There was a period a few years ago when Buzzfeed quizzes were a popular thing – maybe they still are. Here are a few I pulled from Buzzfeed.com:
It was fun and I think it was so popular because (other than the sheer absurdity of it) perhaps a small part of us felt like we were discovering more about ourselves.
I just did the cheese quiz. I’m swiss cheese – I wear my emotions right on my sleeve and am a terrible liar. I’m not edgy because I prefer to savor the best parts of life, and people admire me for that.
That was slightly entertaining to know, but now what?… I guess I continue on with my life.
By the end of Gopnik’s article, The Information: How the Internet Gets Inside Us, I felt similar to how I felt after all those Buzzfeed quizzes…the feeling of so what? What do I do with this label now? Gopnik categorizes people of how they react to technology as Never-Betters, Better-Nevers, and Ever-Wasers. To me, this just confusing terms for what can be plainly said as pessimists, optimists, and realists. Using examples and quotes, Gopnik did a great job of describing the general thoughts of people who may identify themselves with the categories. I also appreciated him trying to show some of the faults of thinking about technology in one particular way. I don’t think one person can just be one type of class. Even just narrowing in on the web, it’s very diverse, and it might be impossible to feel the same about all aspects of it. I am definitely a little bit of all three. But again so what? I know how I react to the Internet and how other people may think about it..it’s nothing new. What do I do with this information now?
Gopnik briefly touches on the most interesting part of the whole article:
“The real demon in the machine is the tirelessness of the user.”
I’m interpreting this as how we use the web matters. This article would have been far more interesting if Gopnik dug deeper into how these classes of people use the web. What we think of the Internet to how we use the internet may or may not be related. As a personal example, I’m a Better-Never when it comes to Facebook and yet I still use it and contribute to it. It’s where all my friends are connecting and keeping in touch. I would have been just as happy sticking to the telephone or snail mail but everyone’s on Facebook and I’d like to be a part of it. No matter what we think of the Internet, it’s still part of our daily life and as Gopnik and this week’s reading by Chimero (The Good Room) mentions, we live in it now, and whether we like our home or not we still have to use it and how we use it is important to understand.
I’m currently observing my housemates sitting in the living room as I write this. I ask my first housemate, Jayme, what she thinks of the Internet. (I made them all read this article to help me with this reflection). She says she’s a Never-Better. I ask her what she spends the majority of her internet time doing. She admits she spends most of her time online scrolling through Instagram and Facebook and binge-watching Netflix. I’ll pull a Gopnik and coin a term for this: The Passive Scroller. I turn to my other housemate, Sam. He’s a Better-Never. He uses the Internet when he has to for school (research and accessing scholarly articles). He has no social media but uses the Internet as an alternative telephone to chat with his friends via Skype or e-mail. He says he rather spend time in nature. Sam is a Bare-Minimumer. The final housemate is Kyle. He says he relates with a Better-Waser. When he’s on the Internet, he’s almost always reading articles on his favorite websites or accessing podcasts. For him, the Internet is a tool to expand his horizons and learn. He avoids passive entertainment on it. Kyle is a Life-Enhancer.
This is interesting to me. If we can be more aware of what we spend the most time doing on the Internet, maybe we can change how we even think or react to the Internet. Maybe Sam, who claims he’s a Better-Never, can learn that there are resources online to further his connection with nature (like the link that Chimero shared in his Good Room article: “The Internet of Natural Things”. This may lead him to a better opinion of the Internet. Kyle who doesn’t approve of passive Netflix watching may be thrilled to know that there are tons of forums actively watching entertainment – discussing, analyzing, and critiquing it. Maybe Jayme, who’s slowly realizing how she’s spending her time on the Internet might seek out other stuff to do on the web like read about things she’s always been curious about, access water-color tutorials on YouTube and finally achieve her dreams of becoming a water-color painter. Who knows!
Of course, Passive Scroller, Bare Minimumer, and Life Enhancer are not the only ways people spend most of their time on the Internet. I’m sure if I talked to more people I would get some really diverse ways of using the Internet. But I think it’s a more interesting and useful question. It has more of a potential for reflection and can lead to a change in behavior and thinking.