It’s not surprising that a New York Times columnist is hostile to the idea of bidirectional universal publishing. This column makes a very strong case, though. Not to minimize the example that the column focuses on (of a journalist on Twitter being astonishingly coarse about a rape) I am most interested in the way the article wraps up.
Evgeny Morozov, author of “The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom,” told me Twitter creates a false intimacy and can “bring out the worst in people. You’re straining after eyeballs, not big thoughts. So you go for the shallow, funny, contrarian or cynical.”
Nicholas Carr, author of “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains,” says technology amplifies everything, good instincts and base. While technology is amoral, he said, our brains may be rewired in disturbing ways.
“Researchers say that we need to be quiet and attentive if we want to tap into our deeper emotions,” he said. “If we’re constantly interrupted and distracted, we kind of short-circuit our empathy. If you dampen empathy and you encourage the immediate expression of whatever is in your mind, you get a lot of nastiness that wouldn’t have occurred before.”
Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic, recalled that when he started his online book review he forbade comments, wary of high-tech sociopaths.
“I’m not interested in having the sewer appear on my site,” he said. “Why would I engage with people digitally whom I would never engage with actually? Why does the technology exonerate the kind of foul expression that you would not tolerate anywhere else?”
And who is this advocate for depth and contemplation and empathy over amusing but antisocial snark?
Maureen Dowd. Maureen Dowd. Not shallow, funny, contrarian or cynical she! Nope, the very model of deep soulful contemplation and charity! So take it from Maureen, the internet is full of people lacking in empathy and eager to score a quick nasty chuckle. Stick to the newspaper, where such behaviors are rare. Rare, and apparently highly prized.