The Seven Deadly Sins of the Internet Age

Some random comment someone made earlier this week got me thinking about what a contemporary update of the seven deadly sins would be.  Not that the classic set have gone out of style, of course – I mean, I personally check in with Sloth every morning, and Gluttony, thy name is Chipotle – but in a way I think those classic ones are personal sins.  Except for Wrath and Avarice, the old school seven (and why weren’t the Seven Deadly MCs an old school hip hop group? but I digress) mainly are deadly for the one who commits them.  But in today’s globalized, internet era (for we privileged enough to live here in internetlandia) simply indulging in Pride or Envy seems kind of quaint.  And The Internet Is For Porn, so Lust is like wallpaper.

No, I propose that for true, serious sinning – actual harming, and doing damage to not just your immortal soul, but to the soul of the interconnected, gooey globalworldsoul you’re but one aspect of in this day and age – the original seven are inadequate.  So I’ve taken a stab at some sins for the Internet Age:

1) Willful Ignorance

We have frickin’ Google.  Wikipedia.  Factchecker.org.  Snopes.  You can post a question on Facebook and, unless you’re literally asking about rocket science, you’ll probably get a decent answer, or at least a debate over it, plus probably some semi-related Futurama quotes.  And heck you’ll probably get an answer even if you do ask about rocket science.  To not be willing to look into something that is relevant to you is just plain outrageous.  (I orignally typo’d “pain outrageous,” which kind of works too.)  And yes, while of course no one has to look up every single thing they don’t know about all the time, if you’re basing an argument or a decision on the question, and you’re not trapped in a desert with no internet for miles, then you better get yerself informed.  Say, if you’re having an argument over whether to see a movie and you just say “eh, I don’t know what it’s about and it sounds boring” – not acceptable, go read a synopsis or look at the trailer.  Or if you’re having an argument over politics and you don’t bother finding out what the actual Constitutional amendment says – not acceptable.  You’re sinning against Information.

2) Entitlement

No, just because she’s dressed like that, doesn’t mean you’re entitled to touch her.  Don’t you have two hundred female Facebook friends?  What’s wrong with you?  No, just because you think your self-enlightenment would be so good for society that you should be paid to camp in the woods, smoke pot and compose revolutionary techno tracks on your Macbook doesn’t mean you’re entitled to a public salary.  Haven’t you ever even read an article about someone not like yourself, ever?  How do you not know what life is like for other people?  No, just because you’re offended by swear words doesn’t mean you’re entitled to put anyone who speaks them near you in jail.  Haven’t you seen the Internet?  See also: Cultural Appropriation, Self-Absorption, Unexamined Privilege, Reality Shows.

3) Groupthink

The greatest boon of the globalized world is that it lets you connect with people who are like you, anywhere, lets you share any idea and have it connect to every other idea, to like or dislike or identify with anything that comes naturally to  you.  So how can some people still say “I’m doing this because EVERYONE is doing this,” or “I’m NOT doing this because EVERYONE is doing this and I’m a rebel,” or “I know this because duh EVERYONE knows this” and not realize that with a few clicks on the keyboard they could find plenty of people doing it, plenty of people not doing it, even more people who don’t give a fuck, and lots and lots of people who don’t, in fact, “know” whatever you think is known, and would have quite a few words to say to you about the truth if you would pay attention.  When it takes less effort to individualize and make decisions for yourself today than it does to brush your teeth, letting conformity (or reverse conformity) drive your decisions is, well, a sin.

4) Bigotry

A mix of several other sins into one delectable concoction that’s more than the sum of its parts!  Take Willful Ignorance (ignorance of the humanity and variety of some group), mix in some Groupthink (because no one ever became a racist in a vacuum), add a squirt of Wrath (self-explanatory) and just a pinch of Pride (to feel one can be the high judge for an entire group of people), and you get Bigotry.  There’s no excuse today to not be aware of said humanity and variety of any other group.  To be bigoted – whether it be against blacks or whites or mixed races, Muslims or Jews or Christians, liberals or conservatives or socialists, cupcake lovers or cupcake haters or cupcake love-haters – is to utterly reject the entire foundation of the globalized world: that we all have something to share with each other.  Because, on the Internet, we’re all just bits and bytes and ASCII characters.  At least fifty years ago, a hundred years ago, one could honestly say folks didn’t know better.  But any real bigot, any spiteful spewer of “those people!”, has no such excuse nowadays, and must therefore be intentionally, willfully and maliciously holding on to their hatred.  And that’s pretty much the definition of evil.

5) Decisiontheft

Call it “hovering,” “nannying,” “bullying,” “imposing your views,” “nose-sticking-in,” “thought policing” or just plain “controlling.”  Just like Willful Ignorance is to deny knowledge or choices to yourself, Decisiontheft is denying someone else the ability to make their own decisions for themselves.  It’s a big world, and there’s room on the Internet and off for everyone to go their own way.  But somehow people get it in their heads that they have a moral duty to impose themselves on others, or they have a superiority to lord over others, or that others are somehow property whose decisions they can control.  This sin lurks on forums, telling people that they are not allowed to like both chocolate and vanilla, or to vote Republican and support welfare, or to ‘ship Simon and Jayne.  This sin crops up in overzealous municipalities and helicopter parents, who, instead of educating their subjects, would rather make their decisions for them – like a document editor software that won’t let you intentionally misspell a word.  It crops up, sadly, still, in modern-day slavers, because decisiontheft is the umbrella sin of identity theft, and what is slavery but saying “you are who I say you are?”  But from the slightest contemporary examples to the most grievous and ancient, trying to dictate what someone else can choose for themselves flies in the face of every innovation of this era.

6) Hypocrisy

Every argument you have is practically a matter of public record, and you’re going to openly contradict your supposed morals by doing the opposite?  On video?  Even if this weren’t a sinful affront to the whole notion of communication, that’s just stupid.  Someone has already caught you.  We live in a world in which our discourse, the way we interact with each other, is slowly being conducted on an entirely different plane than everything else.  Words, spoken and written and sung and confessed and debated, are swirled around in this thing called the internet, bouncing between phones and computers and TVs, separated from the objects and people and places that they refer to.  Even if you don’t get caught, by saying one thing (in the internet plane) and doing another (in the reality plane) you help make the internet plane a pointless place that has no bearing on anything.  Every act of hypocrisy helps push us towards a society in which words (HUNH! GOOD GOD Y’ALL!) mean absolutely nothing (SAY IT AGAIN).

7) Privacy Invasion

It is becoming very, very, very hard for anyone to hold on to their information, and keep it personal and safe, nowadays.  Every piece of private information that we hold – our secret histories, our financial and health information, every little thing that identifies us, that lets us differentiate betweeen friends and strangers based on who knows how much – is as precious as a diamond, and as easy to destroy as paper.  When everything is recorded online, betraying someone’s trust by outing something about them is the equivalent of cutting off one of their fingers and feeding it to the masses.  You diminish them.  Until such time as we evolve into uploaded-mind-web-beings and share every fact about ourselves with the entire globe, the very fabric of our internet society depends on our ability to keep things off the internet.  Commit this sin, and you better have a damn good reason, or you’re going to hell 4chan.

***

So that’s my shot at a list.  Yes?  No?  Should I have added “Trolling” or is that a virtue?  Should I have added “Bad Javascript” or “Not Responding to My Facebook RSVP”?  Should there be, as there were classically, a corresponding Seven Virtues (“Originality”?  “Cute Kittens”)?  Thanks.

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10 comments

  1. Put this on Reddit. The internet needs to know!

    1. Reddit? Reddit! I have yet to join the church of Reddit. How do I Reddit it? (I also can probably not do it from work – I already have to schedule my posts in advance from home.)

      1. I’ll do it then :)

        1. Ah! Thank you! You are awesome! It seems time, once I get home, to stop being a holdout on this Reddit thing. I expect much of my time to get consumed.

          1. Your expectations are accurate.

  2. Reddit sent me here. I like.

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  6. Anonymous · · Reply

    I probably see what you mean.

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