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Cafe Society to discuss uses and abuses of Internet

By Staff | Sep 2, 2016

The Cafe Society’s next session on Sept. 6 will discuss the rapidly increasing number of ways in which internet is maliciously used for deviant purposes and the consequences for vulnerable individuals and our society in general. The profligate and exponential expansion of social media has created a wide range of venues in which internet abuse is taking place. There are a large number of psychiatric and even physical consequences which cause irreparable harm. At the moment we have few tools to deal with it. Self restraint appears not to be one of them.

These informal weekly Cafe Society discussions, part of the Shepherd University Life Long Learning Program, are held from 8:30 to 10 a.m. every Tuesday morning in the Rumsey Room of the SU Student Center. There are no fees or registration requirements.

Cafe Society facilitator, Mike Austin explained, “This topic emerged out of earlier discussions on social media in general and how, despite the tremendous expansion of our ability to communicate with each other, the nation is not becoming more cohesive. Friction, distrust, misrepresentation and anger are the result. Normal dampers that prevent, or lessen dangerous forms of interaction between social, economic, and ethnic groups have been by-passed. It has even impacted adversely how political campaigns are managed and how the public is kept informed of important events or activities that influence their lives. The deterioration of much of this internet-based dialog was highlighted in a recent Time Magazine article entitled, ‘Why we are losing the Internet to the culture of hate.’

“It highlights the practice of ‘trolling’ which is basically sociopathic use of the internet to exploit others, whether for sinister motives such as various forms of bullying, psychopathic pleasure in harming others, or simply a cynical, sadly twisted sense of humor. Characteristics of internet usage, which include anonymity, virtual invisibility, avoidance of authoritative controls and disparities in time, erode the mores that have made modern societies possible. The normal constraints provided by physical interaction with others in a face-to-face encounter are absent and the concomitant ability to ready body language and other helpful non-verbal means of communication are lost.”

Austin added, “In a recent discussion, we also talked about the degree to which our society increasingly lives in a fictitious world which is aided and abetted by the growing number of electronic gadgets. The danger is that the artificial world of internet, cell phones and other electronic devices and their attendant ‘apps’ is in effect creating a bi-polar society. We never know which persona we are dealing with, the real or the imagined. The ‘trollers’ themselves might lose track since they are personally involved in the deception as well. So although a trolling effort might seem trivial, and is almost an impulse soon forgotten, it may have devastating impact on the person being victimized.

“In usual direct interpersonal communication you can see the impact that you are having and act accordingly — you get immediate feedback. When you use the internet based options you have no clue and so lose the normal constraints driven by our social values. And in a growing number of cases, people simply don’t care. Repercussions don’t touch them. The situation is exacerbated by the growing number of news stories about the frequency of hacking and other forms of inappropriate access to personal information which creates a whole new range of vulnerability, apprehension and fear. At a time when consumers are increasing being coerced into use of internet to increase corporate profits, SCAMMING has become a persistent threat. In effect we have created a dynamic new system of communications to manage our economic, social and political life, without the normal means of ensuring its proper use. The ‘social contract’ that early political theorists like Thomas Hobbes advanced and the essential trust that makes it work is being weakened by this misuse of internet.”