Who and what can you trust? Might there be aliens broadcasting through our television sets trying to brainwash us of our freedom? Are we being watched by the government through our own laptop camcorder? Did the Russians rig our election? All these could be nothing more than hysteria fed over to us on big banners of social media pages or on the latest news feeds on the Google news tab. But as we dig online for the truths to these questions (because that’s really all we can do), how about I throw another question in here to make you even more untrusting – does the internet have the potential to control our minds?
I’m not talking about complete sci-fi-technology-control, making us into bendable meat-puppets. However, this realistic level could be just as spooky, considering that you’ll most likely realize after reading this that you’ve been a victim of some of these incidents yourself. You’ll reflect back to how Facebook has persuaded many times to do more than press that like button or react to a friend’s post.
A CNN article by Matt Ford explains that the design of web browsers and social home menus were intended to keep you searching for more content; you search up cats on your Google search bar, and they provide you with plenty of related topics about cats. Facebook –depending on your following list– is almost an endless scroll of posts for you to skim through, to catch up on all your friends’ lives that are supposedly important to you. There’re even profiles of people you have no real camaraderie with, like the one cashier Clark at the 7/11 a mile down your street who updates constantly on how his dog is faring from receiving his rabies shot.
All this may seem like nothing more than a legal way to stalk people, but what you’re really doing is being mentally trained for a shorter attention span, all the while being unsatisfied and wanting more out of these applications. All these newsfeeds, blog posts and websites; their own way of pouring on us all their information, believe it or not, has shifted our psychological attitudes. Nicholas Carr, author of “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains”, told CNN, “Like many people, I’ve spent a lot of time using the net and other digital technologies over the past ten or fifteen years, and I’ve enjoyed the many benefits those technologies provide.
“But I came to realize, some time in 2007,” Carr said, “that I was losing my ability to pay deep attention to one thing over a long period of time. When I’d sit down to read a book, for instance, I was only able to sustain my concentration for a page or two. My mind would begin to crave stimulation and distraction — it wanted to click on links, jump from page to page, check email, do some Googling.”
I can bet that a vast majority of college students today cannot focus on one class assignment without browsing through their Facebook page, or someone scrolling on the internet for a blog that’s holding a recent discussion about their favorite upcoming Netflix show. A more pressing issue is that although there may be a developed skill in internet users to multitask many responsibilities, Carr believes the internet minimizes a person’s critical building of knowledge if a person had been assigned one specific task.
So what does this have to do with mind control? Well, what’s the main goal of social media such as Facebook or a search engine such as Google? What do these monster corporations need in order to survive? Views. Visitors. Attraction. They need to have frequent, nonstop visitors. As mentioned before in the beginning, users of the Google Search Engine are being given recommended searches because Google wants to keep them browsing – to keep using their engine. Facebook has you scrolling down the endless posts because they want you to keep scrolling. What’s worse, is that they even recommend you other profiles you may want to befriend, so you can scroll through their posts–more posts overall.
The internet is controlling our minds by giving us short attention spans. I would argue further, but it’s taken me an hour writing as far as I have because of Trump’s running Tweet streak. I’m even scrolling the Game of Thrones Wiki as I finish these ending lines. Is the world doomed? No, we’ll get things done, it’ll just take us a bit longer to do our business.
Joseph Frare is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org