Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My problem with the internet

I was reading this blog today

And I was reminded of why I started looking to the internet for conversations about Judaism back in the early 90s.

Back then, I sat in school, and yeshivah and found that most of the people around me just didn't want to delve into the text all that much. They didn't want to suggest new ideas, or new ways of looking at things. They never wanted to ask their own question.

Then I learned about email listserves and the internet, and I found people who were willing to have these sorts of conversations. But the problem was, they didn't want to keep shabbat or Kashrut, and it seemed that they were looking for ways out of things, and not trying to discover what the texts actually tried to teach us.

And then I found blogs like DovBear, or Gadol Hador (XGH now) and I thought to myself, finally, I'm not alone. There are other people who want to explore the texts, test out new ideas, see where things take them. They have questions and they want answers....

And that's when the reality of the internet hit me.

I have almost never seen somebody respond to the answer to thier question with a thank you. Or with a "hmm, that looks interesting, I'll have to think about that more." Nope, they just stick to thier guns, or enjoy the mockery and attention seeking and the controversy so much, that they could care less about what they are actually talking about.

The internet does not appear to be a place for real conversation like I thought it would be. It is just too hard to find the people who want to talk and reason and think. Now it's all about the ranting and the mocking and the collection of eyeballs. As one of my bosses often said, "Social Networking is anything but." It's all about "me me me", and its less and less often about the actual ideas being discussed.

We are wasting a great change in the way information is transmited between people and instead using it to stay within our own heads.


  1. I think what you describe is more pronounced in certain discussions rather than others. (Blogs about Virology, Cryogenics, Technology...etc not so much.) (Blogs about magic, politics, myths, creationism, theism...etc Very Much).

    Generally speaking, when two people can relate to something on an intellectual level, the type of conversation can happen a lot. Which is why I have had many fruitful conversations on the issues mentioned above (virology, cryology, technology, science...etc)

    However, when one person can't relate to an issue on an intellectual level such a conversation will be fruitless. In my case, I could never truly have such a conversation with a flat earther, creationist, magic-believer, theist, or a stateist simply because from my perspective, such positions are silly, unfounded, illogical, or something my subjective mind considers immoral to the point in which I can't even take such a conversation seriously if it entails such subjects.

    And so, I think the problem is not with the internet, but rather the issues you are looking to discuss, and the lack of common ground with the people you are looking to discuss with.

  2. Firstly, thank you for commenting on my blog.

    Interesting observation and you are definitely onto something.

    Though I don't think the subject matter is really the issue. It's a problem of as you said, having a lack of common ground at some point in the conversation.

    Global warming vs Global climate change conversations for example, are full of the sort of behavior I was describing.

    But this is the part that frustrates me. The promising thing about the internet, for me atleast, was the idea that people from completely different environments with different sets of assumptions can discuss things that otherwise they would not be able to discuss.

    If you are only having conversations with people on topics which there is enough common ground to not have these problems, then what purpose is the internet serving? You can have those sorts of conversations with your friends and co-workers.

    To rephrase that better, what I was looking for was for people to be able to discuss and question their assumptions. To look at things from new directions. And the problem is, such conversations seem to be unable to happen.