Killing the Internet
Next, I’m going to try to tackle a topic that is near and dear to many people’s hearts: the internet.
I need to include a little background lest I be accused of being a technophobe or anti-something-or-other-along-those-lines.
I fucking love the internet.
Is that a strong enough statement? I was introduced to the internet in two installments. First, in 1991, through having to access bulletin boards to provide information and programs to customers at the little computer consultancy for which I worked before I went to university. And then full on in 1992 when I started uni and could walk into a computer lab and come face-to-face with a Windows-based browser. In 1991, I didn’t quite grasp the implication of what I was accessing, but the following year, it was pretty clear. And my world changed forever.
It’s perhaps for a different post on a different blog all the myriad ways my life changed, often for the better. Suffice it to say that the internet’s capabilities spoke to me, my interests and skill set on a number of levels. I’ve had opportunities because of the internet, I have certain RL friends because of the internet, and much of the informal learning and formal education I’ve been driven to pursue has been facilitated by the internet.
It’s Just a Fantasy, Honey
So, let me pose a question.
If you could opt to turn off the internet for good, for all people in the world, would you do it?
Hmm, just writing that question down (typing it, whatever) sends many different thoughts and feelings through me. Many people among males and the younger generation might consider this a no-brainer of a question and answer immediately with a ‘hell no!’ But it is a question that gives me very serious pause, even saying this as a heavy and long-term internet user. Let’s explore.
If you’re over 40’ish, grew up in an impoverished nation, or grew up in a cave in the West, you can remember what life was like before the internet (and cell phones, for that matter) became mainstream / accessible to the hoi polloi. Life was fine. It worked. Nothing was missing. People didn’t bump into things, lost, wondering how to function. People had friends and networks and ways of learning and disseminating information. In some ways, I miss those days. My world was more local. My friends were people I saw regularly, in person. We made appointments and kept them. Emergencies were emergencies. Work (except for traditional ‘women’s work’ which is 24/7/365) mostly happened during business hours.
With the internet came a freedom of information (of sorts) and a greater speed of access to information that made a large world smaller, increased social and knowledge networks, and provided a whole host of personal and commercial economic opportunities. Some of this was good.
But there was a whole sinking boatload of bad that came with it thanks to men. Earlier, I wrote a post comparing a few of the bads and the goods and how women are affected by the internet. As someone who has spent a lot of time on the net, socially, intellectually, and doing research, I’ve noticed a downward, depressing and alarming trend in net citizen behaviour. Despite all the potential for good, and the current projects that allow positive phenomena to happen, the internet, like all tools controlled by and designed for men, has become increasingly a place of male abuse and violence against (primarily) women and girls.
The internet has become – as all male-focused tools inevitably become – fouled, debased, filthy, destructive, violence-fuelled and -fuelling.
It is estimated that up to 40% of the internet and internet traffic is porn-driven now. Major porn sites generate more traffic than the major social networking and online video sites put together. Most American men (equal numbers religious, Christians are just as disgusting as any other dudes) watch porn. And this site can give you a tiny taste of the kinds of search terms men use to find shit on the net. And the content is getting more and more violent and bizarre.
All in the name of fantasy and free speech. Male fantasy and free speech.
And all the male fantasy and free speech spills over into both internet interactions and real life in the form of violence.
Outside porn sites, men now set up websites or over-populate social networking sites to go on woman-hate vendettas. Women are driven off of sites when they dare to speak. Women are targeted online for vile abuse and threats and shaming for doing nothing other than daring to exist. Men with nothing to lose and no sense of shame, humanity, empathy or accountability pile on lone women online using the most disgusting and hateful language imaginable. Women’s own sites are targeted for trolling and censorship.
But the hate doesn’t stop at the keyboard. The effects of online porn and then the inflamed online woman-hate (whether deliberately organized or organic) moves to RL into the very interactions women have with partners, sons, male acquaintances, classmates, bosses, and random male strangers.
Not fantasy. This is real stuff. Real for women. It’s not getting better.
So I come back to my question. If given the choice, would you turn off the internet for good?
I think about everything I would lose if I turned off the internet. I think about all the ways my life would have to change. And I think about everything I and the world would gain by the act.
Losses: I would lose access to readings from around the world by women. But then I could start a local women’s writing, reading, discussion group. I would lose connections with feminists online, but really, what good are these online connections if I need RL help or I lose power or something happens to them and I have no idea how to find out what’s going on? Honestly, as much as I do get something important out of the few interactions I currently have with online feminists, I’d rather have a small group of them in RL. I would lose my ability to speak my mind in anonymity. Perhaps this is the biggest potential loss. I’ve never been able to speak in RL. First, I come from an abusive home – I was not allowed to dissent or have feelings. Also, I’m a writer, not a speaker. And finally, I am a woman – women are not allowed to speak in this world without consequences. It is dangerous. I think these are the three biggest things I would lose and feel the loss of. The knowledge and the relationships and the speaking platform. The first two, I could deal with – I think relying upon online versions takes away from forging something in RL. The third would be difficult.
Making changes: Since I can remember life before the internet, and that life was just fine, or at least not worse than it is now, I think it is doable. It actually is attractive. Imagine having to cultivate local relationships and networks again. Imagine having hobbies that would take me outdoors. Imagine finding something creative to do instead of falling back on doing something useless, but amusing (maybe) online. I used to do this before the internet. I mean, I’m normally a fairly quiet and solitary person, but I had more dealings with the meat world than I do now. And especially being in China, I spend much, much less time outdoors than I do in the West. Having the internet supports this asocial ‘agoraphobia’. I don’t go out for walks here. My outdoor forays are solely purpose-driven: work, buying food and meeting a friend. No internet? Things would have to change radically. I wouldn’t be in China, likely.
Gains: No internet, I firmly believe, translates into less violence. Men are violent. We can’t get away from that unless we get rid of them all. Seriously. But the internet fuels their violence and gives them an outlet for their hate. And it is an outlet that allows men who would normally not have a place to talk about their hate to feel supported and egged on. All the men who previously kept the violence at bay are now given permission by nameless, faceless others to act out their ‘fantasies’. No internet means less violence against women and girls. Less normalization of violence. Less hate propaganda. The internet is not about free speech. It is about letting men say whatever they want, including hate speech, and about censoring women for speaking truth. Women are only tolerated if they parrot hate speech against themselves and fellow women.
As much as I love the internet, I would turn it off permanently if I had that power. To put a stop to the major outlet of male violence and male violent ‘fantasy’ outweighs any gains I or we might currently enjoy. I could envision a re-do of advanced communication systems in my fantasy world with no men. I do think an internet-like contraption is a very good idea – just not in the hands of men.