(Time) Does the Internet Really Make Everyone Crazy?
A closer look at the data shows that media claims about the Web making us mad might be justified in newsstand sales, but not by science
Sociologists call them moral panics — when a population pins its unanchored fear in uncertain times on a selected demon, whether or not the target is really a threat to society. Drugs are a frequent focus of these societal anxiety attacks, but this week, Newsweek tries to foment a classic panic against a more universal foe: the Internet.
Headlined online “Is the Web Driving Us Mad?” the article begins with the story of Jason Russell, the filmmaker behind the “Kony2012″ video about the African cult-leader and warlord Joseph Kony. After the video went viral and suddenly brought Russell international fame, he wound up naked and ranting on a San Diego street corner. To make the case that the Internet caused Russell’s psychotic break, the Newsweek article rapidly generalizes from rare, extreme experiences like Russell’s and wends through a selective reading of the research to argue, in the words of one quoted source, that the Net, “encourages — and even promotes — insanity.”
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