Internet

“Anxieties about the internet began to feel more rote and less plausible, in no small part because the internet had disappeared as a distinct place”

In the coming years, as most of America got online, some variation on the cyberporn cycle would repeat almost continuously: about chat-room child predators; about online games; about the emergence of social media; about sexting and the apps that seemed designed to make it easier. Anxieties about the internet began to feel more rote and less plausible, in no small part because the internet had disappeared as a distinct place. It wasn’t lurking over there, it was just everywhere — as was, for that matter, pornography — and the world turned.

As moral panics about danger and depravity lost traction, popular tech criticism became nebulous and fretful, concerned with vague themes and forecasts. (“Is Google Making Us Stupid?” “Tinder and the Dawn of the ‘Dating Apocalypse.’ ”) In the absence of coherent critiques, and in the context of a stunningly rapid adoption of smartphones, a righteously defensive posturing about the social consequences of tech went mainstream. Critics were easily dismissed as Luddites, unable to see the future through a misplaced nostalgia for the past. This assumption was frequently vindicated and started to feel a lot like wisdom. As the world truly moved online, abstract fears were repeatedly met with, and answered by, specific, irresistible and unthreatening products and experiences. We had learned our lesson.

John Herrman, “On Technology”, The New York Times Magazine (10 December 2017), 18, 20.