Archives for posts with tag: internet

So there has been a hubbub, a brouhaha, a kafuffle in the news lately about facebook privacy.  It seems that until recently, those between 13 and 17 were forced to keep their facebook profiles private, or visible only to friend and friends of friends.  This was to protect the identities of minors.  But now the people at facebook are allowing teenagers to post pictures on the internet that just anyone can see.  Concerned parents groups and PTA moms all over the world are speaking out.

Here’s the thing.  Internet privacy is not a thing.  It never existed.  The very term is an oxymoron.  I personally have had my facebook account hacked twice, that I know about.  Worse yet, facebook, along with almost all the big networks, sells your personal information to third party organizations.  If that weren’t bad enough, the NSA has a file on you with copies of the emails you send and records of the sites you visit.  Internet privacy?  Puh-lease!  You never had it.  The only crime was that anyone told a teenager that there was such a thing in the first place.

And yet parents and the people informing them are teaching their kids to use facebook privacy settings to stay safe because the parents don’t understand it either.  The only sane way to look at the internet is essentially the same way we look at everything else.  Consider dressing.  When you are at home you can wear whatever you want.  When you go out, anyone can see you because you’re in a public space.  You might run into your boss or your ex or a celebrity but you have no control over who will see you.  The internet is a public space.  All of it.  It’s what the internet is: your files stored on other people’s computers.  When you store your files on your computer it’s just called a computer.

And so as usual the your salvation lies not behind the paper thin security systems of facebook, hotmail, or twitter, but with education: with understanding that every single piece of information you post is stored on someone else’s computer.  The only security afforded to you by the world wide web is security in numbers, the anonymity of the crowd.  It’s hard to target individuals when there are billions of them.  That’s why there are more spammers than hackers.  Don’t put your faith in security settings and don’t teach your kids to either.  Assume that every bit is broadcast to the whole world, and hope Obama never comes looking for you.

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The internet is often described with the metaphor of a virus.  Indeed, many of the concepts in biology apply to society.  Biological evolution is defined as changes in gene frequency and you could define societal evolution as changes in meme frequency.  The internet is to society what dog breeding is to evolution: it accelerates the process and yields all kinds of wacky and ultimately useless results.  That’s why I hate internet memes as much as I hate lap dogs.

Internet memes are low-quality content that persists and spreads because it is easily understood by huge populations and it’s easy to share.  That’s why we get endless silly pictures of cats and other animals.  Like genes, the only thing that determines the success of a meme is its ability to self replicate, not its actual value.

But people are fighting back!  There’s a new meme called Actual Advice Mallard that features a picture of a mallard and text containing actual advice.  Seems pretty simple right?  Wrong.  This is brilliant!  There’s all kinds of actual advice on the internet.  Why are memes shared on facebook while quality articles are not?  Because they appeal to a common humanity.  The Actual Advice Mallard cleverly appeals to the popular feeling that memes are stupid.  What utter genius.  Using the virus’ own pathways to inject real information into the internet.

In biological terms, this meme is like a vaccination.  It’s a modified version of the virus (meme) that uses our own immune system (instincts and love of memes) to protect us against the effects of the real viruses (stupidity caused by over-exposure to internet memes).

If ever there was a meme to share, this is the one.

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