Do We Need a Temperance Movement for the Internet?
As we all wake up groggy on the first Monday after the Daylight Savings switch and go about our plugged-in days, let’s give some thoughts to Ross Douthat’s exhortation to “Resist the Internet.” Somewhat tongue-in-cheek, Douthat encourages a vast new regime of laws and social norms limiting the degree to which people are plugged in through their computers and smart phones.
Fanciful as most of his essay is, his last suggestion and more-realistic expectation are worth taking seriously:
… The age of consent should be 16, not 13, for Facebook accounts. Kids under 16 shouldn’t be allowed on gaming networks. High school students shouldn’t bring smartphones to school. Kids under 13 shouldn’t have them at all. If you want to buy your child a cellphone, by all means: In the new dispensation, Verizon and Sprint will have some great “voice-only” plans available for minors.
I suspect that versions of these ideas will be embraced within my lifetime by a segment of the upper class and a certain kind of religious family. But the masses will still be addicted, and the technology itself will have evolved to hook and immerse — and alienate and sedate — more completely and efficiently.
That sounds about right. Those with advantages adjust to innovations and changes, but as with much else in the culture war (particularly around sex and lifestyle), those who need us to build a common culture for their benefit and their ability to improve their lot are harmed.