An Irrational Fear Of The Web

image credit:  chuzi

When speaking to my peers across industries, there is a small minority who express a certain level of fear/misunderstanding of the web.  These people’s fears clearly stem from a lack of knowledge, as fear usually does, and are generally not rooted in rational thought.

Being 26, an overwhelming majority of those in my demographic grew up using the web at least at a superficial level for communications and developing their personal networks from a young age.  While digital natives may be a myth, every so often I come across someone who doesn’t even use basic web technology to stay connected with peers, doesn’t read any blogs/online publications about their industry  (or even really know what a blog is) and only uses things like email sparingly at work.

The reality of course is that technology, including the web, is neither inherently “good” or “bad,” it simply is.  In other words, it is neutral.

Yes what you put on social networks is public, but there are privacy settings and at an even more basic level you are in control of the information you put on your profile page – you don’t even have to add a picture if you don’t want.  But those who are so technophobic as to not use the tools available put themselves at a severe professional disadvantage compared to their peers.

There is no power in being less connected, and there is so much more to gain by having a professional presence on the web – especially when we hear stories everyday of companies fishing for potential job candidates in sites like LinkedIn and Facebook.  Individuals who shun the web come off appearing backwards when compared to their peers.  Businesses want to hire young people who understand how to manipulate technology for creative solutions, not those who fear it.

Simply put, there is no rational reason to be afraid of something,or not use something that is part of the social fabric, deeply connecting us to each other and only becoming more important moving forward.  To ignore the obvious future current stage of global communication is risky and those who do risk one day finding themselves on the wrong side of an ever-increasing digital divide, if they have not already.

To ignore such a powerful opportunity and be on the side of fear is tantamount to being afraid of electricity when it was first introduced or cars when they replaced the horse and buggy.  I wasn’t around back then, but I’m sure there were groups of people who didn’t understand/didn’t like the telephone when it replaced the telegraph.  Of course, society looks back on those people now and wonders how they could have feared those things.

I am wondering if a day will come when people do not fear change brought about by technology.  Again, looking back at the last 1,000 years or even the last 100, we have witnessed change at a phenomenal rate, accelerated mostly by advancements in technology.  No one could say that on the whole, we do not live safer and easier lives than generations previously.  We do not have to worry about disease, death, famine, weather, shelter or education on the scale as those in our past.  But at some point during every major technological revolution there are those who were fearful – however in time we have never seen this fear rooted in logic.

Today many view the internet still as a two-dimensional object and fail to see the bigger picture.  The web is actively redefining our society at it’s core, helping us build meaningful relationships with each other not previously possible, creating a semantic world and forging an integrated knowledge base for us all to tap into, learn from and interact with at our whim.  And the most exciting part is what we are doing with the web today is merely scratching the surface.

For many, the web is already so integrated with our existence it’s pretty much invisible.  It will be like this for everyone eventually and future advances will connect us all more than we ever dreamed of.  From a sociological perspective the web is building a more connected world which is vital to democratizing knowledge, power, ability and opportunity.

But there are always those who fear change or anything new that is different than how they were raised.  The solution for disarming people from their preconceived notions is always knowledge, facts and examples.  Those who have been manipulated for whatever reason to fear technology, again something that is inherently neutral, can usually be disarmed through education.

If you know someone who fears the web – do your best to help educate them as they have little to lose and everything to gain.

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