2010 : HOW IS THE INTERNET CHANGING THE WAY YOU THINK?

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Director of the Bristol Cognitive Development Centre in the Experimental Psychology Department at the University of Bristol; Author, The Self-Illusion
I CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE BECAUSE OF THE INTERNET

Who has not Googled thyself? Most humans have a concept of self that is constructed in terms of how we think we are perceived by those around us and the Internet has made that preoccupation trivially easy. Now anyone can assess their impact factor through a multitude of platforms including Facebook, Twitter and of course, blogging.

Last year, on the request of my publisher, I started a blog to comment on weird and bizarre examples of supernatural thinking from around the world. From the outset I thought that blogging was a self-indulgent activity but I agreed to give it a whirl to help promote my book. In spite of my initial reluctance I very soon became addicted to feedback. It was not enough to post blogs for some unseen audience. I needed the validation from visitors that my efforts and opinions were appreciated. Within weeks, I had become a numbers junkie looking for more and more hits.

However, the Internet has also made me sentient of my own insignificance and power at the same time. Within the blogosphere, I am no longer an expert on any opinion as it is one that can be shared or rejected by multitude of others. But insignificant individuals can make a significant difference when they coalesce around a cause. As this goes to press, a British company is under public scrutiny for allegedly selling bogus bomb-detecting dowsing rods to the Iraqi security forces. This has come about because of a blog campaign by like-minded skeptics who have used the Internet to draw attention to what they consider to be questionable business activity. This would have been very difficult and daunting in the pre-Internet days and not something that the ordinary man in street would have taken on. In this way, the Internet can empower the individual through collective campaigns.

I can make a difference because of the Internet. I'll be checking back on Google to see if anyone shares my opinion.