On air: Is the Internet constraining how we develop as individuals?

I’m very excited about today’s programme. Jaron Lanier is one of the great thinkers on the Internet and technology and he’s going to be with us for the full hour. (He has a book out – which is being discussed extensively online.) he’s asked to talk to you about three things.

We’ve just finished our editorial meeting. Jaron Lanier joined us by phone and this is what he’d like to speak with you about:

– Does the Internet bring our a meaner nastier side in all of us? Have you found yourself behaving in a way online, that wouldn’t do elsewhere?

– Does the Internet obstruct how we all develop as individuals?
Does the fact that we’re all sharing so much about ourselves mean that if ever we want to change who we are, the Internet is there to remind you and everyone else of what you’re trying to leave behind? And does the pressure on children to have online personas effect the people they actually become?

– Are we in danger of believing that the Internet itself is alive rather tha realising that it is humans and their creativity that provide life?
Is the process of communicating celebrated more than our own actions and creativity? And do the massive websites we use – YouTube, google, facebook, etc – force the creative connections we make to be damagingly uniform?

That’s written on the front cover of Jaron Lanier’s new book. Inside, he adds…

‘Something started to go wrong with the digital revolution around the start of the twenty-first century. The World Wide Web was flooded with a torrent of petty designs sometimes called Web 2.0. This ideology promotes radical freedom on the surface of the web, but that freedom, ironically, is more for machines than people. Nevertheless, it us sometimes referred to as ‘open culture’.

Communication is now often experienced as a superhuman phenomenom that towers above individuals. A new generation has come of age with a reduced expectation of what a person can be, and what each person might become.’

Here’s an interview with Jaron.

91 Responses to “On air: Is the Internet constraining how we develop as individuals?”

  1. 1 Donnamarie in Switzerland
    February 3, 2010 at 14:52

    We are who we are regardless of the internet, mobile phones, printed or broadcast material. Creative people will be creative, mean people will be mean, addictive types will be addicted, and people who are unsure of who they are will latch on to whatever they can, whether or not it makes sense to do so.

    It’s right that we are asking these questions and analyzing this powerful new medium, but at the end of the day it does not change us, it only reflects what’s already there.

    • 2 Ronald Almeida
      February 4, 2010 at 07:49

      What is the point of quetioning and analysing anything if we are convinced of the outcome. Isn’t that the basis of all fundamentalism?

    • 3 Nore
      February 5, 2010 at 20:00

      I was immediately interested in your posting. I concede that most people’s main characteristics are not changed by the Internet. However, I feel that the Internet can change people. What about the addiction of today’s teenagers to the web? They used to do a lot of stuff outside virtual reality, but now their parents just see them sitting in front of their computers day and night. And it’s not only teenagers!

      On the other hand, I feel that the Internet can have a positive impact on people. It can help you become more confident. Many people found friends there, who share their interests and who give them a sense of belonging.

      Then again, some people are changed by the Internet so completely that they eventually find it difficult to cope with real life outside of virtual reality. Others become despondent, because they have been deceived by someone who gave a wrong identy on the web, and who, in real life, is somebody completely different.

      I don’t advocate policing the Internet, but I still think that we have to be aware of the dangers it can pose to our life.

  2. 4 roebert
    February 3, 2010 at 14:56

    Well again I’d say that people (esp. children) need to be taught how to use their individuality to come into a right relation to what the net has to offer. Many people actually use the net to escape from the constraints of their individuality and their individual situations especially in very constraining societies. So without wanting to contradict Jaron outright, I’d say that there are two ways of looking at the question: chicken and egg.

    A strong and healthy individual will use the net to express his/her individuality in wholesome ways; a person with a weak or under-developed sense of individual strength and worth will stand in a neurotic relation to the net as to everything and everyone else.

  3. 6 T
    February 3, 2010 at 15:07

    I disagree. It’s actually helped people to develop in many ways. But, like any tool, it depends on how you use it. The tool itself doesn’t determine who you are.

    Some people (due to stupid societal taboos re: various subjects) use the Net as a safe outlet to vent. How then is that hurting them?

    What’s constraining people are the corporations that are trying to seize control of the Net.

  4. 7 patti in cape coral
    February 3, 2010 at 15:19

    1. Yes, the anonymity of the internet makes people say horribly mean things that I choose to believe they might not say to someone’s face.

    2. I don’t think the internet necessarily obstruct how we develop. If I choose to change the way I am, then that’s what happens. If someone who saw my profile on the net challenged the change, I would just say I changed my mind. Maybe this would be harder for people who depend on approval from others?

    3. I don’t think there is any danger of thinking the internet is alive. There is no internet without us.

  5. February 3, 2010 at 15:22

    There are three selves.-what we are, what we think what we are and what we want others to think we are.
    We normally project the last one.
    We develop based on our genes and environment which includes the culture you are born in and in which you live;includes internet as well.
    Depending on your use of internet whether you look for knowledge or porn ,it is left to you.What you see or read in internet is only an extension of what you have been seeking, be through friends,media or internet.As such internet might affect you to the extent of your innate tendencies,but the transformation, if any ,shall be swift.
    Internet does not obstruct your growth.
    Yes, we are in danger of believing that internet has a Personality of its own and we should remember it is only a tool and we should be aware of this fact at all times.

  6. 10 gary indiana
    February 3, 2010 at 15:24

    No! I like to chat. I usually do so whether other folks want to listen or not. Before the internet, no one in Iraq, South Africa, Bahrain, England or many other places knew how truly boring I can be. Now they do! It mayn’t be pleasurable to you folks; but it’s relatively harmless and loads of fun for me. Will the electronic wonders never cease?

    • 11 Ronald Almeida
      February 4, 2010 at 08:00

      No wonders never cease, as long as you have the facility to do so. But do not forget to wonder at nature too of which you are a part.

  7. 12 Idris Dangalan
    February 3, 2010 at 15:27

    I never been to LONDON,WASHINGTON,BEIJING,DUBAI or CAIRO but internet helps me to sent and received so things from such countries. Am glad meeting with BBC blogger without internet I may not know Ibrahim from and Lubna fron Bagdad.

  8. February 3, 2010 at 15:37

    Actually the internet has become inescapable. We are reminded of it when reading, watching TV or listening to a show like WHYS during which Ros Atkins and other presenters keep reminding listeners to visit WHYS blog and send their comments.

    However the internet shouldn’t become an addiction as it hampers the way individuals can develop without heavily depending on the net as a companion and a source of information and creativity.

    It’s true the internet has opened many horizons to people through which they can live real and virtual realities. Its drawback is when we start to visualize life just as a series of clicks that can bring to the screen what we like to see or fantasize to live while leaving the real reality outside. When it comes to socializing, there is nothing like face to face conversation compared to chatting or even using a webcam.

    In short, the internet is a machine. We shouldn’t forget that we should stay as real individuals instead of being transformed into machines by a machine we are supposed to master.

  9. 14 Peter-singapore
    February 3, 2010 at 15:52

    There is no denying , as a source of information and its other applications , the internet is a phenomenal breakthrough.

  10. 15 Roy, Washington DC
    February 3, 2010 at 15:56

    It most certainly does bring out a side of us that doesn’t normally appear. When you interact with others in a (semi-) anonymous way, you don’t have to worry about what they think of you, so you don’t hold back. Also, if things heat up or you embarrass yourself somehow, you can just turn the computer off, or even create a whole new identity for yourself — neither of which are possible in real life.

    This blog provides a good reference point. Many of us use our real names here, so the conversations are a lot more civil than they are on some of the other forums I frequent (which is good). I could also reinvent myself as someone else, and nobody would know.

  11. 16 piscator
    February 3, 2010 at 15:57

    The internet is a substitute for real life. For example, because it is snowing a little, I am using the excuse to sit here on the computer rather than go out with my wife and see some friends.

    I think it makes people infantile, in that they seldom react with people and have real discussions where they have to listen and be polite, and think on their feet. I think that’s why modern people tend to be so loud and take offence so easily. Because they receive all their opinions from other lonely people on web sites they are more extreme and don’t have the advantage of wide reading or a range of considered views.

    Because people only look at what they want to look at they are shallow and fail to develop their brains. Spell checks and auto translations, instead of widening their knowledge reduce it, because you don’t ever have to learn anything.

    Finally, the internet world is totally different from what it was supposed to be. It is not full of independent spirits giving laid back alternative views. It is full of commerce and loud mouths, paid trolls, porn and violence. People who spend too much time on the internet fail to develop as grown ups. The internet encourages selfishness and laziness.

  12. February 3, 2010 at 16:02

    the shocking truth is that young people today spend over 11 hours per day tethered to electronic devices. in effect these devices have become their gods. the ONE TRUE GOD designed human beings to be social and to be with each other. electronics, while keeping people in touch takes the actual physical component out of the equation and turns into an obsession, which leads individuals to worship themselves. whether you believe it or not, we can find direction for our lives in GOD’S WORD, the Bible (Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth), which we need to read daily. unfortunately, electronic addiction keeps people from doing this. Oh, by the way, GOD knew this would happen and it is one reason why he commanded us to gather together in Church.

  13. 18 steve
    February 3, 2010 at 16:03

    Nope, the internet just provides an instant way for people to reveal what idiots they are, which never was available in the past.

  14. 19 Ros Atkins
    February 3, 2010 at 16:11

    It’s worth adding that Jaron Lanier is not suggesting the net is a bad thing. He says the vast majority of the way the net has developed is incredible and beneficial. he is questioning one aspect of it, not suggesting we get rid of it.

  15. 20 Andrew in Australia
    February 3, 2010 at 16:13

    What concerns me most is how many believe virtually all they come across on the internet. Searching for information outside of traditional methods (I am not being a snob or old fashioned) but the rush to search the net for anything from antique wallpaper to serious medical conditions leads many to information that is dubious or simply wrong. The problem with this is that in the ever increasing instant world where everything must be here and accessible immediately, it is all too wrong to be duped especially as everyone with a viewpoint seems to be hawking their ideas online at an increasing rate. Without developing their own analytical acuity to discren what can be relied upon and what is utter rubbish we run the risk of becoming a dumber society or a deluded one. With simplified snippets floating around there seems to me a culture of why bother.. why bother to learn anything or look deeper into anything. Add to that the anti-social and impersonal value in the security of hiding behind the keyboard as an excuse not to relate to people on a real intimate level and you wonder how this radical social experiment will turn out. I’m with piscator on this.

  16. 21 Donnamarie in Switzerland
    February 3, 2010 at 16:34

    I had my first email account in 1982; that is, I’ve been on-line longer than many WHYS bloggers have been alive. The internet has changed my life since it exploded in the 1990’s, but not in any major way. I can now communicate with family and friends around the world instantly, at no cost, and in a way that smooths over the great differences in time zones. It has not changed my character.

    My 21 year-old daughter has had internet access all her life. She uses the net all the time: to research universities, look for a part-time job, check train schedules and see what’s playing at local cinemas. She draws, writes poetry and wants to be a published author. She spends time on FaceBook, as a way of keeping up with distant family and friends she met while studying abroad.

    Neither of us has a “virtual” life, and neither of us needs internet interaction as a surrogate for the real world. If people are going whacko using the net, it’s because they aren’t anchored in the real world. Again, this is not a reflection on the internet, it is a reflection of who those people really are.

  17. 22 Ibrahim in UK
    February 3, 2010 at 16:40

    I think the internet is a tool. It’s goodness or badness is a reflection of our goodness and badness.

    Internet Anonymity offers a degree of protection – for good people and for bad. How many kids at school know the answer to the teacher’s question, but are too shy to put their hand up and answer in front of all those other kids.

    Sharing of ideas and debate – like WHYS. Who would accuse it of constraining people? It gives a voice to the voiceless and let’s us all air our views and hear the views of others. Just knowing that there is another side to the story is contribution to growth in itself.

    Youtube and Facebook – these are the gadgets of the internet. We all like playing with new gadgets, but eventually we grow out of them or find a real use for them.

    I don’t think the internet causes us to be as we are, I think it is a result of our society’s growing desire for instant results with minimum effort.

  18. 23 Robyn Lexington, KY USA
    February 3, 2010 at 16:54

    Like all things in life there are good and bad things the internet brings to our lives. The good things include the ability to communicate with the people in your life who move across country in the United States or live in other countries. I am able to communicate with a friend in New Zeland and a classmate who married an British man and lives in England. One of things I consider bad is the loss of face to face communication. People tend to say mean things they may not say if you were seated across from them. For developing personalities you lose the art of story telling when you are in the room with family or friends. Overall I think its how you use the tool.

  19. 24 Anthony
    February 3, 2010 at 16:59

    Yup. That pretty much sums it up. Hanging out with people who range from 16 to mid 30’s, I can say that all those are generally fair facts to state, at least around my town (except for the creativity aspect).

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  20. 25 steve
    February 3, 2010 at 17:05

    Gee look, lingerie for 9 year olds now..


    All the internet does is just enable the general idiocy of the public, and provides quicker access.

    • 26 dan
      February 3, 2010 at 19:41

      This is the lunacy of the celebrities. The stupidity of the public is the ones that follow them and believe in their causes.

  21. 27 John in Salem
    February 3, 2010 at 17:33

    – Does the Internet bring our a meaner nastier side in all of us?

    The internet reflects life. Because of it most of us are interacting with more people on a daily basis than we ever have before and being mean and nasty is not a good way to make friends. It allows us to reflect and reexamine our feelings and opinions and compose thoughtful responses. You’re far more likely to encounter mean and nasty on the phone or on tv than on the net.

    – Does the Internet obstruct how we all develop as individuals?

    If anything it enhances our development as individuals.
    When I was growing up in the 50’s the idea of having a real-time interactive conversation with people in Nigeria and India and England and Peru was absurd. Now, we still have to interact with the people around us in our communities b

  22. 28 stephen/portland
    February 3, 2010 at 17:42

    You know those cyborg people in Star Trek, I think they are the “Borg”, anyway go to any starbucks and you can see them for real, no one taking to each other just sitting there consuming a beverage with a lap top, Blackberry Ear piece and texting device etc.

    Try making conversation and they just can’t even look you in the eye.

    Just do like the crew of the enterprise do when they went onboard the Alien ship, walk slowly and pretend you are texting, make your coffee order and get the hell out before they assimilate you!

  23. 29 Tom in the U.S.A.
    February 3, 2010 at 17:45

    The Internet, just as anything in life, is what you make of it. If used in the right way, it can expand your mind, bring you in contact with different cultures and increase your ability to learn and grow as a person.

  24. 30 Tamatoa, Zurich
    February 3, 2010 at 17:53

    Another way of asking these questions is: Is the human being able to develop its identity according to its destiny or potential? And does the internet slow this process down?
    I think that the internet is just one aspect of a greater change that the whole world has to undergo. The earth has become one country and man its citizens. The internet is just one media that reflects this process and makes the symptoms visible. We all have to develop/expand our identity where we give up the idea of national autocracy or independence of moral values. No country or society can survive on its own. And every human has to understand this intuitively. The internet helps us by offering a universal, global platform. We can learn to act globally. Meaning that we might not get a feed-back but we still have an impact. This is something a local community cannot do.
    This process is so monumental that it takes at least one generation that the majority understand this. And that things go wrong is natural. And it’s a good thing to talk about it. But we mustn’t be frustrated if we cant find a solution immediately. It’s an ongoing process.

  25. February 3, 2010 at 17:58

    I don’t use any of the chat sites,so perhaps I don’t qualify for comment.I use the net for information in a lot of fields.Perhaps the Walter Mitties use chat sites,but no sites can turn us into what we are not.If you are happy with it,where is the problem? If you are creative,innovative or inventive then that is what you will be.You may not make the grade,but that will not stop your creativity,internet or not.

  26. 32 gary indiana
    February 3, 2010 at 18:02

    In more direct answer to your questions;
    1. I don’t think global access lets me show a meaner or nastier side. I’m not mean and nasty in person. I’ve found these approaches to communication generally ineffective.
    2. Since being online, I’ve found myself considering a far wider range of topics and questions than ever I did before.
    3. I didn’t think books, stuffed toys and Santa are living entities and I’m not fooled by the internet either. Based upon respondents’ comments, My mind’s eye lets me formulate a reality for every one. That these may be in error isn’t important because sometimes I’m in error about aspects of my own reality.
    4. Yes, I thing the book cover statement is correct. I believe one can be pretty mono-dimensional and attempt to share; but the other party may not wish to be receptive. I guess this means I believe the statement is functionally correct; but that it has some implied ambiguity.

  27. 33 Frank in the USA
    February 3, 2010 at 18:03

    The internet does not constrain development at all. At least it gets people reading and writing to some degree, (unless they spend all their time watching YouTube and porn).

    The real development-killer in society is television. TV has been around for about 60 years and it’s long-term effects have yet to be fully studied, but it’s plain to see that it has a way of bringing a culture down to the lowest common denominator, and can be a real time and brain-cell killer

  28. 34 clamdip
    February 3, 2010 at 18:03

    The internet has a lot of good qualities in allowing people connection to others that they might not have in the real world. It also allows people to be gang mobbed by others when they express an unpopular belief. It shows both the good and ugly parts of human nature and personality. Maybe if people could tap into their ugliness and grow from it the world would be a much healthier place.
    P.S. People shouldn’t be embarrassed by what they reveal because its a part of their human expression but they should try to become better human beings.

  29. 35 Jack
    February 3, 2010 at 18:12

    Like anything else, the Internet is not in and of itself bad or good. Like guns, alcohol and freedom of speech, it’s how we use it that makes it an asset or a curse.

    We can enjoy a glass of wine or beer, or sip whiskey. We can air our views, as we do here on WHYS. And firearms are a valuable tool for human survival.

    We can also get drunk and fall down, make inflammatory statements or shoot each other. The internet is no different. I use it to work, for research and news. WHYS is something I indulge in, like a glass of Scotch, but if I spend all of my time doing it, I’ll have a problem.

  30. 36 Rob C
    February 3, 2010 at 18:21

    There’s an immediacy about it, that lacks a mediating agent. All the better if you really want to know who or what people think. The net reflects each others lives and, as such, is a mirror – for ill or good.

  31. 37 Sophia
    February 3, 2010 at 18:33

    “- Does the Internet bring out a meaner nastier side in all of us?” I’d advise anybody looking for an answer to this question to check out the WHYS blog from January 27th of this year. The topic was, “Should you pay more for being fat?” A great number of bloggers took this as an open invitation to (often maliciously) attack and ridicule the obese public… I suspect because the internet allowed them to remain anonymous. I doubt these bloggers would have expressed their opinions so crudely if their identity had been revealed along with their comments.

    Some might argue that this anonymity allows us to have a more honest discussion, others might say it keeps us from censoring ourselves. Either way it changes the way we would otherwise behave.

  32. February 3, 2010 at 18:36

    Does the Internet bring our a meaner nastier side in all of us? Have you found yourself behaving in a way online, that wouldn’t do elsewhere?

    Nasty people find it easy to be nasty on the Internet. However nasty people are easy to ignore on the internet (provided you can identify them).

    To a much greater extent though, internet is conducive to generosity. People are more than happy to share skills, data, information, knowledge, wisdom and perhaps other things as well. Name of a song, concept in theoretical physics, maths homework, computer trouble, relationship advice.. there are always plenty of people willing to help.

    Does the Internet obstruct how we all develop as individuals?
    As the internet becomes more normal, we will learn to accept that information dated 2009 isn’t going to be valid in 2014.

    Are we in danger of believing that the Internet itself is alive rather tha realising that it is humans and their creativity that provide life?
    Any complex system can be considered to be ‘alive’. All complex systems, even us humans, are made up of smaller sub-systems. It’s the massive jumble of interactions within the system that give the impression of ‘life’.

    Perhaps. But a worthy piece of music, scientific treatise, short story, news item, video clip, or opinion can be shared even if the creator isn’t ‘somebody’. And as the song went; everybody is somebody’s somebody.

    a reduced expectation of what a person can be, and what each person might become.[because of the internet]
    I await an explanation of this. On the surface that seems like utter nonsense.

  33. 39 nora
    February 3, 2010 at 18:39

    This is a subject close to my heart. When I was a student activist in the 1970’s at UC Berkeley, we developed and maintained social networks with the technology of the time: Selectric typewriters, Xerox machines, radio, silkscreen stencils and squeegies. Fellow activists were in the idealistic vanguard of computer development while fighting the use of our tax dollars to use computers as tools of crazy dictators.

    As a parent, I was involved in the Open School Apple Computer experiment shaping the future of computer friendly classroom education and the web. A Web event meant monitors, couches and a wine and cheese glimpse of the future. It was a short few years between the idealistic world chats and the practical questions about web predators and graphic porn when one looked for pussy willows or kitties.

    As a journalist and activist and film promoter, I was shaped by the computerized nightmare of Operation Condor which was used to eradicate parts of my social network. Now I have a younger boyfriend who was raised by a Hatari machine and can tune out of terra firma into the webworld at any moment. Life started changing when we invented the wheel and it just keeps rolling. Technology shapes every generation. Computers are all about the appearance of things, and the unmasking of the appearance of things.

  34. 40 John in Salem
    February 3, 2010 at 18:40

    not sure what happened there….
    As I was saying – Now, we still have to interact with the people around us in our communities but we do it with perspectives we would never have had if not for the internet.
    – Are we in danger of believing that the Internet itself is alive rather tha realising that it is humans and their creativity that provide life?
    No more than we are likely to believe that movies and soap operas are real life.
    And uniform creativity? People have new ideas, they put them on the web, other people copy and expand on them and variations give rise to more new ideas – it’s called evolution.
    “The World Wide Web was flooded with a torrent of petty designs sometimes called Web 2.0. This ideology promotes radical freedom on the surface of the web, but that freedom, ironically, is more for machines than people. Nevertheless, it us sometimes referred to as ‘open culture’.”
    Mr. Lanier is criticizing the trajectory of a rocket that is now barely a foot off the ground.

  35. 41 Shannon in Ohio
    February 3, 2010 at 18:53

    I am grateful for the internet, since it allows me to work from home. I think it is terrific to talk to people with common interests who live in places I will probably never have the opportunity to visit myself.

    Unfortunately, I have witnessed old friends’ personalities alter for the worse as a result of choosing to have their lives revolve around online chats with “cyber friends”–and lovers–who ultimately prove to be very impermanent. I think over- exposure to this technology leads many to mistakenly conclude that everyone is disposable.

  36. 42 Anthony
    February 3, 2010 at 19:01

    @ Sophia

    It’s funny, I did start to become “nastier”, although I felt more truthful online, which made me more confrontational in my “real life”. It’s great though. It makes my conversations and outings much more interesting.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  37. 43 nora
    February 3, 2010 at 19:08

    1. Meanness is part of man, the internet gives it a broader forum.

    2. Connectivity has brought immobility and children suffered with obesity. The greek ideal of healthy body and mind is an issue.

    3. The internet is a living god because we made it into one. good or bad?

  38. 44 steve
    February 3, 2010 at 19:08

    Ros, there’s a term for the “meaner side” of people that only seems to come out on the internet, it’s called “keyboard kourage” with the courage deliberately spelled with a “k”

  39. 45 Jill_Ion
    February 3, 2010 at 19:09

    I have heard people who are mean and nasty on the Net say “Oh, I’m not like that in person.” I think they really are, but try to mask it more in face-to-face encounters.

    Anonimity does bring out nastiness in people who think they can “get away with it.” It’s the same on the freeway, where someone wouldn’t yell or cut someone off if they were walking down the street feel it’s OK in their car.

    A lot of stupidly mean comments left on blogs or YouTube are done by the same people who scrawl on public bathroom walls. They choose not to respect others.

  40. 46 Pedro Perdomo
    February 3, 2010 at 19:11

    The net is just a broader and faster media to exchange info. So it can bring the best and the worst from every individual.
    The question is should it be regulated, shall the users get an ID to use it ?

    The government has already invested in huge resources to monitor the use, but the void is in the legal frame that should regulate it. The abuse of the media by the government should be our bigger concern at this moment.

  41. 47 nora
    February 3, 2010 at 19:13

    The short handled hoe made crooked backs. The design of the machine will always change us.

  42. 48 Lianne
    February 3, 2010 at 19:17

    When I have complained about the cruelty of people on message boards, I have been told I am too sensitive and that it really does not matter what people say online because it is not REAL life. I disagree, since I am the same person online as in person, I feel. Should I take abuse online less seriously?

  43. 49 patti in cape coral
    February 3, 2010 at 19:18

    One thing I really like about communicating on-line is that I see what a person thinks or how he feels without necessarily seeing how they look. For the most part I have no idea how the people on this blog look, and by the time I have seen their photos it doesn’t matter because I already have a good idea of what kind of person they are by their comments. It reminds me of when I was a kid and had a huge crush on a DJ in Chicago, then I saw him on TV and he didn’t look how I imagined him at all!

  44. 50 steve
    February 3, 2010 at 19:19

    Want nasty comments? Read the comments to any article relating to abortion and Tim Tebow on the Washingtonpost. The people on the right bring up religion, the people on the left hurl insults, don’t think certain people should have different opinions. Really nasty, nasty stuff, that you know these people would lack the courage to say in person. Hence, keyboard kourage. The courage you get hiding behind your keyboard.

  45. 51 Mr. Kawakubo {PORTLAND}
    February 3, 2010 at 19:19

    Chicken or egg?
    Isn’t this just a reflection of how or what we actually are? I am not sure the internet is reinforcing anything, perhaps, it is just making the separation more evident. Perhaps, we are just more true to what we think, less superficially agreeable then we once were. This is all possible. I am not sure anyone does, or could, know.

  46. February 3, 2010 at 19:21

    I spend a lot of time online as an interactive designer and illustrator.
    On some news sites I read there are lots of snarky remarks.

    I spend a lot of time reading design and illustration blogs and sharing illustrations on Flickr. On these sites people are really friendly and supportive and it’s really enjoyable. I feel like I’ve almost added to my friends this way. I have lots of friends around me here, but it is great to share with similarly creative people.

  47. 53 Mr. Kawakubo {PORTLAND}
    February 3, 2010 at 19:27

    Here is another problem with this thought process. On average, the people who go online, comment on blogs, could potentially be people who are terribly opinionated, terribly loud, wanting to get their, ‘important’ views out. Perhaps, the Internet crowd is inherently more abrasive then the rest of the population.

  48. 54 steve
    February 3, 2010 at 19:28

    Nothing personal, but the Second Life should probably be called “I need a life” instead.

  49. 55 Anthony
    February 3, 2010 at 19:28

    It’s funny. There are people who have these CRAZY facebook / myspace profiles that show them in a certain way physically and personally, yet you meet them in real life and they look NOTHING like their pictures, they are BORING, and their social skills in person are pitiful, although online its a TOTAL different story. It’s quite sad.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  50. February 3, 2010 at 19:31

    These are interesting questions. I think that the internet, now only 10 years old, has added (at the moment) another dimension to life experience, a new stage for people to express themselves and become involved in debates on international and local issues, debates that were previously limited by the confines of one’s physical social circle. I have actually created a religion on YouTube in the name of criticising religion itself. I sit with clearly fake legs in the lotus position and talk quite believable rubbish. It’s incredible the amount of attacking comments I get by people who take me seriously, ironically by angry western buddhists. I find this interesting…I would not get away with this in real life. The danger is that as time goes on and the internet grows we will all lose relationship skills and attempt to live with an image we have created of ourselves by social sensory deprivation via internet dependence.
    Kind regards
    Oscar Turner

  51. 57 Jill_Ion
    February 3, 2010 at 19:32

    But “steve,” your snarky comment about Second Life is exactly what is being discussed today. You want to poke fun at Second Life or the people who use it, so you quickly post something – without thinking?

    No one wants to or should be negatively judged or insulted because they like a website, a game, a band, etc.

  52. 58 nora
    February 3, 2010 at 19:37

    Why didn’t you say up front that this is abandoning open source? Bad idea.

  53. 59 Grace Igweta
    February 3, 2010 at 19:38

    How people handle “dissapointments” on internet social netwworking sites and drop out is an interesting phenomenon that needs exploring… I have friends who registered with facebook, but after months of having to read totally meaningless statements from friends of thier friend’s friends, they just dropped out… I too have experienced that dissapointment, and even posted a question on my page asking “what were the creators of face book really intending it to be used for?”

    Grace; Nairobi

  54. February 3, 2010 at 19:38


    I’m an expat Brit living in the USA who is a professional motorcycle racing photographer.

    I maintain a blog


    …and I also maintain a personal FB site here..


    …and also a Fan page here.


    I would have to say that for me, the actual use of using FB under your (or mine) real name tends to make for self regulation and making sure you stay true to who you are. I meet people all over the world with my job who will actually come up to me and introduce themselves to me because of who and I and my work and as a result I feel a connection to those who view my work and who I am. I have actually felt a certain level of friendship that gets around the initial stifling intros.

    It also has it’s uses in a business way as well, hence the separation of personal FB and “Fan” page..

    However, initially, I thought it was a bit of a nosey parker app, however, I have changed my mind and fell having a certain amount of transparency has made me a more generous and somewhat more of a global thinking person.

    Oddly enough my wife, a school teacher here in Aptos, is at a school seminar discussing the use of social apps within the school framework.

    Andrew Wheeler (expat from Bath UK) now living in Capitola, USA

    (Although I get mad about folks giving away photos for free…)!!!

  55. 61 steve
    February 3, 2010 at 19:39

    @ Jill

    The only people I know who use Second Life are people who are shutins who would do a lot better going outside for a walk than living some fantasy life online.

  56. 62 teej
    February 3, 2010 at 19:40

    Listening to the lady on the show who manages on line profiles and sez she gets paid in many ways for doing things on line besides by cash.
    First..in (internet)socialism some pigs are more equal than others
    Second…If some one came along and did your job for free thus denying you an income, i wonder how you might see life then.

  57. 63 nora
    February 3, 2010 at 19:42

    I thought this show was about the internet, not about the pure pursuit of wealth.

  58. February 3, 2010 at 19:45

    Finally! Someone else that thinks Facebook is boring compared to MySpace. Everyone looks so boring with the same structure to their image!

  59. 65 Jack
    February 3, 2010 at 19:45

    @ Jill_Ion,

    Good comparison to driving and road rage.

    @ nora

    Interesting perspective on the Internet as a god; I was thinking that earlier as I contemplated whether or not to capitalize the “I” in the word “internet” (interestingly, it is capitalized).

    For my own part, I found expression in writing and developed a rather caustic style. This translates well into critical writing, but poorly into the social sector of the Internet. Where my statements and responses are constrained by time in face-to-face conversation, I have enough time to think through what I can say before I submit my comments in writing. I admit to being extremely rude to others–even taking pleasure in it–but never vulgar. Profanity is what a person uses when they can’t think of anything else to say. To me it just defeats the purpose.

  60. February 3, 2010 at 19:47

    The woman from Wisconsin, with her “it’s so last generation” mindset, reminds me of the pre-2000 Internet hype. Remember? Brick ‘n Mortar stores are dead. They’ll almost give away products and make money eventually once they reach some critical mass. We all know how that ended. There’s no substitute to a sound financial plan.

  61. 67 steve
    February 3, 2010 at 19:48

    I have a feeling those with hundreds and thousands of “friends” on Facebook probably don’t have any real friendships at all. a Friend is someone who you could ask to drive you to the airport. How many of your facebook “friends” would do that for you?

  62. 68 Kate M.
    February 3, 2010 at 19:48

    You can be whoever you want online. Logically that will bring out the bad side in some people. It’s easier to be mean when you can hide behind a screen. On the other hand, the internet can help a great deal of people become more comfortable with themselves. Someone who is scared of meeting new people or crowds might feel more comfortable going into a chatroom and talking.
    It all depends on who is sitting in front of the keyboard.

  63. 69 Justin
    February 3, 2010 at 19:49

    I find the argument looking at the big picture to be begging the question. Jaron argues that we need to see the trends and big picture and thus if there is nothing to sell we should be concerned. I am curious what Jaron would say about the market of buggy whips? Markets change, including what is defined as a valuable merchandise. To assume that what is valuable today will be valuable in ten years is the exact mistake Jaron is claiming others are making not looking at the big picture.

  64. February 3, 2010 at 19:50

    I really like the idea of Jaron, we have to see the bigger picture. What I don’t like about this new world, is that the loud, uncreative people, sometimes get the more attention.

    It seems you have to be in a level of constant anxiety to be “someone” in internet. It has nothing to do with content, but more about being LOUD.

  65. February 3, 2010 at 19:52

    The internet is like a very sharp knife, if a sane man handles it, we need not panic but, if mad man handles it, then we have problems.

  66. 72 Jill_Ion
    February 3, 2010 at 19:52

    @ steve

    Again, you prove the point of this conversation. You are making insulting blanket statements based upon your very limited personal experience (is it a true experience? no way for us to know.)

    Have a great life, somehow. I’m moving on to positive and interesting conversations.

  67. 73 piscator
    February 3, 2010 at 19:52

    The problem doesn’t change, just the media. As they used to say on newspaper letters pages – only the nuts write in. Same with the internet.

  68. 74 Mr. Kawakubo {PORTLAND}
    February 3, 2010 at 19:54

    There simply isn’t enough value in the opinions of everyone online for them to be compensated. Your guest looks at this backwards. The value of the Internet has always been inflated, the power of it is overstated, it is just another vehicle of communication, good ideas are still hard to come by, and will always be a precious commodity. The Internet makes more views available to all, more voices heard, but the quality of the sound will never improve simply because there is more of it.

  69. 75 Tom D Ford
    February 3, 2010 at 19:55

    Very interesting show today.

    I wish we could make “Flash” controllable, right now it is making the internet into a hell.

  70. 76 Elias
    February 3, 2010 at 19:58

    Everyone has a good side and a bad side. The internet would better the good side of some of the people, it would also increase the bad side of some people. Like all innovations since time began theres the good that comes from it and the worse produced by it. The atom bomb shorten the war with Japan as the good side, on the other hand it caused the deaths of many which was the bad side.

  71. 77 Gloria in Oregon
    February 3, 2010 at 19:59

    The internet for me has been wonderful. Of recent years, I have been residing in an ultra-conservative town where many topics are never discussed, nor even lightly referred to, so I’ve learned to curb my voice, for self survival. (It’s not a good feeling.) Hence, the internet, for me, has allowed me the freedom to simply be who I am (or was, until moving here) and to learn, to communicate with people who are interested in ideas, in art, in music, to interact with people who are creative thinkers . WHYS is one of the places this happens for me, and listening to Jaron Lanier today ws a special treat, indeed.

  72. 78 Gloria in Oregon
    February 3, 2010 at 20:00

    @ Jack,

    Selfishly, I wish you would indulge in WHYS even more.

  73. February 3, 2010 at 20:00

    The woman who was on who ran the job site epitomizes what the problem with internet “commentators” as well as “commentators” in other media. She was very loud, she constantly interpreted Mr. Lanier before he could make his point, she was accusatory (as if he had done something wrong) and she was very sure she was right in everything she said. This is the same kind of behavior you can find on American talk radio, on the 24 hour tv news networks and between on-line flamers. In short, she was rude, obnoxious and didn’t care what your guest actually had to say; she only wanted to tout her own viewpoint as loudly as she could. Volume and quantity do not equate with intelligence and thoughtfulness.

  74. 80 Suti Sahariah
    February 3, 2010 at 23:42

    1. Does it bring out the nastier side: I think it makes us self centred.; and the joy of coming across a new person somewhat gets curtialed..Yes. sometimes we make irresponsible statements and tend to go overboard with issues which in reality we might l think twice before reacting. As we always look for people with similar interests, we tend to underestimate and be antagonistic with those ‘others’ who are not our types.

    2. Does it affect the way we develop: Both yes and no. Personally it doesn’t affect me but again when it comes to my online persona, I am very selective in what I want people to see and read about me. I think sometimeswe do put up things about what we are not and end up giving a completely different impression about ourselves online. It is a self promotion may be.

    3. Is it internet or human creativity that provides life: I think the process of communicating is certainly celebrated but creativity has it own space for the concerned audience.

    4.Do we have to be somebody before we can share ourselevs: Difficult to answer this, but I guess we are all somebody, and since internet is still a very much a privildge of the educated minority across the globe,sharing depends lot on individual’s interest.

  75. 81 clamdip
    February 4, 2010 at 00:11

    I think people are full of emotional pain and the internet allows them to anonymously ease their suffering. The internet allows people to have a voice and attention that they might not otherwise get through normal human interaction. If people are mean and cruel its because they use others anonymously to assuage their pain. Maybe this is healthier for our world. Because God knows how much we need to help humanity heal from its pain.

  76. 82 clamdip
    February 4, 2010 at 00:19

    I have a question though. If we all agree that the internet has these good-bad, ying -yang elements and we also know that people have the these same good and ugly qualities about them, why do employers discriminate on this basis? A teacher was recently fired because she showed a photo of herself holding a drink in her hand while on vacation. Is this fair?

  77. 83 Jim R in Naples, FL
    February 4, 2010 at 01:20

    I believe Mr. Lanier’s premise that people are nastier on the Internet is right on. All one has to do is read the comments following the articles in our local newspaper’s online site to verify this is the case. People make comments that are extremely rude that would never be said in a face to face conversation. When people don’t have to be “seen” and stand up when sharing their opinion it seems to bring out a great deal of anger that is otherwise suppressed. It ultimately creates a lack of civility that seems to be more and more common in our political culture as well.

  78. 84 Bert
    February 4, 2010 at 01:51

    Excellent program. I think the Internet is a wonderful tool, in the sense that it permits two-way communications among people worldwide, that one would not otherwise be able to have. It also permits accessing information on demand from a huge assortment of sources. Previously, global communications were mostly one-way only, filtered by the news media, and access to information was very considerably slower and more laborious. So at work and at play, I would hate to have to do without it anymore.

    But … I have certainly found it true that the anonymity makes some people, not all, behave in truly reprehensible ways. Some individuals come across like street thugs and bullies, where maybe face to face they are anything but. I’m not even sure I understand why anyone would act this way. Is it urges that they otherwise repress? Pretty scary stuff.

    Also, among the younger set, I have noticed what can only be described as addiction to the Web 2.0 social networking sites. It will be interesting to see if they grow out of it or if becomes a disturbing trend long term. I suppose it’s not all that different from teens gabbing on the phone for hours and hours, and they do grow out of that. So maybe there’s hope. As much as I dislike any form of addictive behavior, the incessant texting is a real put-off to me.

  79. 85 Richard in Arkansas (USA)
    February 4, 2010 at 02:55

    I am glad that we have the internet now. Without it, all we here in the states would be left with is our pitiful and totally useless corporate owned and profit driven “media.” The BBC is quite refreshing. But, having that loudmouth, rude woman on today reminded me why I have completely given up on America media. I hope the BBC doesn’t make putting someone like her on a habit.

  80. February 4, 2010 at 03:28

    Internet is making me more patient , tolerant, broad-minded, understanding & truly global so that I can deal with all sorts of people in his world effectively. It all depends on what sort of a person you are & how well you can utilize the opportunity given to you. Internet is just a medium. To create a master piece with it is in your hands.
    Dr. Krishna Kumari Challa

  81. February 4, 2010 at 10:05

    I can’t quite get the logic of the ‘it shows our true selves’ argument. This is actually a bad thing! We don’t want our true selves to be shown, otherwise society would be in chaos! How many of us would commit crimes if we knew we would get away with it? Virtually all of us to some extent, make no bones about it. Laws (and religion) are largely about STOPPING us from doing exactly what we want, and acting out exactly how we feel, because we are all innately capable of great evil much, much more than we are capable of good. Religion invites us to confess and confront our sins, and to suppress the ‘natural’ urges so that we can live together harmoniously. Laws have a similar effect. When no laws and no religion exist, the human being leaves civilisation behind. The Internet, with its anonymity and weak or non-existent regulation, is an example of this, and its influence is destabilising for society, which is why countries such as China view it with suspicion. Far from being the ubiquitous information superhighway to higher knowledge that was envisaged, the net has become like the Wild West! Lawless, seedy and ungovernable. How ironic it would be if the pinnacle of our technology actually took us backwards as a society!

  82. February 4, 2010 at 17:05

    Jared is right on about how the internet is affecting people as individuals as well as socially. We can’t even bother picking up the phone to say “hello” any more. Now we have to text and just get to the point. The internet is no different. It has most definitely affected how people think and act. I just read a article by a woman journalist who says that on top of everything, the internet is making kids more stupid because there is a lot of misspelling going on. If you want to see the article, you can go to http://www.powderroomgraffiti.com/byte-it/the-internet-makes-us-stupid.html
    Good luck Jared.

  83. 89 Ben Ohio
    February 4, 2010 at 19:25

    I thought the guy was great. At least somebody is trying to makes things better. I am very surprised that there was no mention of a very real issue- cost of access.


  84. 90 Tom D Ford
    February 4, 2010 at 19:52

    @24 steve
    February 3, 2010 at 17:05

    “Gee look, lingerie for 9 year olds now.. …”

    In the US there is a law against people in pornography posing as children under 18 years old, and I have to wonder if the parents of that girl are in violation of that in some way because they are promoting images of 9 year old girls posing as pornstars in lingerie?

    They are promoting the early sexualization of children and I think that is offensive. I wish they would let children be children and not try to make them into miniature adults.

    I wish that could be Regulated.

  85. 91 T
    February 5, 2010 at 02:41

    Some people are dealing with various types of serious issues. Example: some type of trauma.

    They feel like nobody will listen to them in the “real” world. So they go online anonymously and share. It helps them to feel better. And possibly help others online who are in the same problem.

    How then is that constraining development?

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