When in 1964, a visionary Canadian philosopher Marshal McLuhan coined the phrase „The Medium is the Message,” most doubly he envisioned how prophetic he was. 1964 nobody, in the wildest dreams, could expect that only 50 later the Internet will penetrate every corner of our world. In 1964 the only mass medium was cinemas, radio and very primitive black and white television. Now everything changed; the internet and small computers provided us with windows through which we can see and listen to the world. Most of them are up to 7 inches in diameter, then up to 11, next most often up to 17, and finally, they can be so huge that they may not fit in the room where we live. I hope that you know what I am writing about, but to be sure, let’s spell it out: the first category refers to our smartphones, second to tablets, third to laptops and finally to TV screens.
Of course, we also see also the non-virtual world: alive people, supermarkets, cars, houses and occasionally forest and meadows. But our view on the world is formed by media, one of the most powerful tools used for indoctrination.
A close look at the power of internet-based media
The range of media provided by the internet is already colossal and is growing day by day. What we look at via such devices depends on our personality and social situation. It is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, thanks to the internet, everybody has access to scientific theories and experiments, music, visual art, we can purchase things otherwise unavailable, and so. On another, it provides an ongoing stream of mindless entertainment, misinformation, helps to incite hatred, praises our capitalistic and democratic version of stratification, it is a platform for addictive games and is the prime tool of consumerism of all kinds. Whatever we think, we like it or not the internet media became an integral component of our life. So it is very important to learn how to live with it and avoid its destructive aspects.
In the first step we, particularly the younger ones, have to admit that our contact with the so-called „real world” shrinks and we are looking at it via the little windows which I mentioned in the Introduction. Please, ask yourself how often you see a chicken running around rather than its video images or vacuum-packed at the supermarket shelves. Recall how often you vacillated between hope and fear, like and dislike when you look at daily news.
Be honest with yourself and admit that we rarely have patience and skills to investigate all the information provided by media, we most often accept views proclaimed by authorities of all kinds, and believe that they are „the truth.”
Also, we are not fully aware of the impact of tabloids, gossip columns and similar, filled with juicy items about celebrities, politicians and other popular figures. They play a very significant role in further detracting us from our residual relations with the world.
But it is not all. With our views and beliefs shaped by the media, we are inclined to act upon them. I am sure you read about the power, emerging violence and consequences of colossal manifestations, which sometimes even toppled some oppressive regimes but often they are replaced by even worse alternatives – see, for example, what is happening in Libya. Also, presently growing power and the impact of various extremist groups would not be possible without the internet.
I had not talked separately about the paper printed media because by now, all of them are available also via the internet. Also, I would like to mention that the impact of the internet on our personal and group interaction via a variety of platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Tweeter and similar will be discussed separately.
How to live with internet media in our pocket
One of the reasons I decided to introduce the six attitudes (based on the Buddhist paramitas) discussed earlier is to help us in dealing with the impact of internet media. Their role is of key importance to “wake” us from the fabricated and often insane world view, which we see and hear through our little windows, and deal with our reactions to it.
We begin with the attitude of discernment, which may help us to distinguish what is useful to us and what is potentially harmful. On the other hand, internet media provides an enormous amount of knowledge about the world, makes accessible art otherwise out of reach and means of fast communication. On another seduces us to enter the labyrinth of conflicting opinions, outright lies and information designed to provoke anger and possessiveness. I suggest first to become aware of how much time we spent being involved with the unnecessary information and entertainment provided by internet media. They provoke us to feel angry, disappointed or depressed.
It is a task far from easy how to navigate through the ocean of the presented information. We do not have sufficient knowledge so, beyond the attitude of discernment, we need assistance from two additional attitudes: the joy of action and patience. They are indispensable to find out reasons why something which we encountered is presented and what its sources are. Fortunately, the internet provides us with Google and similar search engines which may lead us to unexpected and amazing results. For example, you may try to find out who owns the site or news outlet presenting some facts which look suspicious because, in reality, they are a disguised view or opinion. As the results very often, we may discover that the presented “facts” coincides with the political and financial interests of the owner of the site. However, in the beginning, our results are not too interesting, and we have to be prepared to “dig” deeply. It is often time-consuming and requires considerable effort.
The situation becomes even more complicated when it comes to views presented by some authorities, which according to socially accepted norms, should know what they are talking about: scientists with professorial titles, “guru” like experts in economy, spiritual leaders, respected political figures, and so on. To make it even more confusing, very often, what you read, hear or view, is presented by media people who themselves do not really know the subject and whose real goal is to provoke interest and “excitement.”
Despite such efforts, we have to admit that many of us will keep being seduced to continue our addiction to view our world by the portable windows of various internet gadgets and TV screens. We have to be realistic and see that such deep habituation cannot be eradicated quickly. In such situations, we resort to the attitude of dignity, which specifically deals with situations of indulgence and helps to wake up. At such moments, we can look at what is going on. As a rekuk=lt, we can clearly see the degree of degradation engulfing our world. At such point, we should again use our discernment and realistically assess our place in all of that. We realistically can see what we can do to slow down this degradation and even eventually to reverse it.
In such situations, the attitude of openness enters the picture. It permits us to avoid to focus on a limited picture and provokes our creativity. Often we may realize that we can not help the world while we are confused and locked in a small universe of our opinions. Even if they are accurate, taking them too seriously may place us in conflict with our social surroundings. Openness inspires us that before taking any action, we should look at our own motivation. To do that, we need to further our wisdom training which liberates our critical intelligence and creativity. That makes it possible to have a larger view on what is going on and find a place for ourselves to prevent degradation and help humanity to return to its path of creative development
As I mentioned earlier, this chapter is dedicated to our relations with internet media in a passive manner. It means that our input is very limited: we can only view or not. However, it does not present the total picture because internet media also enable individual and group interactions. Though this possibility was only mentioned in passing it does not mean that it has a lesser impact on our lives. Therefore it will be more fully explored in the next chapter.