In response to Our Brave New World by Sam Mills (Issue 175, 3 October 2013)
I am sorry. I cannot take Mr Mills’ advice. I cannot relax, turn on my iPad, and embrace the brave new world. The brave new world makes me anxious; it turns my insides inside out. The brave new world is slowly tapping into my nervous system, and it just keeps tapping. Soon a wire will run down the course of my spine – how can I embrace that? Sometimes, when I walk down the street, I imagine all of the names of the Wi-fi networks and their huge orbs bumping into each other, overlapping each other, and covering me. It makes me feel claustrophobic. Online news makes me feel claustrophobic.
I understand his points, and I do believe that there are some benefits to the online newspaper. The online newspaper creates a communal forum set up through the reading and understanding of the news. People can instantly write comments on the articles, and the authors can read these comments and respond. The authors can be identified right away and interact with their readers on a level like never before. Furthermore, the author can write his article and post it immediately, so that the news is fresh, fresher than just off the press- it is published online.
This is all well and good, but I have a few worries. Firstly, the possibility to respond instantaneously to a new article is not necessarily conducive to better discussion. Masked by the internet, commenters are often prompted to say things that are untrue, too harsh, or slightly off topic, without ramifications. When a comment or response is published, or sent directly to the author in print, there is social pressure to think through one’s response, and write only if you have something substantive to say.
I fear the constancy of online news, the continual updating, the urge to hit the refresh button and read a new story – there is always a new story. Life goes on so quickly, and while sitting in front of my computer screen, I feel like it is happening without me; without something to touch, tangible words to feel, I am merely an observer, placed behind a screen.
When I read a print newspaper, hear its pages rustle, hold it in my hand, I am connected. Instead of pressing a button and sharing the article online, I can hand it to a friend to read. We can, in the real world, discuss it. There is no need to discuss it with a friend when one can simply comment below and be heard by a wider audience. Printed news is fixed and manageable. Online, the world grows exponentially and spirals out of your control. It may be slightly more up to date, but personally I feel that it is overwhelming: it creates an overload of information. Eve took a bite out of the apple and was banished from paradise; we have consumed far too many Apples, and through them obtained unimaginable knowledge. Now what do we do?
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