Is the Web Making Us Passive? → Washingtons Blog
Is the Web Making Us Passive? - Washingtons Blog

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Is the Web Making Us Passive?

Popular culture expert Adam Hanft - CEO of the branding firm Hanft Projects, co-author of The Dictionary of the Future: The Words, Terms and Trends That Define the Way We'll Live, Work and Talk, who blogs for the Huffington Post and FastCompany and has appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart - recently said:

Even during the most heightened emotional outbursts, when people were mad over the bonuses being given to Wall Street, the people haven't reacted. I wonder if with the Internet, we're given the ability to vent and rant, and that releases everyone's energy, and then people keep doing what they're doing anyway. It seems like a curious psychological phenomenon.

This mirrors something I wondered aloud about last July in writing "Are We Winning the Battle on the Web? Or Are We Just Letting Off eSteam?" While the web is spreading long-buried truths for millions to see, it also may be bleeding off the energy we need to do something about the truth we've learned.

The Trend May Become More Pronounced in the Years Ahead

Indeed, the passivity-inducing potential of the Internet will probably increase in the future.

Specifically, in the coming years, the web will almost certainly be 3-D.

Moreover, it will likely become a multimedia experience, including virtual reality body suits (or at least headgear), smell and perhaps even taste (indeed, since there are only 5 tastes but thousands of different smells, it should be much easier to recreate virtual tastes than smells).

If the current Web is already allowing us to blow off the steam which we would otherwise channel into social protest, can you imagine how much more so in a 3-D, multi-media, full immersion internet? For in that type of virtual environment, we could go attend virtual protests complete with sights, sounds, smells and physical sensation, and our brain could be reasonably well tricked into thinking we really did it, thus taking all of the wind out of our sails and the fire out of our gut.

All of us - even political writers and filmmakers- need to guard against settling for virtual victories. We have to get out there and engage in real action in the "real world" as well, and to guard against a dystopian Matrix-like future where the virtual reality is wonderful but the real world is a nightmare.

This is not to say we should pull the plug. The Web is the greatest source of information ever created, and is catapulting some long-suppressed truths to the surface.

But we also have to take the second step of getting up, going out the door, and taking action to based on the truths that we have learned from the web.


  1. Get up and do what, George? Another march on Washington. The ability to rant and rage on the Net at least informs our readers of parts of the mischief they might not get on their own. In the end what's left in our pocketbooks and how we spend it will be what counts. Money rules , withholding it from companies that lobby against our interests and for that matter governments that do not consider our needs.

  2. A very thought provoking article.

    I have begun to rethink the entire 1960's protest movement, its effectiveness and even the degree to which it was genuine.

    Two main reasons for doing this are the film 'Sir No Sir, and the Dave McGowan essays on Laurel Canyon.

    The film Sir No Sir, asks us to believe that the conscious acts of disobedience by military personnel were far more important in ending the Vietnam war, than protests were.

    As to the nature of protests, the people leading them and the media support they received, there is much to consider. The idea that the real power in our governments seeks to own and control protest movements is not far fetched. The extent to which they do control it is up for discussion. The McGowan articles on Laurel Canyon, CIA, hippie culture etc. are very thought provoking. And so was your article on the web and our passive and confused efforts to change our corrupt governments.

  3. Ya, the interwebs makes you apathetic but, really, who cares?

  4. I disagree sort of but i understand your point. We clearly got a victory as the pandemic hoax went down in flames because the truth spread on the web. this is one victory (battle) we have won.

    I had the same thought yesterday about "climategate" What if it was meant to implode like it did? Nothing happens in politics unless it was planned that way. This would give us false sense of victory backing up your post on becoming passive......Way to stay on the ball Washington's blog.

  5. The Grey Tiger makes a telling point. We should just stop paying taxes and for any 'service' the government provides.

  6. Very interesting article, its something thats certainly crossed my mind.

    I would imagine that many activist groups have sprung up as a direct result of the internet truth movement, groups that would otherwise have never existed, so in that sense I would say it has the power to encourage people into action.

    On the other hand, you're right in saying that it may just provide a place for people to vent and then carry on business as usual in their everyday lives.

    So.. I guess its not as black and white as it first appears, its most likely down to the individual, people who are predisposed to actively opposing wrong will do so, and people who are predisposed to simply complaining and getting on with life will.

  7. Maybe people subconsciously want to be replaced by virtual reality, perhaps people are so uprooted from having any real stake in the land of America (landless, hopeless) that they inwardly beckon the end of freedom to feel outraged, violated, oppressed, and offended. One day, the scientific tyrants operating the federal government just might have a place for everyone, like a caste, round pegs in round holes, square pegs in square, just like Huxley's Brave New World intended. All this happens by building over the old, dead, miserable society, over your ruins.


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