The Internet Has Dumbed Us Down

Has the internet made us stupid, a recent article in the Atlantic asks. The author, blogger Nicolas Carr, frets about the effect the internet has had on his thinking processes, on the way it has rewired his brains’ very circuitry.

Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.

I think I know what’s going on. For more than a decade now, I’ve been spending a lot of time online, searching and surfing and sometimes adding to the great databases of the Internet. Even when I’m not working, I’m as likely as not to be foraging in the Web’s info-thickets—reading and writing e-mails, scanning headlines and blog posts, watching videos and listening to podcasts, or just tripping from link to link to link.

I’m not the only one. When I mention my troubles with reading to friends and acquaintances—literary types, most of them—many say they’re having similar experiences. The more they use the Web, the more they have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing. Some of the bloggers I follow have also begun mentioning the phenomenon.

I have the same problem and I couldn’t put my finger on it. I haven’t read a book in its entirety in ages, even though I keep buying them. I have piles of books at my bedside table which, when I got them, I knew I would devour in one reading. Months, even years after, I haven’t gone beyond a few chapters, at best. I stop and start and finally give up at some point, distracted by the flickering text and images on my monitor. Continue reading

The RCBC Bank Robbery and Its Implications

I had some reservations about writing on the deaths of ten individuals, murder victims who were killed in a successful robbery of the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) branch in Cabuyao, Laguna a week ago. The killings hit close to home and I felt I would not be objective enough to handle the subject.

But having already made a post on it some days ago, and seeing the response of so many readers, I feel compelled to close the loop on my analysis of the tragic incident and its aftermath.

The brutal inhumanity of the killings have been reported extensively in traditional media and the blogsphere , and there’s no need to repeat the details here. However, recent events related to the incident require closer examination.

First, the handling by the police of the investigation. In their usual ham-fisted way, the initial responding team broke into the RCBC Cabuyao, Laguna branch, and started trampling around the scene of the crime. Understandable, as there was the urgency of saving any survivors. But was there a systematic attempt to gather and preserve evidence critical to the investigation ? I don’t know. But it appears, from news reports and pictures of the incident which have been circulating on the internet, that even the police were taken aback by the mayhem and violence of the killings. I hope the Philippine National Police (PNP) Scene of the Crime Operations (SOCO) people were cool and level-headed enough to have collected, in a scientific and methodical way, all the possible physical evidence which could lead to the killers. There were certainly plenty of pictures taken, some of which found its way online, but more on this later. Continue reading

MySpace Suicide Instigator Charged Under Federal Law for Teen’s Death

I’ve previously written about the case of Megan Meier of Dardenne Prairie, St. Charles County in Missouri, U.S.A., who committed suicide after being spurned by a boy she was communicating with in the MySpace social networking site. She was chatting with a 16-year old boy named “Josh Evans” on a regular basis, and had come to believe that a certain romantic relationship had been established between them. But one day, without warning, Josh turned mean. He called Megan names, and later they traded online insults. Other youngsters who had linked to Josh’s MySpace profile joined the increasingly bitter exchange and began sending profanity-laden messages to Megan. The online bullying finally drove Megan to hang herself with a belt in her bedroom closet. She was thirteen.

But Josh Evans never existed. He was an online character created by Lori Drew, the 47-year old mother of Megan’s former best friend, who lived just four houses down the street from the Meiers. Mrs. Drew created the character “Josh Evans”, according to a neighbor, because she “going to mess with Megan” for apparently breaking up the once-close friendship with her daughter. Lori Drew did more than that. She drove Megan Meier to kill herself.

Despite the cruel and vicious nature of Mrs. Drew’s acts, Missouri officials could not charge her with a crime. There was nothing in the state’s laws that would cover the perpetrator’s conduct of creating an online “avatar” with the intent to deceive and harm another person.

Mrs. Drew herself expressed little remorse, callously blaming Megan for being suicide-prone. Continue reading

The Cebu Posterior Surgery Scandal and Its National Implications

The “rectum surgery scandal” in Cebu has been getting a lot of attention, and rightfully so, as the doctors behaved abominably in making fun of the man who had to have a long, cylindrical metal object surgically removed from his nether regions following a night of passion with a stranger. Seems that Mr. “X” hooked up with a dude who shoved a body spray container up his anal orifice, maybe with or maybe without consent, it’s not actually clear. This by itself was a bad enough situation.

Problem was, some wise guy took a video and uploaded the procedure in YouTube, including the apparently spontaneous celebration of the surgical team after the successful removal of the foreign object. The sight of the doctors and nurses whooping it up was disgusting, with the head surgeon apparently spraying the contents of the canister all around to show that, contrary to earlier speculations, it was not empty.

Public outrage, as reported in the Inquirer, led Congresswoman Riza Hontiveros-Baraquel to file House Resolution 524 asking for a probe (ooops!) and : Continue reading

JuicyCampus Invades U.S. Colleges; Students, Administrators Fighting Back

JuicyCampus.com is a website focusing on gossip, rumors, and rants related to colleges and universities in the United States, according to its Wikipedia page.

The site describes itself, somewhat high-mindedly, as an enabler of “online anonymous free speech on college campuses” and “as a place for both entertainment and free expression.” Through various services such as offering access to anonymous IP servers, it allows users to post messages and comments anonymously and supposedly without possibility of identification. Readers can also vote on which posts they find “juciest” or
most provocative. There is no registration process — anyone may post and anyone may read the posts. Set up in August 2007, the site now contains message boards relating to around 60 U.S. colleges and universities, and growing. As its crows on its website “We are SOOO popular!”.

The JuicyCampus founder and main proprietor, 2005 Duke University alum Matt Ivester, claims he conceived of the forum as a place where students could gossip without fear of
consequence from peers or administrators, but he never expected the site’s content to turn so nasty.

“It’s a gossip site and we never said that it’s not. I guess we didn’t realize how mean some people can be.” Mr. Ivester intones piously in an interview with the Yale Daily News.

JuicyCampus, doubtless owing to its vast commercial potential, is now owned by Lime Blue, a Nevada state limited liability company. Continue reading

Microsoft to Press Bid for Yahoo Despite Rejection

After Yahoo officially rejected Microsoft’s takeover offer on Monday, saying it was too low, Microsoft ominously, albeit diplomatically, replied that Yahoo’s response was “unfortunate” and that its proposal was “full and fair” and repeated earlier statements that it might consider “all necessary steps” to ensure the deal is completed. Does this sound like dialogue from a classic Mafia movie to you ? Continue reading

The Writ of Habeas Data and Facebook

An “activist” Supreme Court has been quietly but irrevocably redefining the Philippine legal landscape by institutionalizing remedies for the protection of human rights. In September 2007, the SC promulgated the rules governing the issuance of the Writ of Amparo (derived from the Spanish word “amparar”, meaning “to protect”). The writ is issued by the courts in favor of a petitioner whose right to life, liberty, and security has been violated or is threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity. The promulgation of the rules on the issuance of the writ was in response to the threats, extralegal killings and enforced disappearances prevalent in the country. The writ provides the private individual with a “weapon” to keep the wolves of private or state-sponsored oppression or coercion at bay.

Another tool for the protection of individual rights has lately been brought to the fore, with the promulgation by the SC in January 2008 of Administrative Memorandum 08-01-16-SC prescribing the new rules for the Writ of Habeas Data. The writ in general is designed to safeguard individual freedom from abuse in the information age by means of an individual complaint filed in court to protect the image, privacy, honor, information, self-determination, and freedom of information of a person. It is a remedy available to any person whose right to privacy in life, liberty or security is violated or threatened by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity engaged in the gathering, collecting or storing of data or information regarding the person, family, home and correspondence of the aggrieved party. Continue reading

Microsoft Bids $44 Billion for Yahoo To Go Head-to-Head with Google

It’s a jungle out there. Those who flounder, or at least show declining earnings, are eaten, or more accurately, given an offer they may not be able to refuse. As reported in the New York Times, Jerry Yang, the chief executive of Yahoo, was finishing a regularly scheduled company board meeting Thursday night when his assistant interrupted him with an urgent phone call. It was Steven A. Ballmer, the chief executive of Microsoft, and his message was curt. He did not call to negotiate. Microsoft would make public a hostile $44.6 billion offer for Yahoo early Friday morning in a bold move to counter Google’s online pre-eminence.

Continue reading

The Arrogance and Cynicism of Steve Jobs

Its often been said about Steve Jobs that you either love him or hate him, nothing in between. Well, I don’t loathe him exactly, and you have to give him credit for being, in a much overused phrase, a “genius visionary”. So while I’m not an Apple worshipper like good friend Butch Dalisay, and many others I know, who presumably had a “nerdgasm” when Jobs unfolded his latest baby, the ultralight MacBook Air, neither do I see him as the anti-Christ. Continue reading

Online Hoax Leads to Suicide of Teenage Girl

Megan Meier of Dardenne Prairie, St. Charles County in Missouri, U.S.A. was a teenage girl at a crossroads in her young life, like many 13-year olds; no longer a child but not yet a woman. She met a 16-year old boy, Josh Evans, through her page on MySpace.com, the social networking site. They had a romantic online relationship, as these things go, but never met. They never even talked over the phone. But in virtual reality, feelings are just as intense as the real world. According to a report in the New York Times,

“she thought he was the cutest boyfriend she ever had”

. Continue reading