‘Mum, The Computer is Eating My Breakfast’: Short Guide to Avoid Internet Myths


What should we do when the screen is kidnapping us?

Even though the use of the internet is no longer such an arcane and remote thing, even if it appeared to be only a few years ago, odd and bizarre things are still being written. Networks are still surrounded by a tangle of legends, superstitions and mistakes. Technology develops through many uncountable innovations, that can be useful or not, but human culture has its proper development cycle, coherent with its own rhythm, undoubtedly much more gradual, stable and “natural”.

The main enemy is represented by a persistent difficulty for the “dominant culture” to accept and understand what the internet is and how it works. Not new stuff at all. Even in the past, many cutting-edge innovations were not understood at all during their initial phase. It seems that more than a hundred years ago, when the first cars were seen, the world was frozen into fear shivers and uncountable legends. The same also happened with railways. Respectable and famous professors would explain that a living organism could not survive when travelling at such a high speed: it is dutiful to underline that, at the time, cars could not achieve a speed faster than 25 km/h.

When, during the first half of the 19th century, the first trains appeared, they were greeted by a common concern, perceived as a devilish invention, as the Italian poet Giosue Carducci explained in his “Inno a Satana” (Hymn to Satan). Even the telephone, undoubtedly one of the most common products of the development of technology, was considered some sort of obscure necromancy.

Today, absurd things are said about the internet.

The “internet mythology” can be split into two: a theatrical sci-fi exaggeration and an irrational technophobia. These two elements are often mixed and produce a chaotic form of confusion that appears to be affecting most of the so-called “information systems”.

The list has no end, but here’s the punchline concerning all the “negative legends” that surround modern networks, as well as every single technological and behavioural mind set in general. Even if the use of the internet, computers and web connections are the most common of things in the world, we sadly have to face fathomless doubts, mistrust and ignorance.

“The electronic brain”

Those who have never used a computer (or even those who use it for one single purpose, such as writing or looking after some kind of office routine) feel some sort of a mystical terror towards it. Almost everyone knows someone who is afraid or concerned by using “word processors”, “e-mails” and so on and when searching something on the internet, may use expressions like “try to search inside your machine”. A machine like a mysterious box stuffed with every acknowledgeable thing. We witness some sort of “fear culture”, strengthened by that vast literature that investigates the grotesque and horrorible.

People fear that a “mechanic brain” might wrap its avid hands around our inconsistent biological minds, until our identity gets lost in the “virtual” world and that a new foreign identity, an “avatar” might kidnap our souls. If only they could throw “The Matrix” DVD in the garbage and realise how stupid computers actually are…

“Pornography, paedophiles, criminals and terrorists”

The obsessive diffusion of catastrophic news and comments on the internet is more alive than ever. The internet has been described as an extremely dangerous place for years, where several sorts of “pirates” and criminals are hidden, as well as terrorists, Nazis, pornographers, paedophiles and all sorts of cheaters. Sometimes it appears that the storm is slowing down but every occasion is valid enough to raise all these issues again and trigger new “demonization” waves.

It is undoubtedly true that the internet labyrinth holds some odd and weird characters, they are everywhere around us. The probability of meeting them is minimal; avoiding them is much easier than in our everyday life, as a bunch of “real” criminals we meet in a dark narrow street can’t be escaped by simply pushing a button, changing address or switching the connection off. This has always been the main limit of the use of internet. The situation is now luckily changing and with the growth of the real internet experience, even these concerns will tend to be slowly forgotten.

“It is not natural”

It wouldn’t be healthy for a child or even an adult to spend a whole lifetime staring at a screen and never fill his lungs with fresh air. Sometimes using a computer or getting online is reasonably and no more “artificial” than using a telephone, a camera or a bike. The only difference is that, in 2010, there are not many people with a remarkable experience and the familiarity with high-tech which has not become a concrete part of our identity, even though it has already become a real common habit.

“It is a waste of time”

This is true. Especially when people experience software caprices and the nerve-breaking slowness of certain websites. It is all about cleverly evaluating how to spend and share our own time, though. If the internet is used properly, the time is then well employed and there can be no actual difference between surfing the net, reading a book or taking part in a challenging conversation. It is even much better, nine times out of ten, than watching television or being spaced out in the chaos of a disco.

Time consumption is a problem, especially when time is wasted in boring and fruitless activities, such as the problems related to a remarkably slow connection speed. Those who communicatie via internet should avoid their interlocutors becoming time wastes: since through experience they quickly learn to be impatient. This is mainly true for the busiest and most active people, exactly those that can provide an enjoyable and constructive dialogue.

“It is an escape from reality, it leads to solitude”

It is not true at all. If someone is by nature a misanthrope, then he might find relief in the internet. These people are extremely rare though. Almost everyone who uses the NET is likely to be an interesting and sociable person. Sometimes people laugh, sometimes they argue, but they always have a strong will to share information, opinions and even feelings and emotions.

Computers can be cold machines actually, but they are always guided by a user.

On this side of the screen a heart is beating. Really.