Doing the rounds are complaints. All sorts of complaints. Steve Jobs is controlling. Child porn is everywhere and will eat your children. Games on computers are destroying the moral fabric. And now Facebook is a threat to your safety.
Take a deep breath and relax. These demons are not about to unleash hell upon you. And Facebook is a free site that you enter at your own risk.
Look, the internet is nothing at heart more complex than other forms of public communication, like a noticeboard in a hallway. You pin open and private notes to the board, to be read by all and individuals. Sometimes others read what you put on that board who you didn’t intend to, so you take precautions, right? You don’t put private details that you do not want everyone to read on that noticeboard. You use private jargon and terms to communicate to friends – “Meet us at the diner at eight”, not “The three of us girls will be unattended at the diner on the corner of Smith and Wesson that has the dark car park”. That would be stupid. So why do you think that the internet, which everybody knows resides on thousands of computers and uses publicly available transmission technologies, would be more secure than a noticeboard in a dorm?
Rule Number One is: Do not put private information out in public.
Rule Number Two is: Know what is a public forum.
Rule Number Three is never send money to anyone you don’t know, but since you all know me, send me five dollars for this invaluable advice…
And yes, Steve Jobs is controlling. If you don’t like that, use some other hardware and software. If you don’t care, use his. So long as no government or statutory body such as a school insists on handing your information to Jobs or restricts you to his and only his company’s products, who cares?
These are not the demons that they are painted to be, and we have a lot of demons to choose from these days. Child abuse is one of them. I doubt that there is any more child abuse today, proportionally, than there was in 1900, 1950 or even 20,000 BCE. Humans tend to treat their kids much the same in all places. What has changed is not the rate of abuse, but the reporting, and when you can hear about things daily that happen thousands of kilometres away rather than only in your own village or suburb, it raises the rate of fear and anxiety. We don’t need demons.
Child pornography is not about to warp your kids minds or put them at risk – we should prevent it, but not surrender everything about the internet that makes it great, and certainly not everything about our rights that makes this the most peaceful, best educated, healthiest, most survivable period in history in many places in the world, including mine. My predecessors and ancestors fought for those rights. I don’t want to see them restricted because we fear demons.
Maybe we need demons, because there have to be Bad Guys, Others, the Outgroup. Maybe we are constitutionally incapable of enjoying a good life without them. But I hold a hope that we are better than our inherent tendencies, and that we can get over our fears. So forget about Facebook’s changes, act sensibly, and buy the computers you want. And chill.