Control the Internet, Don’t Let It Control You

If you’re like most people, you have a smart phone. It’s good for taking photos, getting directions, finding out who the winner of the 35th Kentucky Derby was (Wintergreen), and protecting you, at least in a legal sense, from a police beat down or a Karen verbal, and possibly physical, explosion. You may also get a viral video in either of those last two cases. However, your smart phone is also capable of controlling you in ways you haven’t thought possible. Those who worry about being chipped through a vaccine have failed to realized that they have much more effectively chipped themselves through their Internet and smart phone usage. You need to control the Internet and take back your personal autonomy from the what you think to what you do to who you do it with.

Put the Phone Down

Nothing is worse than having a meal with someone who keeps the phone on the table and checks it every 10 seconds. There is nothing so important that you need your phone for the 15 to 30 minutes you’re going to eat. Spend that time enjoying the companionship of the person you’re with. Try a conversation or just enjoy the camaraderie in silence. Even if you’re just eating by yourself, put the phone down. Enjoy the flavor and texture of your food.

In 2015, I took my nieces and nephews to Disneyland. As we drove down there, I explained the rules. No phones at the table. If they took out their phone and used it, I would take it and throw it against the nearest hard surface. (I would have to take the issue up with their mother later, but I was okay with that.) Fortunately, they all complied. We ate our meals without a phone in use, except during character breakfasts, where they could take photos, and the times that I need directions back to the highway. I don’t know how they feel about it now, but at least one of them is okay with putting the phone away when we eat.

The Information You Receive

Aside from the simple desire to pick up the phone and check for messages or play a game, phones and their Internet connectivity create another way to control you. They feed you the information you want to read. In essence, they stoke your confirmation bias.

What is confirmation bias? It is a natural reaction to information that human beings have. Basically, you agree with and take for true any information that confirms what you believe; more importantly, you seek out those information sources that affirm what you believe regardless how shady and untrustworthy they are. On the other side, you disregard any information that contradicts what you believe, even if the authority imparting the information is an undisputed expert. It happens to everyone, even those who are trained in avoiding it. It’s also part of the reason why science has such rigorous standards.

Your social media newsfeeds and search engines learn what you like, interact with, and linger on. Because they want you to keep using their services, and to do so longer during each visit, they feed you more of that information. Soon, your surrounded by like-minded individuals all sharing the same memes and not bothering to check their veracity. The echo chamber becomes deafening and drowns out your ability to think independently and clearly.

Your Emotions

Facebook did an experiment where they wanted to see if they could control people’s emotions by controlling what they saw in their feeds. The answer was “yes.” Since there were no consequences for this ethical violation, you can be sure that Facebook can harness that information and your feelings to control how you feel about subjects and certain posts. Facebook probably isn’t the only social media company that will capitalize on this information.

Your Time

When the Internet and your smart phone controls your time, it controls everything else about you. How many hours a day are you accessing the Internet for anything? How long do you spend scrolling through social media, streaming movies or videos, and just reading the “news”? Your time is the most precious commodity you have. It’s important that you take conscious control of how you spend it. Rather than getting sucked into the black hole of Tweets, posts, and binge watching, set a time limit for use. Better yet, set a defined reason, you’re going to the social media site. I am going to post one thing and interact with two people, and then I’ll be done. Then stick to it. At least once a week, take a day off from the Internet and doing something amazing IRL. Maybe, you still need to take your phone along with you when your hiking or out and about to be safe. Just turn off all the notifications, sounds and vibrations, and only use it if you need to document some violation of the law.

Control the Internet

Consciously choose when you use the Internet and your phone and what sites you visit. Step away from your habitual use and start making your phone, Internet, and social media work for you. Control the Internet rather than the other way around.