Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Blog Mentality: The Internet Made Me Do It!

Time for a trip down memory lane. Remember when you were a kid, and you’d argue with your parents about something – wanting a Nintendo gaming system, perhaps. You’d scream, “But all my friends have one!” And your mom would calmly reply, “Well if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?” Well, apparently the lesson didn’t stick because when it comes to our internet habits, we’re all jumping off bridges. What’s worse, we’re doing it because perfect strangers tell us to do so.

The theme of this week’s readings had to do with the “conversations” we have every day through the internet with people we may or may not know. I put quotation marks around the word because of course, we’re not sitting down for a nice chat with a friend. Instead, we deal with dozens of digital interactions that dictate what to wear, which book to read, and where to travel. The ad industry has termed this “conversational marketing” and it’s all the rage because not only does it allow you to connect with others and compare notes on the latest and greatest thing to wear/do/eat, it often puts you in direct contact with your favorite (or not so favorite) companies. I’m not opposed to the concept; as a matter of fact, I’m relieved when I find that 347 others have given the computer I’m about to buy a 4.5 star rating. But then there’s a slight itch at the back of my mind as I wonder, “Why only 4.5 stars? Why not 5?” Cue scrolling through reviews, blurry vision, repetitive stress disorder until finally, you come upon the killjoy who gave your beloved computer a 1 star rating. He claims the computer was defective, but how do you really know? He could be telling the truth. Or he could be a Mac Guy trying to bash the poor PC…

But such is the nature of the internet beast. With so much information coming at you, there has to be a way to filter through all the muck. And so we depend on reviews, star ratings, internet forums, and spiffy looking banner ads. Things can take an ugly turn, however, when the subject under scrutiny is not a product or service, but rather another human being. I recently read an article about a student at Lewis & Clark University who was accused of rape via Facebook. Whether true or not, the allegations were publicly aired on a social networking site that has the potential to make or break one’s reputation. This raises all kinds of questions about privacy, accuracy, and reliability when dealing with internet-derived information. So take everything with a grain of salt, don’t be a lemming, and if you must be, wear a parachute…


2 comments:

Denis Largeron said...

www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gmP4nk0EOE

True, we depend on ratings and comments we all generate for ourselves... (visciousness?)
But as the video says (I love this video), we are the web. Indeed you're right; we have to redefine privacy, acuracy and reliabilty.

But the web is alived and kicking, look at it as someone, that can be crazy, that can lie... and that can know much more than you do, stimulate your thinking about something you didn't take into account.

Someone that can remind you to put your parachute on when you would not have thought about it initially by yourself.
;-)

Javaid said...

I totally agree with you. There's just so much information on the Web, especially when it comes to product reviews. I have a hard time believing most of the reviews. However, one thing I learned that has served me well so far, is to look at the 'not so good reviews' and compare common elements of those reviews - when you put them all together, you can usually get a complete picture!