The Internet has become an indispensable part of our lives, gradually entering all the possible spheres and shaping the way we run our errands, communicate with people, and analyze the world around us. It changes our attitudes to work processes, leisure, and even interpersonal relations with the help of algorithms, simple solutions, and easy accessibility. Millions of services, goods, possibilities and infinite terabytes of all kinds of information have become available for a tap on the screen. In theory, all of these things seem to be convenient, progressive, and helpful, but the reality proves them to be also harmful to the well-being of people.
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Some of the most relevant problems of today can already foreshadow the challenges we will most probably face in the not distant future. In the article “Our Machine Master” David Brooks predicts two ways for humanity equipped with artificial intelligence (AI). Contrary to many beliefs it will not give rise to humanoids, but it will be integrated into cars, headphones, watches, and other ordinary things that most people use on a daily basis. Such a close coexistence cannot but influence our habits and behavior, and in the end, such non-stop assistance and “external brain” might render people helpless and vulnerable in the face of all the dangers the real world holds.
Despite all the scientific and technical progress, our planet poses many dangers to humanity, some of them are still not thoroughly studied, some remain unknown. Moreover, even our bodies might become the victims of these technologies because less and less physical activities stay difficult enough to be performed by humans only. It is possible to suggest that we will have more free time and it will give a quality change to our lifestyle, but so far the experience of using technologies shows that they become addictive.
Another threat that lies in digital technologies is related to big data and control, which corporations acquire through online services. Such digital giants as Google and Amazon have access to all the personal and behavioral information that we share on the net, and though they claim to use for our benefit, the algorithms of the Internet also misuse in subtle and invisible ways. Searching tools can show us results they think should interest us judging by our previous clicks and views.
It is a powerful mechanism, but some people do not even notice that they are shown a distorted reality or only the part which the code deemed relevant for them. What started as endless freedoms and accessibility of all the information turns out to be pseudo equality and tyranny, in a way. I think that the article “Our Machine Master” by Brookes best argues with statistics and critical thinking, though all the rest also have relevant figures and examples, so none of them is weak.
Today digital media work according to similar principles of collecting big data, and showing the most interesting content for their users. YouTube and Instagram are among the most popular services that provide visual content; they both try to show as many relevant search results that should be interesting for users, based on their search history. Both are complex platforms with a variety of features, but at the same time, they are user-friendly, very appealing to large audiences, useful for sharing visual content and discussing it.
The wide popularity of these two services proves that people find them effective and relevant for their purposes because they succeed in holding the users’ attention and make them come back regularly. The main difference is that YouTube does not deal with photographs and mainly streams music videos and personal vlogs when Instagram also supports pictures, texting, and broadcasting. Instagram has a lower barrier of entry because photos require less preparation and work compared to video, they are easier to share, and do not take much time to be evaluated by other people.
In my personal experience, I use Instagram mostly to follow my friends and relatives and interact with them occasionally. As for YouTube, its audience seems impersonal to me, often there is too much happening in the comments section, and I usually do not contribute to discussions and only watch videos. Both services can steal a lot of my time because in a short period they have adapted to my choices and likes, and manage to provide interesting content I would not have found myself. This tendency is rather alarming, so I try to cut my time online and be mindful about things I come across on the net.
New media and technologies are developing so fast that it is hardly possible to keep up with their pace and stay sane, healthy, and socially acceptable. The biggest problem is that this endless succession of updates, notifications, and news demands all of our attention, and thus robs us of everything happening in the outer world. Attention has become one of the most valuable assets, and the more one spends online, the less connected they stay from their real-life troubles and joys. Apart from that, relying on technologies too much might weaken people and make it harder for them to adjust to the realities of the outer world.