Are We Self Harming Ourselves?

My attention this week was drawn to the sad story of Molly Russell.

The story as I heard it on the radio was that this young lady had taken her life after viewing “self harm”images on Instagram and that as a result the site had announced a purge of some of these pictures.

Her father Ian had blamed Instagram.

Whilst I have total sympathy with her father I feel it is right to ask some questions such as;

Who forced Molly to view these images?

Who asked her to act upon them?

And where was her father while Molly was spending time looking at this material.

It’s perfectly fine to hear/read these stories and come to the obvious kneejerk reaction but was the website really to blame? I come from a time when the internet was an equivalent of the “wild west.” Someone could find anything they wanted on it and generally did but most recognised it as a fountain of information.

Now it is being homogenized into a nothing.

Business’s have a hand constantly in every users pocket and governments are constantly trying to restrict information and opinions.

But you can’t legislate for everything and you can’t always blame the sites. People view the pages and to a very large extent people should take responsibility for what they do with the information.

While it’s perfectly natural for Molly’s father to want to blame something perhaps he should try looking in the mirror before blaming others.

All of this seems harsh and it is; however this age of humanity lives in perhaps the greatest time ever. We all take for granted that we have access to the largest fountain of knowledge that far exceeds anything ever known before.

With the click of a mouse, most human beings in the “1st world” can access more knowledge than was ever held in (say..) The Great Library of Alexandria and even some of the poorest can find use computers more powerful than it took to put men on the moon and this knowledge gradually finds it’s way down to the “3rd” world.

I wouldn’t mind betting that if someone was 10 of miles from anywhere but in good range of a cellphone tower… Any one of us could deliver a baby with no medical knowledge whatsoever because someone, somewhere posted that information to the net.

But with that knowledge (sadly) does not come the ability to use it wisely!

We have become a world of judgmental snowdrops to the point where we are in danger of squandering it all away. Like Ian Russell we look for things to blame, to object to, to protest against and the governments who always think  that they know best for us are only too happy to legislate  away the greatest gift that we have ever bestowed upon ourselves (thanks to Sir Tim Berners Lee.)

Before you tag me as an anarchist, I don’t care whether a government is right; left or centre, power is power and one of the ways governments exercise that power is through the control of information. They can restrict it or they can demand it and use it.

Many of us have accepted the nosing into our personal information by the likes of G.C.H.Q. and the N.S.A. The demands to access Facebook information etc. but what is it really used for? Do any of us know?

We’re told that these demands are to prevent terrorist actions and terrorism however, think back…. How many times have we seen someone go into a school and take lives? Only to find out later that the information to prevent it was on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram for months beforehand.

Again I am not saying that these agencies are right or wrong but what I am saying is that we as a race are sleepwalking into the abyss. We blindly accept the stories we are given and rarely question it.

A couple of decades ago I had a long discussion with a friend and it was about whether the total acquired skills of the human race would gradually disappear because of the internet and that those skills would not be passed along in the traditional manner . What we both failed to foresee was Youtube, Wiki’s etc where the ability to learn was freely given for the taking.

We, as a race should question everything including individuals who rage at the internet to cover their own failings to organisations and governments who come to the aid of those said individuals to”make things better” lest we sleepwalk down the road to oblivion.

As to those companies that have their hands in our pockets…. As I said to someone about Google in the last day; “I have done my deal with the devil.” Perhaps we all should think about that and live with the deals we do also.


  1. Well said. It is easy in a time of grief at the death of a loved one to lash out against the tool rather then the human element. There may have been signs ther may not have been. Personal responsibility’s importance is not near as recognized as it should be.
    A gun sitting all alone on a table untouched has never harmed a person. Once the human element is introduced is when it can be used for good or evil.
    I rarely blame others for missteps and bad things that happen to me.

  2. I don’t honestly believe that “the acquired skills of the human race” will disappear because of the Internet, any more than they did when writing, and then print, replaced memorization and recitation as the principal means of transmitting ideas.

    OTOH, certain skill sets that aren’t regularly used may atrophy somewhat. Students (and adults) who rely on calculators for most of their math, for example, may not bother learning the multiplication tables, and thus be at a loss if they have to do the math on their own. (Similarly, I’m sure that, in the earlier time period I cited, the ability to memorize did become less pervasive. To this day, I have trouble memorizing anything except by rote repetition.)

    As for the “blame game,” think of all the times over the years that legislators have railed against violent or (later) sexual imagery in the movies, on television, and so forth. It’s always easier just to point the blame than actually to try to address the perceived problems, especially in a more-or-less laissez-faire society, where the limits of legal intervention are never clearly defined.

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