Rob Abrazado (flatvurm) wrote,
Rob Abrazado


So. Not too long ago, as I started getting up to speed with these newfangled social networking technologies and techniques, I remembered the thought that the Web basically perpetrated a gigantic dumbing down of the Internet. I don't necessarily mean that in a bad way...I just mean it made it more simple and intuitive and easy-to-use. And know...pretty colors and whatnot. What it really did, though, was allow everybody in, not just the people who...well...knew how it worked, I guess. This...layering...this transformation...was so successful and so complete that these days, most people think that the Web is the Internet; casual users do not draw a distinction. Nor, it seems, should they. I mean, really any functional difference has been lost.

Anyway...that's not a new thought. That's a thought that has been around since there was a Web for all the telnet and gopher geeks to complain about. What was more recent for me was that as much as the Web was to the Internet, so Facebook is to the Web. I thought about that for a little while, then decided against expanding on it or sharing those thoughts, since I figured it would just out me as ornery and elitist and wouldn't serve much of a purpose anyway, since I've clearly lost that battle, and not because I was outnumbered; I lost because I caved.

In any case, it looks like John Scalzi suffers not the same hangups about sharing as I did, because today he ranted about Facebook, calling it "what happens to the Web when you hit it with the stupid stick." Scalzi's post basically hits all the highlights of what I would have wanted to say (that it's not for me, that I use it because everyone else does), but without sounding like the world-class douchenozzle that I imagine myself sounding like if I had attempted the same sentiment.

So, there ya go. Way too early for me to be feeling this despondent about technology, but I can't help it. I feel like whenever something awesome and actually useful comes along, it almost immediately gets subsumed and overridden by something dumber, larger, and clunkier to the point of being useless. This is why I run out of RAM every day doing normal daily tasks on a machine only a few years old. This is why I no longer work in technology, both by my own choice and by my lack of ability. Technology grows like a cancer, without reason or limit. And at some point very recently, I realized I should just stop caring.

I remember passing by a recent article that talked about allowing students to use spell check for taking writing tests. That made me think back to getting calculators in math tests. I get the same feeling about a lot of other things: GPS navigation systems in every car, 'Net connections in every pocket. My initial, gut reaction is always: "People are getting dumber." After I spend some time on that, I realize that probably that's an unfair conclusion. Or at the very least irrelevant. The argument used to be that students should learn to do things on their own. "What happens when you don't have your calculator?" the old fuddy-duddies would ask, "What then?" But nobody never has a calculator. In fact, nobody is ever caught without instantaneous connection to not only the rest of humanity, but the sum of its stored knowledge, as well, helpfully indexed and searchable and ready at a moment's notice to be plumbed for whatever pointless task is before you at the moment. And if such resources are for some reason not available? Then operations cease. "I can't do anything right now, my Internet is down." "The computers are down." "The world has stopped working; try again tomorrow."

The worst part is...I feel like I'm being leeched of my strength to say, "Hold on, slow down, wait a minute. Is this really going to make life any better?" Because no one wants to slow down. No one wants to wait a minute. And, in fact, the loss of that strength is encouraged in people and celebrated as "progress."

* * *

I've been staring at this screen for a little while now, and I feel like I've got nowhere left to go with this piece. It certainly wasn't intended to start out this way; really I just wanted to link to that Facebook rant of Scalzi's. But somehow my tech bitterness surfaced and...well, things just kind of got out of hand. Amusingly enough, that's exactly the kind of thing I was trying to rail against so...I guess I'll practice what I was trying to preach, say enough is enough, and end it here. With no clear idea of how to move forward...isn't that how it always should go?
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