Friday, July 6, 2012

unintended Internet consequences


How marvelously savvy the Internet can be! Really, it blows my mind sometimes. And yet too, its classy skills can be infuriating in their lack of skill.

Among its other capacities, various Internet agencies have found ways to parlay my searches into a profile that apparently digests the information and then spits it out by presenting me with other options it assumes might be up my alley.

The Washington Post, for example, is a paper I used to read with some seriousness. But bit by bit, I have noticed that it formats its Internet news page not just based on whatever its editors consider newsworthy, but also according to my apparent taste for the off-beat, the sociological, the human. Hard news is given a reduced status on my version of its web offering. The Washington Post gives me not what it has adjudged to be newsworthy, but what I might consider news according to the digestive tract of some savvy search engine. It panders to my imagined taste in hopes, I guess, of gaining my attention. The effect has been to lead me away from The Washington Post and into news outlets like the BBC or Reuters or Al Jazeera which seem not to care so much about what I think or believe or find entertaining. Frankly, I find The Washington Post's approach -- to the extent what I say is true -- revolting. It leads away from democracy and into an arena where entertainment and the buttressing of bias is king. I don't need help in buttressing my biases any more than anyone else does. Naturally I pick and choose what I read, but that's the beauty of news ... to choose, not to be chosen for.

Another unintended consequence of the harvesting of Internet information is this: Because I have an interest in spiritual life and because, lately, I have expressed opinions of the Vatican in its priest-sex-abuse guise, now my mailbox fills up with invitations to a good Christian life, a life filled with Bibles, a one-true-and-implacable-and-loving-God. It's my own damned fault, I suppose, but it is all as ironic as it is annoying. The Internet sleuthing can read an interest in Christianity, but it does not have the capacity to sort out that I find much of that religion callow and in some cases downright reprehensible.

This morning, for example, an email appeared unbidden out of the ether:

The Mission Love God has been actively preaching Only One GOD as the Creator & Master of the universe, who is beyond time, Image-free and is the All-Capable One Alone God of us all.

And the press release went on and on and on from there. Lord love a duck!

The words rose unbidden from my mental lips: "Ask me if I give a shit?!"

But of course the Internet sleuthing gadgets do not ask that question when choosing targets for ads and press releases. Or rather, more slyly, they already know I do give a shit, but the ways in which I give a shit are both beyond its analytical capacity and, when all is said and done, not really relevant to their promotional endeavors.

I am hoisted by my own petard. It is my very concern with a particular topic that nourishes the shit I would prefer to avoid.

Read 'em and weep.


  1. Free is not cheapJuly 6, 2012 at 2:24 PM

    If you are correct then you might find a different news slant presented by doing a little work. Try enabling "Private Browsing" from within your favored browser or try using different browsers (including at least one where you diligently delete all "cookies").

    The well known, and reliable internet browsers are Explorer (PC only) Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Safari. All easily found by searching then download and install.

    BTW -- I switched browsers after I became irritated by having the same Ads following all my browsing. The was no way to say "Hello!? I already made my purchase! Enough already!!"

  2. Free is not cheapJuly 6, 2012 at 2:26 PM

    You may also want to use a different email address so that your primary email inbox does get filled with unwanted solicitations and other junk.

  3. On my mac, any email that isn't sent from address in my address book goes to the trash folder. To eliminate the tricky buggers that claim i emailed myself i removed my own address from the address book. After that i run adblock to keep away most other ads on a web page.

    On the pc here we run an ad blocker, use the isp email address for friends, and any websites that require an email addy get a gmail addy. The email program is set to check both addresses, and the spam will always go to gmail, just have to check it when you expect something of importance.