hadn’t really changed. I was off it again, sooner than I expected to be. It’s like being at a party where you know everyone (in my case, since I don’t have hundreds of contacts) and where many of those contacts are family and only two or three out of that whole crowd bother to say hello to you. That’s weird and that’s cold. And that’s not for me. I avoid negative energy. I badly need to. I need to acquire motivation, not to lose it.
“Who wants to unplug from everyone? So we choose to message and Facebook and tweet, and having chosen to do it, we laud it so we don’t have to feel guilt about our choice, and slowly but surely, or even quickly but inexorably, we forget about books, even magazines, hell – even a TV show that requires real focus. Not while the cell phone is in reach.”
I don’t laud Facebook. Then again, I haven’t been practicing dishonesty. It hasn’t made me popular. But I am not on that wide and spacious road. I hope. Does wanting to make porn count?
“Give me snippets or give me death!
“And so everyone who might have built networked options that advance civilization is left without audience, pretty soon without motivation – and they join the stampede into mindlessness, too.
“Indeed, even the left sites start to think, we have to mimic the big boys who are succeeding. We have to compete on their turf. Fast, faster, fastest. Short, shorter, shortest, as even left users start to gravitate to venues that can and will deliver the largest crowd doing the least with their minds – the snippet twitting venues.”
And ‘more interesting’? Just asking.
“I used to be concerned about video games. I still don’t like that they have kids celebrating shooting and killing in a less and less playful and more and more violent and vindictive and even realistic fashion that increasingly acclimates the soul to murder. That’s very bad. But I don’t think video games begin to approach the Facebook, messaging, web flitting nexus of devolution of human prospects. That is even more serious. In fact, there is no competition on the horror meter. Facebook is starting to annihilate video gaming, I think.”
I’m with MA on the violent video games.
“People used to write long serious letters. Yes, the exchanges took a lot of time, but they had real artistry, real substance, real content. Then came email and it was fantastic – but the letters started to get much shorter, even as they got more frequent. Then came tweeting and messaging – soon to replace email as the main mode of communicating – and the messages became very nearly, and almost ubiquitously, meaningless. For that matter, people used to have conversations – another capacity that I am inclined to think is in serious free fall.”
Well, This person used to write (with a pen) long serious letters. I even wrote one to a colleague of Michael Albert, namely Noam Chomsky, who enjoyed it and responded, graciously. He actually took the time – which he never really has – to respond to every point I raised in my long, conversational (and, evidently, interesting) letter. I have it still, laminated. That even led me to writing another long serious letter to an Italian academic, Domenico Pacetti, who has interviewed Noam a number of times, who in turn invited me to post my letter to him to his website, Just Response. See “Theocracy, technocracy and Chomsky’s democracy” in the ‘letters’ section.
“I am told roughly one quarter of all internet use is viewing Facebook. Think about that. If we find a distorted distribution of income scarily rotten – just think about that distorted distribution of information focus. The internet carries very nearly all human information. You can take university courses – read nearly any book – follow discussions and articles, explore, learn about virtually anything – and yet, instead, we increasingly examine snippets.
“And I haven’t even bothered to mention the big brother aspect of Facebook being in the business of saving private, personal information about 500 million users to enhance the effectiveness of advertising – among other potential uses of the information.”
Ironically, Those “other potential uses of the information” are what led me to this article. I was trying to assemble info about tax evader (in my opinion) Google, which led me to this and that. And to information, on the Global Research website (which I’m ambivalent about), about the authorities’ use of deep packet inspection tech. It’s disgusting. And idle hands, towards positive, godly, civilization-building, are indeed the Devil’s workshop.
A lot of people are prejudiced by ‘their’ Christianity, by which I mean the Christianity they know, which isn’t the Christianity I practice (perhaps imperfectly). But that doesn’t stop them from seeing me as a disease. And that’s their choice. But I do take note.