When Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web 30 years ago, neither he nor most of the rest of us could have fathomed the uses and misuses to which it would be put. Yes, it connected us with people across the globe and we all know how easy it is to shop now.
However, back in 1989, few if any people foresaw how polarized people would be in the 21st century, to which we were looking forward with such hope. No one imagined how successfully the World Wide Web could be used to manipulate people politically, religiously and commercially.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Berners-Lee said, “We did create all kinds of wonderful things on the web. But looking back at the past few years, we have realized that there has been a lot of dysfunction in society. People are being manipulated to vote against their own best interests. The foundations of democracy are threatened.
Use or, rather, misuse of the World Wide Web and the social media explosion it enabled is exacerbating the crisis, helping to foster a culture of tribalization and manipulation. But this crisis in not limited to social media, according to John Allen, Vatican correspondent, papal biographer and editor of Crux, an online Catholic news magazine. People, he believes, have been segregating themselves for a generation. Americans, Allan observes, are aligning themselves with like-minded thinkers and they are living, both physically and virtually, in gated communities.
Allan has an article about this in Crux and in the June 15 edition of The Tablet, the newspaper of the Diocese of Brooklyn. Here it is.