Given the current political climate, and my past blog posts, there is a good chance that the title of this post brings guns to mind first. After all, there is an intense national debate on what to do about guns, particular those most fierce looking ones, the so called assault rifles.
A fearsome tool indeed, yet in the hands of a responsible citizen, it is merely a tool. A deadly one, true, dangerous in the hands of an irresponsible person, and doubly so in the hands of someone with evil intent. A tool that requires great personal responsibility to wield properly
But that is not the fearsome tool I’m thinking of today. No, there is another tool that many of use, some of us daily, that is also dangerous, that has also led to unwanted deaths, that also causes fear and distress among many of our citizens.
Nope - another tool that requires personal responsibility to use, but still not the one I’m thinking of.
I’m thinking of the internet. Yes, the internet.
The internet is a wonderful tool that has allowed some profound changes in the world. But it has a darker side, a side that requires personal responsibility. A shadowy side to it that we ignore at our own peril. I’m not referring to the dark underbelly of the internet where porn and piracy sites reside, nor the cybercrooks and spammers.
To paraphrase Caveat Emptor -
“Let the user beware.”
Most of us adults are quite aware of the dark underbelly, and take appropriate precautions. But the shadowy side I’m referring to is not typically part of the dark underbelly, it sits boldy in the light, sometimes even unaware of it’s own darkness.
I am referring to misinformation.
The internet makes it so easy to spread misinformation in the guise of facts and truth. Much of it is done without ill intent - that is, people pass on information because they think it is helpful, without taking the time to check it. Things like fake stories of children missing, or the supposed trick of using your ATM PIN backwards to call police.
But some of it is deliberate, too, particularly among teens - the internet has become the new home of nasty rumors and bullying.
Bottom line, when you think about it, the internet - for all the good it’s brought us - can be used in many, many different ways to hurt, and yes, even kill people.
Like any dangerous tool, using it demands personal responsibility.
Perhaps we should put the same onus of responsibility on using the internet that we do on things like automobiles and firearms?