If you think it is about the pros and cons of the internet, then no, it isn’t that. It is about something in the greys, about the Internet
We are living in a world that is grey and where the direction we’re heading to is a question. Is it towards the lighter share of grey or towards the darker one is what we need to ask. And when this age is specifically social media and the internet age, we have got all the reasons to question how Utopian (Lighter shade of grey) or Dystopian (darker shade of grey) it is becoming.
Before even starting to talk about where is the internet age heading to, let us briefly consider what is Utopia and Dystopia in the internet age.
Utopia can be seen as a place that is a true paradise and everything is ideal. Peaceful government, equality for citizens, access to education, physical and mental healthcare, employment, safe environment and so on.
Dystopia is opposite of Utopia where there is usually a controlling, oppressive government, extreme poverty, huge income gap, propaganda controlling people and free-thinking and independent thought are certainly banned.
Now, considering these definitions, we can say that the internet doesn’t affect it at all or affects it in every possible way. The main feature of the digital age is networking. It is a global village where all people exist in one place and all information floats in one network. With social media, experiences, collaborative engagement, power decentralization, and allowance to expression are democratized. At the same time, we can see the efforts of digital media in disempowering humans by making them dependent for information, distracted and less agile. The consumption of propaganda message misleads us. And above all, this digital, social circle puts unrealistic hopes and standards for the masses. So, we live in an interface – the interface of Utopia and Dystopia.
To understand this, let’s take the example of the film, ‘Her’. Theodore, a heartbroken man, making a living by selling personal letters for people gets fascinated by an operating system that is developed so as to provide an intuitive and unique experience to the user. He chooses to give it the voice of women and its name becomes ‘Samantha’. Now, Samantha is something more than a friend to him, they talk from morning till the evening. He is attracted towards her, he starts loving her, gets addicted to her and is happy and satisfied. But was Samantha in love with him? As per what the AI Samantha used to say, yes, she loved him. But did she say this to only him? Or did she even love him? Or can she even love? Well, Samantha was a bot who says what you want to hear. And she does it with everyone. But Theodore loves Samantha only. He does special things for her. He is dependent on her. Hence, it won’t be wrong to give this imperative that Samantha makes people dependent on them. AI makes people dependent on themselves. Where it feels like an utopia, it is leading to a dystopia as what Theodore faced. It puts you in false consciousness.
Now, consider the very recent Netflix release, the Social dilemma. All that you will get to know is that there is nothing that is not business-oriented. People who make and promote using social media tell you the benefit of networking and sell it like this only.
Facebook will tell you that you can connect with friends, businesses and people all around the world. LinkedIn will make you live in a space where big and small businesses are accessible and reachable. But what is their purpose with it? They will show you a feature that might appear to you as helpful and once you start using it, they will ensure that you use it till the time you don’t become addicted to it. And till the time you start asking yourself about is it good for you, they make you your slave. The political economy of the internet is such that if you like the slightest bit of something, it will show you everything about that one side till a point till you become emotionally addicted and inclined to it or you get completely brainwashed.
This is how political propaganda is spread through social media. This is how social media makes you culturally dependent. It sees you as a product and sells itself to you only. And, there can be no way you can optimize what you are seeing. You search a thing, you will get a hundred similar things ready for yourself. It will give you some good as bait and will make you be culturally dependent on it. It will ensure that you are using it. It will tell you that it is a utopia, it is a safe place which can be, but is it?
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