The internet, social media, gaming are all eager to serve our base instincts.
The Internet and Social Media
When you look at the 100 most visited websites, you get an idea of how people spend their time on the internet. Wikipedia tops the list, which is an indication of people seeking reliable information. Wikipedia is followed by YouTube, Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter, which only tells part of the story.
When you look a little deeper, you will find that 35 percent of internet downloads are dominated by pornography.
- About 200,000 Americans are classified as "porn addicts."
- Forty million American people regularly visit porn sites.
- 35% of all internet downloads are related to pornography.
- 34% of internet users have experienced unwanted exposure to pornographic content through ads, pop-up ads, misdirected links, or emails.
- One-third of porn viewers are women.
Of the top five most visited websites, I think Twitter is the worst. They should have named it "snipe" because, with only 280 characters, snarky remarks are about all it's good for. Tweets by politicians are the most egregious use. What sort of thoughtful policy position fits in 280 characters? Instead of any considered opinion, we get posturing and snide remarks and attacks on others instead of any form of quality commentary.
Facebook and YouTube have become centers for ridiculous conspiracy theories. Before social media, you might encounter a deranged individual screaming on a street corner, embarrassing but limited in reach. Now every disturbed person can share their nonsense with the world. Suddenly your local crackpot witch doctor can reach the same audience as Dr. Fauci. And who do the gullible believe — the crackpot witch doctor.
That said, I believe the internet can benefit everyone if used with a bit of common sense. In a perfect world, social media would provide a service for good, but there seems to be an irresistible pull towards the cesspool because that’s where the most profit potential lies. It really comes down to what we want, which is constantly measured and studied by how we spend our money.
Video games have excellent teaching potential. Games like SimCity, MindCraft, Roblox, Lego Dimensions, and many more have great educational potential. Unfortunately, those are NOT the games most talked about when young kids get together. Instead, they are drawn to the most violent, the most anti-social games available. Titles like Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat, Assassin's Creed, and all manner of first-person shooter games dominate kids' whispered gaming conversations — whispered because they can't get caught out by their parents or let on they even know about these violent games. Kids opt for games that allow them to kill and maim with abandon — not exactly the most prized social skills.
Why are violence and killing such an attraction?
As an educator, I had high hopes for virtual reality. I envisioned a virtual reality lab at every school, complete with VR headsets for every student. I dreamed of the virtual reality fields trips we could take. We could board a sailing ship bound for the new world. We could travel to the ancient pyramids of Egypt and immerse ourselves in the ancient wonders. We could look over the shoulders of the founding fathers as they signed the Declaration of Independence.
It could be a giant leap for education. Instead, the first VR was used for training and simulation in the US military. Predictably VR migrated into the gaming world, where its most significant contribution was to make first-person shooter games more realistic and the violence more visceral. Virtual field trips for classrooms never quite made it past the gates of my imagination.
If you are as old as I am, you might faintly recall a black and white TV show called "Sing Along with Mitch." Viewers would follow the bouncing ball over the words and sing along with Mitch Miller. Although, as Mitch himself explains, his show never featured a bouncing ball, just the song's words visible on the screen.
This show was the forerunner to modern Karaoke. When Karaoke first came out, I was teaching reading in the first grade. I had developed a novel approach — I was teaching beginning reading through song. I'd put all the words to a song in a pocket chart hanging on the wall and point to each word with a yardstick as we sang together.
So I was excited about the prospect of integrating Karaoke into my classroom reading program as it was automatically displaying the words on the screen and highlighting the target word to be sung, just as I was doing with the pocket chart and the yardstick. I also thought Karaoke had the terrific potential for teaching remedial reading instruction in middle school. While older kids will not sit still for beginning readers in middle school, almost everybody loves to sing.
But that was not to be. The first Karaoke videos were aimed at bars and nightclubs — every song was accompanied by images unsuitable for young children. Most had background images that would get me called before the school board and fired if I ever used those songs in my classroom.
Much of technology is aimed first at the dark side of humanity — I suppose that's where the money is. That's unfortunate because many great things that could be accomplished through technology never see the light of day. After all, the fast buck always comes first. In our economic system, capital always flows where the most profit can be made — that's not always a good thing and often yields more of the same worthless things while important things are left abandoned.
We may cast our ballot for our elected officials, but we vote with our dollars for everything else.