Lulled into Complacency

In Chapter 3 of E. Morozov’s book, The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom, he talks about the “promoting” of internet in authoritarian societies has effected, or failed to effect citizen’s participation in and the questioning of their governments. He points out that it has actually had the opposite effect- that citizens of these countries are actually more skeptical of democratic governments, and are “lulled” and distracted from their own thanks to these somewhat ridiculous, mind numbing forms of entertainment. While I can understand the distraction that comes with the endless things one can do on the internet, I have a hard time believing that the majority of people don’t find this so called “unfiltered” information liberating, and take advantage of it. This voice that the Internet has given everyone was seen after the earthquake in China, when the community exposed the government trying to cover up the fact that the schools were not up to code, and that was the reason so many children were killed. Morozov states, “If anything, the Internet makes it harder, not easier to get people to care, if only because the alternatives to political action are so much more pleasant and risk-free…Where new media and the Internet truly excel is in suppressing boredom” (Morozov, 74-75). I can’t help but ask, has the world become that lazy and complacent?

Morozov goes on to talk about that not only do we have endless cheap entertainment, but now sites such as YouTube and Facebook allow us to customize our experience, creating a bigger, more enticing distraction. Even if we wanted to escape this constant customization, we couldn’t. As Eli Pariser talks about in The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You, “Personal intelligent agents lie under the surface of every Web site we go to,” (Pariser, 24). With Facebook, for example, and the “Facebook Everywhere,” (Pariser 39) concept, every site you go to, every click you make is seen by Facebook, and are constantly personalizing your experience. This type of tracking system, while it seems like it is invented to improve our experience, just helps those in charge, and increase the amount surveillance and propaganda in Western governments.

Despite these somewhat scary personal intelligent agents, and endless distractions, do you believe that these communities in authoritarian societies will be able to truly break free of the constant surveillance and distraction from the truth behind their government as China has begun to? Or will the source, that personally has increased my knowledge of political, cultural, and foreign events, stay just a distraction?




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4 Responses to Lulled into Complacency

  1. remysarhan says:

    I believe that yes, some societies (not the whole world) has become extremely lazy and complacent because of the Internet. It has provided tools that accessibilities that we all completely rely on and it’s almost like we forget what life was like prior to the Internet and different forms of social media.

    I do not believe that communities in authoritarian societies will be able to truly break free of the constant surveillance and distraction from the truth behind their government. Alike China, when something major happens, it is instantly tweeted about or put online somewhere anonymously. It opens up doors for so many people to get their voices heard and expand people’s knowledge of events.

  2. emnrich says:

    I strongly believe that several societies have taken advantage of the ease and accessibility that the Internet provides. However, I don’t know if I think this is an entirely horrible thing. Why shouldn’t nations take advantage of the developing technologies and the ease with which things can now be done? On the other hand, I do believe that, if we continue to take advantage of these technologies, it will be increasingly difficult to break free of any sort of governmental supervision. Too many people in one medium will likely always yield a similar result. Great post!

  3. I was really intrigued by the phrase, “Lulled Into Complacency” and believe that you offer a few very insightful remarks on both readings from this week. While I think that both authors provide a related but different view of emerging online, social tools, I have to agree that I find the claim of online “distraction” from all types of political activism kind of hard to believe.

    Pariser states that while “everybody expected the Internet to be a huge source of bridging [social] capital” that would “make us all next-door neighbors,” what has really happened is that “our virtual next-door neighbors, and our real-world neighbors look more and more like us” (a side effect of the “filter bubble” he explains). Yes this is true to some extent, but as you mention above, there have been various examples of large-scale social movements that have taken place across country borders and around the world (i.e. the Arab spring) .. and I think we are just starting to uncover the best ways to reach people around the globe through social media. My bottom line: I don’t think the answer is black/white in that the Internet is either good/bad for connecting or isolating people.

    Great questions and interesting post!

  4. jmclancy says:

    The opinion of Morozov stating “If anything, the Internet makes it harder, not easier to get people to care” is very striking to me. I don’t think its fair for Morozov or Pariser to pinpoint two extremes of internet usage and use their bias opinion to make an overarching statement, however, I think one should analyze both conclusions. I myself would argue that new media and the internet can suppress boredom, however, that usage could lead to one being exposed to political activism etc. Furthermore, I could also make the claim that often times, with the widespread activity within the Internet and the amount of people in the world engaging in it, people use the the internet solely as their news source and in turn, would be exposed to political action. One could also argue that with the distraction of Youtube and Facebook comes the inherent explicitness of political movements. I truly don’t think that we have become that lazy and complacent, we just all use our time differently. Hypothetically speaking, say we didn’t have internet. Those who use the internet solely for a distraction from politics or productive initiatives, they would just be sitting on the couch playing video games. I think it’s important to analyze who is using the internet and characterize them separately and what they are using it for. Lastly, in response to your question regarding the surveillance and the hidden agenda behind the invention of algorithms to track our interests instead of improving our experiences, I ask you this bottom line question: are you happier with or without the internet? It’s a bargaining system of give and take and the claims above should not be a legitimate generalizations.

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