How Can We Make The Internet A Better Place?

While the Internet has many good features, it is also a place filled with people behaving badly. How can we make it better?

The Internet is amazing. We carry in our pocket a portal to most of our species’ accumulated knowledge, as well as a way to communicate with people from around the world in real time.

However, there are times when the Internet is not a good place to be.

While social interaction might be good in theory, in many cases, online behavior can be shockingly negative. People can be insulting, dismissive, and just generally rude. Some share personal information like addresses, pictures, or videos not meant for public consumption. The comments section in online newspapers, message boards, and social media sites can be toxic.

There is also the threat of scammers, people looking for any opportunity to steal your money and/or identity, or to infect your computer with viruses. You have to be hyper-vigilant about what links you follow, in emails or on websites.

There are also programmed ‘bots that pretend to be individuals. These can be created and run by agents of foreign governments, who are looking to spread misinformation and sow distrust and division in everyday life.

On top of that, there are companies that collect our personal information, which then can be sold to someone who might use it to try and manipulate us.

With all of these bad actors, the Internet can provide an unpleasant experience.

However, there are some places on the web that aren’t like this. Those sites provide a much better overall experience, and might even fulfill some of the potential for positive change that the Internet offers.

How might we make more places like this? Can we curb the trolls and scammers, and encourage collaboration and creativity? How can we make the Internet a better place?

Related questions: How can you be more responsible online? Why does social media often bring out the worst in us? How can we encourage meaningful conversation?

What Stories Are Most Important To You?

Throughout our lives, we are constantly surround by stories of one kind or another. Which ones matter most to you?

Stories come in many different kinds. Some are personal, some are entertainment, and some are societal.

For example of a personal story, we have the those we tell ourselves about ourselves. You might, for example, tell everyone, including yourself, that you are always on time. As a result, you become known as the punctual one of your group. Or you always have the latest gadget, or maybe the cleanest house.

Whatever you tell yourself (and carry through on) you can manifest and make real. You define yourself through the stories you tell about yourself.

We also have access to more entertainment options than ever before. From movies to TV shows, from video games to novels, from sports to social media, we have a never-ending stream of tales told by all kinds of people. They might shock you, make you laugh, tug at your heartstrings, or open your eyes to other points of view.

Finally, we come to societal stories. These are things we tell each other that help us function in tandem. We cooperate because we hear a story and believe it.

For example, why do you pay your taxes? Perhaps you believe the story that our pooled resources makes our community stronger and benefits everyone. Or maybe you just believe the story that you will face a penalty if you don’t.

There are many stories, in all aspects of your life. Which ones mean the most to you? Are there some you never question? Might there be a benefit, or a penalty, to doing so?

Related questions: What are the benefits of fiction? Where do shared ideas exist? What makes a community? What makes you you?

How Do We Prepare For The Next Pandemic?

As we mark the fourth year since the COVID-19 virus upended our lives, it seems appropriate to ask: are we better prepared for a pandemic now than we were in early 2020? What lessons did we learn, and how can we be prepared for the next one?

With the benefit of hindsight, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic was remarkable. Yes, in the early days there was a lot of confusion and conflicting information. No doubt, there was trauma that still persists to this day.

Of course, that is unavoidable with something that spread so quickly and proved so deadly. However, the speed at which the scientific community determined how the virus was spread was remarkable. Even more remarkable was how quickly an effective vaccine was created and distributed.

While much remains unknown, one thing that is certain is that this pandemic will not be the last one we will experience. Over the last century, we have seen multiple pandemics, from the Spanish Flu about 100 years ago, to AIDS/HIV, to COVID-19 (and others as well). It seems likely that climate change will increase the likelihood of new infections. There is also the potential for antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

With that in mind, it makes sense for us to be prepared for the next outbreak. What did you, personally, learn from the experience with COVID-19? What did our local, state, and federal governments learn? The international community?

Pandemic fatigue is real, and it effects us all, to varying extents. However, the next outbreak is a matter of when and not if, so it makes sense to think about what we can do to be ready when it does eventually happen.

Related questions: COVID-19? How do you want this to change you? How do you evaluate risk? Will technology save us?

Do You Go To Reunions?

Whether it is for school, family, or work, people like to get together to see how friends and loved ones are doing. As well as to relive past glories and experiences. Have you been to a reunion of some sort? Do you intend to go to one in the future?

Share why if you wish.

How Do You Describe What You Do?

Whether it is your career, your hobbies, or your private life, how you describe yourself can alter how the world sees you. What is your description?

Describing what you do, while important, can be very difficult. While it is true that what you choose to spend your time and focus on helps define you as a human being, an accurate description isn’t easy.

In fact, the manner and vocabulary you use to talk about what you do has many risks. You might bore someone else if you choose to talk about it in a clinical way. It is possible you could alienate someone who doesn’t share a common frame of reference. You might even offend someone.

And yet, sharing who you are and what you do with others is the essence of being in a community. If you have an interest in and a passion for what you do, you can convey that to someone else. And in turn, they may convey the same thing to you, if you are lucky.

How do you describe what you do? Have you given advance thought to what you might say to someone else? And do you listen when others describe what they do?

Related questions: Would you be friends with yourself? How would you describe yourself in ten words or less? How do you judge yourself? What makes a community?