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Internet has changed us as a society

I’ve got a prognostication that’s a mortal lock. In 50 to 100 years from now, historians are going to conclude that the internet was man’s greatest and most destructive invention.

What’s become an absolute necessity for most has also wrought hideous behavior, all but eliminated decorum and caused many like myself to eternally seek out the truth.

For those born after 1990 and believe that this is one of those “I remember when a movie cost a quarter” lectures that my grandfather used to give me, you’re absolutely mistaken. The internet is both terrific and more complicated than the inventions of the airplane, automobile, and television combined.

We have certainly been able to expedite all facets of research and seeking of information.

For instance, going to a library, using the Yellow Pages (Gen-Z’s are wondering what that means), or taking a map in the car for a road trip are all considered prehistoric. And I’m fine with that because our time on earth is precious and many of those activities consumed too much time.

More importantly, people have been able to connect with family and old friends in a way which could’ve never occurred before the internet. The high school reunions and summer camp chat rooms provide stressed-out adults with heavy doses of innocent youthful memories. It’s those few minutes when the reality of COVID-19 or skyrocketing college tuition are replaced with waterskiing on the lake or attending the homecoming dance.

How about the incredible genealogy websites? If someone told you not so long ago that you’d be able to send your DNA to a company and they’d come back with a detailed ancestral family tree, ethnicity, and relative’s health history you’d probably say go watch another sci-fi movie. And the wonderful stories of adopted children who have connected with parents and siblings, or the organ donor lists that have helped to save millions of lives. There are too many examples to cite. The internet has certainly had a hand in advancing civilization.

But it has come with a heavy price tag. Those of us who were on this earth before the internet have a different understanding of this. Again, it’s not a lecture to you younger folks, just that experience is the measuring stick.

Let’s start with the business that we are in, disseminating news. I won’t reach too far back into history so let’s just reference the 20th Century news delivery as primarily print, radio and television. We trusted these mediums to deliver unadulterated information in an unbiased manner. If I watched the NBC Nightly News for example, it was straight reporting and felt sacred. The five “W’s” we learned as kids.

Today, anyone and everyone is a reporter, but not just reporting facts. There are websites, blogs and publications for any and every subject that offer opinions, bias, and quite often, hate. It’s almost as if how much can someone show disrespect?

How can we ever know what’s true? Add a comments section and it emboldens people to hide behind screen names and act like cretins. Yes, they’re only words on a screen, but how many people can say they let it roll off their shoulder?

Social media is a head scratcher for me. We are mostly all guilty of FOMO (fear of missing out). Who am I to question Facebook’s ­success? As of the first quarter 2020, they have 2.6 billion monthly active users. That’s basically one in every three people on this planet.

I dug it at first, connecting with old “friends” and seeing what folks were up to. After a few years, I soured on Facebook. To me it became “Bragbook.”

“Look at our view from this Four Seasons suite” or “here’s Johnny’s report card.” I know you’re happy to be on vacation and proud of your child’s accomplishments, but you don’t need affirmation by simulcasting it to the world.

Twitter has certainly been a productive tool at Gaming Today. It’s a great vehicle to push out new content. There’s no question that it’s the go-to medium for the sports betting world. Twitter is so efficient that it has completely marginalized the aforementioned old methods of media delivery.

The ability to customize a feed that caters to whatever information you desire is quite remarkable. Yet it has totally bastardized traditional journalism. There’s relatively little use for reading an article to glean an entire story. All you need to understand is there in 280 characters or less.

Not only the subject of sports betting on Twitter, but most any other topic can cause proverbial chops busting. Everyone has an opinion and many write nonsensical stuff just to initiate a verbal war. Where Twitter fails in my opinion is the allowance for screen names. Individuals should have to put their names to their words. It’s like a pseudonym in journalism. How can you trust someone’s words when they hide their identity?

I’m just starting to get familiar with Instagram, although anything my two teenage sons love is certainly too cool for me. Speaking of them, there’s an internet product that has sparked great debate in our home. It’s an app called Life360. It’s essentially a tool for parents to monitor their children while they drive.

When your kid has their smartphone with them (always as it’s like a body part), the parent can view average driving speed, time spent on the phone, and not only where they’ve traveled but their exact location at all times. While it’s intended to encourage safe driving habits, it has an Orwellian aspect that kind of eradicates any trust factor.

No one gets to choose when they’re born and what technology may be available in their short time on this earth. I was perfectly fine recording compact discs onto blank cassettes so I could hear the album in the car. I loved visiting that little alcove in the old Stardust sportsbook stocked with binders full of sports betting stats that you couldn’t find anywhere else. Those were the technologies available to me as a young adult.

Yes, you future historians have a lot to ponder when writing about the origins and net effects of the internet. Maybe with the passage of time they’ll be a better understanding and appreciation of its intentions.