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Maybe the Sky IS Falling!

Sky FallingThe advent of the internet is in a league with the development of nuclear weapons. Both changed the world. And hand-in-hand, they may shepherd humanity to its ultimate end. The threat of nuclear holocaust has hung over the human race since the Enola Gay laid waste to Hiroshima seventy years ago. As these weapons spread to ever more parts of the world, the threat only increases.

But the internet? How can it be the atom bomb’s bride and carry the bouquet of humanity’s doom?

As with any marriage, some things are best left unsaid or at least, not spoken until they have been thought through thoroughly. The internet has removed a set of checks-and-balances that has served humanity for eons. The instantaneous communication of the internet acts as the midwife of our doom.

When I was a child, a postage stamp (there was no such thing as email) cost three cents. A letter took about a week to go from Michigan to my cousins in Tennessee. However, for an extra penny, you could buy an “Air Mail” stamp. Your letter actually got to fly on an airplane to get to its destination. It cut delivery time down to about three days, a modern miracle of efficiency.

Today, with the internet and programs like Skype, I can converse with voice and video in real time with friends in Australia for free. Through social networks of all types from Facebook to Twitter, I can share thoughts with literally tens of thousands of people all over the world in an instant. In some respects, that is nothing short of fabulous. But so are a few other things that would quickly bring an end to civilized society, for example, unrestricted sex, free euphoria inducing drugs and x-ray goggles. Too much of a good thing can be quite bad. Unrestricted, instantaneous communication is one of those things.

Think about the days when the principle means of communication was the local newspaper or even local radio and television. Information could be disseminated quickly, but still the process involved days rather than nano-seconds. For the most part, it was a one-way communication. Sure, you could write a letter to the editor and maybe, just maybe it would be published a few days or weeks later, but then only if the editor didn’t deem you or your letter as coming from the nut-case fringe. When someone expressed views that were too far from the community norm, that person was censured “socially” and cut from the herd. He or she was relegated to the edges of the community and excluded by many. There was pressure to conform and stay within the generally accepted boundaries. When I was young, members of the John Birch Society, a fairly radical (by the standards of the day) right wing group, were the butts of many jokes and rarely taken seriously by most members of the community. Society had a self-correcting capability. It encouraged diverse thinking, but when someone strayed too far from the “real world”, he either came back toward the center or left town for areas more accommodating of his views. The outliers couldn’t get the validation needed for their beliefs or actions. And it didn’t feel good to be an outlier. They were alone. Fortunately for society, there weren’t enough of them to form a critical mass and become legitimized in the eyes of their neighbors.

Today, thanks to the internet, the world is different. It has given new definition to the term “community”. No longer does it have to be based on geography. Social networking has given structure to groups that could never have survived fifty years ago. It has allowed like-minded people to aggregate and give themselves the validation that was all but impossible in the past. In many cases, it has been a blessing. People with cancer are no longer on their own for the battle; they have others who have also fought the disease ready and willing to help them and offer their support. Members of the LBGT community have created their own virtual neighborhoods and they’re no longer relegated to the closets of society. The list is almost without bound of those previously voiceless and castigated members of our communities that now have validation and support. But with the good comes the bad.

Groups that by most standards of the civilized world should be marginalized also get validation and support. Thanks to the internet, jihadists connect with other fringe thinkers and gain a critical mass. Other political groups exist that without the internet wouldn’t have a ghost’s chance in hell of coming together successfully. People come together and wallow in the glory of their collective ignorance. Think about the Tea Party with its cabal of the powerful preying upon the ignorance of the masses at the expense of sound government.

Some of the more innocuous, but still out-of-bounds social networks include ones like MyFreeImplants.com where women looking for such things as breast implants are matched up with men willing to pay for the operation on a presumably quid-pro-quo basis. Psychics.co.uk provides a forum for mind-readers and predictors of the future. It even offers an online school for learning how to become a psychic. You would think they’d have their own means of communication. We’ve got a guy in our neighborhood that has started an online television channel for cats. There’s even a website for nudist bed and breakfast homes in the United States. When researching the question of “unusual” social networks, I stumbled upon this blog post on the website of one woman.

Since people ask me what I’m looking for in a man, I’ve decided to compile a list so that potential applicants know what requirements they need to meet should they apply.  If you do not meet all of the following requirements, your application will quickly land in the world wide web’s circular file:

  • Is a nudist.
  • Likes country music (bonus points for knowing all the words to either Through the Years or Red Solo Cup.)
  • Sees Mister Rogers as a hero, just as I do.
  • Can agree to disagree without hard feelings or temper tantrums.
  • Eats normal healthy food.  That is, I can identify everything they eat.
  • No illegal drugs or alcoholism.
  • Spending an afternoon with a bucket of bubble solution and a bubble wand equals utopia.
  • Shows respect for my family- they’re the only family Ive got and they’re a little quirky.
  • Reads and is well-read.
  • Must love dogs.  Especially a cute little cockapoo named Little Bare.
  • When describing his age, includes half years as needed (ie. 38 and a half.)
  • With the age thing, he’s not so old that he could be my grandfather nor is he so young he could be my grandson (I’m 37 for those who don’t know my age.  My birthday was on July 18.  If you sent me a gift, card, or kind message, that would have given you bonus points!)
  • Enjoys tree climbing.
  • When asked if the glass is half empty or half full, quickly loses sight of the question and wonders what in the world people are thinking to entrust him with glass rather than plastic.
  • No prison record that would exempt him from being a good guy.
  • Has respect for one of the greatest inventions ever: the Slip n’ Slide.
  • Sees every day as a holiday to be celebrated.

So there ya go- my list!  Not quite a bucket list or a Christmas List, I suppose.  Actually, in thinking about it, it’s kind of a mix of the two.  Now to create the application for anyone choosing to apply…

There you have it. The internet provides a meeting place for people with pretty much any interest you can imagine.

To each – his or her own. Most of the sites I’ve found seem to be pretty innocent and innocuous. But you’re going to have to work overtime to convince me that these people would have been viewed as mainstream in Northville, Michigan, the little town in which I grew up. If they weren’t to be tarred and feathered or in the very least, strapped to an outbound freight train, they definitely would have been put in a fenced in area on the outskirts of town.

But … all is not well in the kingdom. A minority of the millions of social media sites are not healthy. There are hate based, radical sites that promote the destruction of society either directly or indirectly. The internet validates, at least in the eyes of some, the beheadings of human beings. Westboro Baptist Church presents its own brand of hate on its site. The Ku Klux Klan has its fancy web site. ISIS uses the internet to recruit citizens from western nations to join the cause.

Think about it, before the advent of the internet, you had to visit the fringes of society to find these people. Today, they quickly and easily reach critical mass. The loon birds are on the loose and they’re flying toward the end of the civilized world. (Check out the Facebook pages for Loons and Loon Birds.)

So if the internet is guiding us to inexorably walk the plank into oblivion, what can we do about it? Hell if I know. How about you? I feel like Slim Pickens in the movie Dr. Strangelove as he’s riding the bomb downward and sporting a big grin.

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