What Do We DO?

Within my last series of blog posts, I have explored the nature of an issue that concerns us all: Is the Internet making us bad people? As we all become more and more interconnected with the new online landscape, I have examined much of what has changed in the past decade and the impact that it has had on not only the physical communication that we do, but the work that it has had on our psyche and mental ability. People have learned to take advantage of the power of the internet ranging from millions of dollars being raised for charity to millions of accounts being hacked and having their credit card information stolen. I have overall come to the conclusion that while the internet does have a massive amount of potential to do good, its current state allows the freedom of too many bullies, identity thieves, pedophiles, and scammers which ultimately creates an environment that is unsuitable for not only our children to traverse, but for many adults as well. Yet what can we do to change this? I propose that creating new policies to create a better system of education that allows for people of all ages to better protect themselves from the potential hazards that they may come across while they browse the web.

road-sign-464641_640

From a young age, we are taught to come home before dark, to never talk to strangers, to never accept gifts from anyone we don’t know, and to always think before we act. Our parents and our teachers hammer those basic rules into us and we follow them. It is sound advice, and it is advice that we teach to our children, and they will teach to their children’s children. But as our societal paradigms have changed, so have the rules we were taught as children. Smoking is now actively taught as self-destructive behavior, wearing a seatbelt is now mandatory by law, and we now always look both ways before crossing the street lest we be hit by a car. So it only makes sense then that as our children and many adults begin spending increasingly large amounts of time online and on the web that we teach proper online etiquette as well as teaching them to be wary of online predators who would look to do them harm.

stock-photo-man-wearing-hood-with-face-in-shadow-170755628

Yet this type of education is surprisingly lacking in our homes and schools and so our children are liable to many forms of deception. As a newcomer into our households, our internet usage is often not a major concern among some families when there is real danger out there. Many would know of the old “Nigerian Prince” scam where an individual would be sent a large sum of money that they could hold onto a percentage of and that they could then return(more details available here). Even more recently, a child playing the Playstation game Destiny was cheated out of control of his game and had much of his effort spent playing on the game made absolutely worthless when a would-be helper deleted much of his save file. The creator’s of the game, Bungie, could do little about it as the child in question deliberately gave up control of his console to a stranger and the stranger ultimately in no way violated any of Bungie’s End User License Agreement. Had the child been better educated in the way he interacted while playing online games, he might have avoided these potential pitfalls.

bear-trap-413397_640

A post on the Information Is Beautiful website shares an excellent visual representation of some of the biggest hacks in the history of the internet, many of which gave access to credit card information, full accounts, and personal information. The attack on Sony alone hit around seventy seven million people exposing any and all information that they had saved on their consoles and phones creating mass hysteria. We need to be able to address concerns like these, to teach people to be more careful with their information and to have backup plans in case something like this does happen and your identity is stolen. If we can’t help prevent and then in the case of an event like the Sony hack have our information unlawfully accessed, then we are only serving to draw a target on ourselves. It is not only the responsibility of the corporations and banks and businesses involved to create a secure system, it is up to us to teach common sense about what to do and what not to do when you are online.

thinking-272677_640

So what can we even do about this? How can we educate the masses about what will happen if you aren’t careful on the internet? One way to do that would be to set up educational workshops, subsidized by the government. These workshops will have information about what we can do to keep ourselves protected from the online terrors. We can also make sure that these workshops come to schools and offices to help make sure that our children and our employees are safe from the potential dangers that they may face when they expose themselves on the internet. At these workshops we can also provide the public with basic antivirus and web security software to help them avoid smaller issues that they may come across. The New York Times database of government subsidies shows that we put in roughly 36 million dollars into basic employee training, and that training should now include basic internet safety protocols.

characters-696949_640

Beyond all that though, is to make sure that parents are watching their kids. Just because you can see your child in front of a computer screen does not mean that your child is safe from online predators. These people are just waiting for the most opportune moment to strike and steal your money, your accounts, or even your child’s innocence. Public Service Announcements should be made to ensure that parents are teaching their children basic safety tips while browsing the web. Schools should be made to hand out flyers to ensure that basic safety information goes home to their families. The National Safety council provides people with basic education on how to ensure that your child stays safe on their commute to and from school. We should be able to do the same thing with Internet Safety.

Of course we can try to create unbeatable systems but realistically we cannot anticipate every single issue that may come up. Ultimately what will needs to change is not just the policies and software we have that protects us online, but also our own common sense in how we deal with other people and malicious software while we use the internet.

Better Business Bureau. Start with Trust®. (n.d.). Retrieved May 10, 2015, from http://www.bbb.org/new-york-city/get-consumer-help/articles/the-nigerian-prince-old-scam-new-twist/

Emerson, R. (2011, October 12). Sony Hack October 2011: Thousands Of PlayStation Network Accounts Targeted By Massive Attack. Retrieved May 11, 2015, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/12/sony-hack-october-2011-playstation-network_n_1006661.html

Keep Children Safe at School. (n.d.). Retrieved May 11, 2015, from http://www.nsc.org/act/events/Pages/keep-children-safe-at-school.aspx

McCandless, D., & Evans, T. (2013). World’s Biggest Data Breaches & Hacks – Information Is Beautiful. Retrieved May 11, 2015, from http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/worlds-biggest-data-breaches-hacks/

Story, L., Fehr, T., & Watkins, D. (2012, November 30). Explore the Subsidies. Retrieved May 10, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/12/01/us/government-incentives.html?_r=0#CA

Tach, D. (2015, February 23). A horrible person deleted a fifth-grader’s Destiny characters. Retrieved May 10, 2015, from http://www.polygon.com/2015/2/23/8090061/destiny-characters-deleted-ps4-share-play

What Do We DO?

It Isn’t the Internet’s Fault

I have spoken at great length about what makes the internet bad. It’s full of people who belittle and assault those that are less capable while hiding behind a computer screen and an anonymous username. It’s full of people who scam others for massive amounts of money and getting away without leaving their keyboards. It’s full of people who quite frankly are just some of the worst individuals you might ever meet. I do believe however there is yet still hope. Through the same means that these online bullies or “trolls” attack their fellow human beings, we can catch them the same way. Through the same means, we can spread wealth to every corner of the world. Through the same means we can create a world that is safer and more interconnected than we have ever experienced before. The internet may have some bad eggs, but there is still enormous potential for it to be used for the sake of good.

thumb-422147_640

There are websites with individuals who are making charitable contributions to society that could not have been accomplished by any means other than the web. Even basic websites that convert your images to a .pdf file such as convertjpgtopdf.com offer vaccinations for every 5000 conversions and have contributed over 4000 vaccinations since 2013. HumbleBundle is a service that sells bundles of video games and books to people for as low as 1 dollar with the proceeds going to support the developers as well as the charity of the week. Awesome Games Done Quick is a charity event for people to watch their favorite games get played at lightning fast speeds and having the opportunity to donate money to reach incentive goals to help further the engagement of their audience which they do twice a year, having generated an astonishing 1.5 million dollars to the Prevent Cancer Foundation.

praying-454913_640

People are capable of immense good through the internet. I will not refute that the internet has enabled people to abuse others in newer ways that have caused many immense pain. However, just as modern warfare has evolved over the course of millenia, we will soon learn to master and adapt to this warfare of the web. Even as we speak, developers are creating cell phones that are nearly impossible to break into, and password and data encryption is becoming more sophisticated. A recent article on the tech blog Mashable discussed the creation of the Blackphone 2, a cell phone that normally runs like an Android device with a built in OS that creates a safe space for their users to encrypt data that they would not like to have companies access remotely. Apple as well has begun to change the way their operating systems function in terms of security, creating an operating system that leaves even law enforcement as advanced as the FBI confounded and demanding that legislation be passed to prevent such software from existing.

boy-61171_640

Right now the internet is a dark place, filled with so many unknown factors and people, just waiting for an opportunity to pounce and make mincemeat out of some poor sap who slipped up even once. But technology is catching up, and we are actively making the internet not only a safer place, but a more beautiful, generous, and kind place.

For those who are interested to learn more about HumbleBundle and Games Done Quick, feel free to click here and here.

It Isn’t the Internet’s Fault

What Do Experts Say?

We all know the dangers of real life predators, human and animal alike. That is why we tell our children to stay out of alleyways, be home before dinner, don’t talk to strangers, find an adult, and all these other myriad ways to make our lives safer. Because in the end, all we want is a safe world for our friends, family, and ourselves to live in. But why do we stop caring when it comes to the internet? We haphazardly allow our children to surf the web and expose themselves to millions of strangers. These people are more than capable of taking advantage of a helpless innocent child and they are more than capable of taking advantage of an adult as well. But why are people doing this? Random strangers do not usually stand off to the side of the road and yell verbal abuse at you and try to steal your identity. Today, that is seemingly all the internet is anymore. So it begs the question: Is the internet a bad place? Or is the internet just making us bad people?question-mark-452707_640

Ted Feinberg and Nicole Robey are two prominent writers in the field of cyberbullying. To elaborate, cyberbullying is literally defined by the two as, “…sending or posting harmful or cruel text or images using the Internet (e.g., instant messaging, e-mails, chat rooms, and social networking sites) or other digital communication devices, such as cell phones. It can involve stalking, threats, harassment, impersonation, humiliation, trickery, and exclusion,” as it is written in their article for the Education Digest titled, “Cyberbullying”. Technology today has enabled many individuals to bully and harass others through various media while potentially remaining anonymous. Many of these cases go reported each year, and the reason is that we do not express as much of an interest in this subject. Ted and Nicole give go further and provide potential reasoning about why many people will cyberbully individuals stating that some try to make up for a lack of physical presence with a large online and anonymous presence, and some females will intentionally prey on one individual feeling that they are, “justified in their Internet attack of a weaker, less socially adept peer.”

bully-624747_640

Often times, traditional methods of reporting a bully do not work. When you’re being physically harassed at school, a teacher or principal can be directly involved in the relationship between the two individuals, and often there is some visible sign of being physically bullied. Ted and Nancy elaborate saying that, “Victims of cyberbullying are significantly less likely to tell someone of the abuse than victims of traditional bullying.” The two go on to say that while many students will simply change their passwords, block individuals, or just ignore the messages, it does not change the fact that there are some people whose behavior is out of line.

bodyguard-145447_640

Cyberbullying is without a doubt a result of our modern day use of technology. Without the internet and our cell phones as well as the various websites that allow children access to these resources that allow them to act in such a manner, we would not be placed in such a predicament. In this manner, I believe that we can assume that there is some credence to people’s belief that the internet is enabling people to become worse off. Yet many would say that rather than blame technology for the cause, blame the lack of supervision that many parents have over their children as they browse the web, which brings me back to my original point: Why do we stop watching our kids when they log on to the computer? We constantly fret over each little thing our child does, even holding their hands while walking to and from the park, but as soon as they enter the online landscape, we leave them to fend for themselves? Ted and Nicole disagree, as do I.

Feinberg, T., & Robey, N. (2008, September 1). Cyberbullying. Retrieved April 14, 2015, from http://www.nasponline.org/resources/principals/Cyberbulling NASSP 9-08.pdf

What Do Experts Say?

Internet as a Catalyst for Our Behavior

We spend a lot of time on the internet these days. We use it to watch television, keep up with news, stay connected with our friends and family, and check the weather. It is far-reaching and we have access to it from a variety of media. Cell phones and laptops, let us access it anywhere and at any time, and as a result we spend a lot of time using these devices. To a lot of people, the internet is a great thing. As a society, we have never been so connected on this far reaching of a level. But what if it isn’t such a good thing? What if the internet is making us bad? What if the fact that I can’t see someone’s face when I am talking to them is a bad thing? It only takes one look at the comments section of a news article on the web or a Youtube video to know that there are a lot of jerks out there, being awful for sometimes just the sake of their own entertainment. They do this, even if it means that someone is going to get hurt. Cyberbullying is everywhere and if you aren’t careful, someone can steal your identity with only a few clicks of a mouse and you accidentally telling someone something you weren’t supposed to.

Every day more and more people become connected to the online landscape that we have built today. Adults, the elderly, and even children are exposed to what is out there waiting to pounce on us from the shadows of the web. People are attacked and abused from every which way. Were people always like this? Countless videos on the web show us instances of people attacking someone in real life, a person who was just minding their own business when out of the blue someone comes up and hits the person as hard as they can before running off. We ever use the internet to bully people. In an article on the internet Kotaku by Patrick Klepeck, “Meet a Teenager Who Says He’s a Swatter,” the author has an interview with someone who claimed to be a “swatter,” or someone who calls the SWAT on someone to have their houses broken into anonymously and thereby humiliating them, sometimes live on the web. The responses to some of his questions are sociopathic, claiming that, “Being able to intimidate someone is really fun,” and that, “It’s really fun.” People have died in scenarios like this when the police break into someone’s home and they shoot because some happened to have a knife in their hand while they were cooking or someone made a sudden and seemingly threatening move. Even if no one is hurt, it is traumatizing for a young child to witness someone breaking into their homes and forcing their parents to get on their knees at which point they are handcuffed and just cry helplessly.

There are definitely great advantages to the internet. I have never been close with my cousin in Indiana. But you are just kidding yourself if you think that only good can come from it. Is the internet making us bad? We can find out.

Internet as a Catalyst for Our Behavior

Survey on our Shocking Condition

For this final blog post, I decided to host a survey using the SurveyMonkey website in order to collect data for myself to examine and personally look at just how much the use of technology has impacted communication. I asked the the individuals taking the survey question about how much they use technology on a day to day basis, what was socially acceptable in technology use, and their overall attachment to social networking sites such as Facebook. I surveyed 100 people aged from 14 to 40 exactly 10 questions which they would either agree or disagree with. The results I gathered were fascinating, and my own personal viewpoint on technological impact on communication had changed.

My first questions were about cell phone usage and public etiquette when out with friends and when out by yourself as well as the number of text messages sent per day. Over 70% of respondents admitted that they looked at their phone very often during the day and would in fact spent a large chunk of their time every day just using their phone whether for personal, school, or work needs. However, many of the people felt that they did not use their cellular devices too much in any given day, with only a third of respondents suggesting that they spent too much time on their phones. Despite that figure, a whopping 85% of individuals felt that without their cell phones they would be less productive and be unable to properly function throughout the day.

The remaining question covered the subject of social networking, specifically that of Facebook. Questions included “How well do you know the people on your Facebook friends list?” and “Is it preferable to send someone a Facebook message than to make a phone call?” Roughly 90% of responders said that most of their friends on Facebook were not people that they knew well at all, and a mere 17% said that they would make time to meet with their friends face to face every day. 60% of strangers admitted to spending a lot of time on Facebook, with 36% agreeing that sending a Facebook message was preferable than calling a far away relative.

When you combine the cell phone usage statistics with the Facebook statistics, a rather shocking picture is painted. Seemingly, most people spend their days just hanging around looking at their phones and waiting for a notification, whether it be from a message or a notification from their social networking websites. Our phones are slowly becoming fused with our hands and our minds are melding themselves with our screens and the information on them. We are turning ourselves into narcissistic obsessive beings who have no self control when it comes to our technology. We are slowly losing a grip on what is real and what is just on the screen with much of our social lives being determined by how much time we spend on our cell phone and computers. If we aren’t more careful about our technology usage we are doomed to never be able to recover and gain what makes us human in the way we interact with each other.

Survey on our Shocking Condition

The TechWorries Essential Reading List

In my reading list, I hope to detail for all of you reading here not only what I read on a day to day basis to keep up to date on technology, but more information on some of the sources that I have been using and hope to continue using in my subsequent blog posts that are important for my reader to have taken the time to examine and come to their own conclusions so that they will be able to better form an opinion on the subject of technological impact on communication. I will separate these articles into two groups, one for learning about new technology and the other on the actual impact it has on us.

I. For the Latest In Modern Tech: Gizmodo, Kotaku, Polygon, Mashable, GigaOm

Each of these blogs are constantly updating themselves with new information on what new technology is available, the release dates, functionality, and accessibility. Most of them update on a daily basis with information on the latest Apple Product, and I personally follow all the examples listed above on Facebook and Twitter just to keep up with multiple perspectives all the time.

Specific Example: “This Shifty USB Drive is Rigged to Fry Your Computer” from Gizmodo

The article itself discusses the nature of this USB that was created to destroy your computer. It goes into it’s technical specifications as well as its availability and it’s function. More specifically, this article provides the reader with brand new information as it is released on new hardware that could potentially be harmful to a user.

Citation: Limer, E. (2015, March 11). This Shifty USB Drive Is Rigged to Fry Your Computer. Retrieved March 13, 2015, from http://gizmodo.com/this-shifty-usb-drive-is-rigge…

II. Impact of Technology: Brookings Institution, Stanford Research, Journalists Resource

These sources are more based in scientific study, examination, and observation. They provide the reader with in depth information about what actually happens when people are exposed to this technology, whether it be a piece of hardware, such as your iPhone or laptop, or a website/software, such as Facebook or autocorrect. These sources are unbiased and provide an impartial commentary on what technology is doing to us today. One of the things that this article provided me with is stimulation for me to re examine some of my views on the subject.

Specific Examples:

1. “Multitasking, Social Media, and Distraction: Research Review”

This article details some of the modern ailments that many of today’s technology addicts suffer from, including but not limited to reduced cognitive function, chronic multitasking, and general reduction in motor skills. But more specifically, within this article are detailed another 14 studies that were made by various research institutions such as Stanford, Harvard, Columbia and articles from scholarly works on Psychology. This article provided me with so much information in the form of follow up articles and research to examine that would provide me with more information.

Citation: Wibey, J. (2013, July 11). Multitasking, social media and distraction: Research review. Retrieved March 13, 2015, from http://journalistsresource.org/studies/society/so…

2. “Who uses Facebook? An Investigation Into the Relationship Between the Big Five, Shyness, Narcissism, Loneliness, and Facebook Usage”

This is a scholarly article written by two esteemed scientists Tracii Ryan and Sophia Xenos, where they tested over a 1000 Facebook users and had them take various tests about their personality traits. These tests revealed that while Facebook users were most certainly vary narcissistic, but that certain types of people tended to use Facebook to communicate differently and with varied levels of frequency depending on their mental state. This article very carefully details some incredible statistics and raw data on people and their response to this new technology that was made available to them, and as a reader on the impact of technology on communication, information such as this goes an incredibly long way to deepening our understanding and what our future policy should be to respond appropriately to our new devices. For me personally, this study was incredibly enlightening on the specific connections between our use of our devices and our personalities.

Citation: Ryan, T., & Xenos, S. (2011). Who Uses Facebook? An Investigation Into The Relationship Between The Big Five, Shyness, Narcissism, Loneliness, And Facebook Usage. Computers in Human Behavior, 27(5), 1658-1664.

The TechWorries Essential Reading List

Learn to Walk Before You Run

Given that technological communication is such a vast field, there are hundreds if not thousands of groups, journalists, labs, and even individuals who are constantly researching what kind of impact that it has on everyone ranging from our youth to our elderly, as well as its lasting consequences on our psyche. Some are absolutely in favor of increasing the amount of technology available to us, citing applications such as Skype and Viber that now allow us to freely speak to and video conference with anyone around the globe. Others feel that humanity has become less “neighborly” and that we do not spend enough actual face to face time with the people who are right there, spending more time looking at a screen and less time into someone’s facial expressions. However, in an article on the Journalists Resource(2013) by John Wihey, the author believes that while technology does allow us to multitask, we become incredibly inefficient at it leading us to be overall poor workers. I wholeheartedly disagree with his stance on the issue, despite his sources.

Featured image
Image from http://quickbase.intuit.com/blog/2011/04/28/instant-productivity-booster-quit-multitasking/

We see in the article that many people begin to develop something called “chronic multitasking,” in which an individual begins to feel the need to constantly do more than one thing at time as they increase their usage of their cellular devices. Wihey goes on to say that these people are, “…basically terrible at all sorts of tasks, including multitasking.” Essentially, these individuals are not multitasking for efficiency, but instead for the sake of being able to use their cell phones or electronics while doing something else. This diminished form of multitasking has been observed, examined, and finally reported by numerous research institutions who all agree on the same thing: media multitaskers are not at all efficient in the basic tasks they have been given and are unable to function at the same cognitive level as those who do not

Featured image
Image from http://www.mycustomer.com/topic/customer-experience/firms-falling-short-after-sales-service-due-unskilled-staff/114444

.

Their level of evidence is overwhelming, and I do not refute their claims that the modern day media multitasker is not a very able worker. But I do believe that many modern day naysayers of technological communication tend to forget that the smartphone is a very new device, the first iPhone having been introduced in 2007. Facebook was founded in 2004, barely more than a decade. Yet we somehow expect ourselves, who spent centuries developing the appropriate way to speak and interact with one another, a skill some spend their whole lives mastering, to be masters of using this brand new infantile technology in a fully appropriate manner that would keep us from being the best we could possibly be. We do not expect someone who has never seen a phone before to know how to use it, and we should not expect people who have only been on the internet for a few years, which is constantly evolving and growing, to be a virtuoso of the online landscape that has just begun to shape itself today. I agree that most people aren’t very good at using their phone while doing homework. But I know someday, that will change.

Featured image
Image from http://www.uchicagokidshospital.org/specialties/cancer/why-choose-us.html
Learn to Walk Before You Run