The Casualties of Hyperconnectivity

Anna Fiorino, Features Editor

We reduce other people to their Facebooks, Instagrams, and LinkedIns and believe we are entitled to do so. We are acutely aware the same is being done to us, so we curate our internet presence. We are willing participants in this system of commodification.

Platforms for “connection” are the cogs of this machine. We are our likes, our pictures, our work history, our social network, and our credit information. We are easy to monitor, categorize, and regulate. It’s easy to determine whether or not someone will be valuable to us, and vice versa.

Hyperconnectivity diminishes the incentive to get to know people (absent of their internet profiles). We tend to accept others as they appear online, even if we understand this presentation is driven by a profit motive. Inevitably, the curation and acceptance of such presentations damages the quality of interaction.

Because of the sheer quantity of information accessible, we oftentimes opt out of pursuing or verifying it for ourselves. We absolve ourselves of the same accountability and transparency we demand from media outlets. In fact, we relish our exemption from it. There’s no immediate consequence to irresponsible consumption or publication, action or inaction, but it whittles away at our capacity for empathy. The macro-consequences of this need no explanation.

Most people will not choose their own privacy over access to these things or these people. But when we give up privacy to reap the benefits of the digital world, it makes us more susceptible to the whims of giant corporations like Facebook or Cambridge Analytica.

There’s definitely a self-validating component in harnessing the power to integrate ourselves into everyone else’s news feeds; it is a testament to our importance; publishing our lives means immortalizing ourselves. And so, we go, carving out caves on the web to hide in, to decorate, to invite strangers into. We feel good about ourselves here, in these safe spaces where we control the narrative.

In an article about internet mediation, Saskia E. Polder-Verkiel discusses more serious moral implications that accompany the internet’s expansion: “The two elements of uncertainty are that “(a) it is not clear that what you see is the same as what you would see when you were there (i.e. they might be manipulated in various ways) and (b) it is not clear that [what] you see [is] happening in real time.” “Online experiences are often contrasted with ‘real life’ experiences” she continues. “This indicates that internet mediated interaction is apparently conceived as something that is ‘not real.’ Of course, when things are conceived of as ‘not real,’ then what is morally permissible changes too.’”