Internet: the Great Leveler? Part 2

keyboardRead Part 1.

When Internet discussions take the form of posting frenzies in which people at all levels of knowledge and character have an equal voice, the result is rarely that the most knowledgeable and good are the most heard. In these cases, control of the conversation is leveled, and much of the ethos of the participants is leveled as well.

Critics of the medium rightly complain that little good can come of having those who know nothing speak as much as, or more than, those who are well-informed. I believe they’re also right that little good comes of giving people who have never done anything the same kind of authoritative voice as persons of true stature and achievement.

But is this leveling tendency inherent in the medium, as some allege? Does this leveling tendency look as important when we observe what is not leveled? How is the leveling tendency affected by changes in how people implement the technology? And how does the discussion technology of the Web really compare to older mediums such as the printed page or the face to face conversation?

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Cell Phones, Selfishness and Strangers


I resisted as long as I could. I fairly despise myself for giving in. It is excruciating to even express the words, but with contrite heart I herewith confess that I recently bought a cellular telephone.

Something about the whole “you have to get one; everyone has one” argument never sat well with me. The idea that you invite a communications company to extort an unconscionable amount of money from your family every single month for the rest of your earthly lives is nauseating. And to think I have actually joined forces with all those distracted drivers who have nearly killed me countless times since all this insanity began is almost more than I can bear.

I was once a proud man stemming the tide of mass capitulation to the siren call of the cell phone. But here I sit, a shadow of the man I once was, wallowing in normalcy, a glassy-eyed conformist who has dutifully turned course to join the masses in their mesmerized march to the beat of this now standard mode of communication. Please just beam me up, Scottie, and put me out of my misery.

Younger generations will never share my angst in this matter. My children made this quite clear the moment they discovered their parents had purchased a cell phone. They broke into spontaneous dance on the living room floor, holding hands and singing in triumphant chorus: “We got a cell phone, we got a cell phone!” I wanted to puke.

The next morning they were up at dawn’s early light (a Saturday, no less!) programming the phone, discovering games, investigating options and doing whatever else they know how to do with the crazy thing despite having never done anything with it before. I must admit to benefiting from their intuitive capacities with all things digital, notwithstanding the son who miraculously converted my phone from English to Spanish with no clue how to reverse direction. When my Spanish vocabulary proved insufficient to remedy the situation I almost killed the kid. What I actually did was worse: he was forever banned from changing any settings without first obtaining my express written permission.

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