On Judging The "Bad" Side of The Internet
There's a strange contradiction a lot of us fall into with regards to activities typically considered bad habits and signs of personal downfall. What comes to your mind when you think of porn, drugs, gambling, and even online piracy? I hardly even need to ask. As soon as you start going to web sites about either of these things it feels like you're on the dark twisted side of the internet, exposing yourself to something you'd probably rather keep a secret, a dirty little secret. You just hope nobody looks into your search history, because they might become "concerned".
But then, why are precisely these types of industries among the most profitable ones in the world? Why do they keep popping up, evolving, and taking huge swaths of internet traffic? It's a well known fact, for instance, that what drove the development of the early internet was the porn industry, driving the majority of the traffic. It's no surprise, after all, since the internet was a kind of wild west you could participate with in your privacy. It was perfect for these types of things which you had an urge to do, but wouldn't exactly announce to others.
They're successful, and they're everywhere, because we want it, even those of us who would nod when told how bad it all was. Yet even those judgmental types have the same temptations, and they most likely give in to them as well, perhaps even on a regular basis. It's the same thing as with cops who bust people for posession of an "illegal substance" yet have themselves used it in the past, and perhaps still do. You know, they're just doing their job. And it's really a job that the judgmental society we've built up put them up to do, a job of persecuting parts of human nature that we seem to be ashamed of, but when we really get right down to it, probably don't know why.
It's true that these types of activities can lead to bad things such as addictions, financial troubles, and all that follows from that (troubles with family, law, etc.). But when you step back and take an objective look at it the same risks exist for a lot of the activities we consider normal, or even desirable. You can get addicted to foods and medications. You can get hurt doing sports. You can get into financial trouble by taking a business risk (coincidentally often even referred to as "gambling") or simply losing your job for often innocuous reasons. The list goes on.
How do we increase our chances of not falling into such normal life troubles? We take care that we don't overdo things, we take precautions, we try to achieve some sort of balance, and we try to stay informed. The kicker is that these are precisely the same strategies that prevent one from getting into trouble doing any of the mentioned "dark" activities. Moderation, caution, balance, staying informed etc.
Everything a person can do can be done the right way or the wrong way, and depending on how wrongly you do it you can get in a heap of trouble. There's really no fundamental difference here between them except their rightful place. There's the right time, place, and amount of everything. An absolutist rejection of that which we almost universally find appealing, as proven by the widespread nature of these industries, is simply denial of a significant part of our nature.
And here's the kicker. As the wild wild west that the internet was and to a large degree still remains continues to evolve these industries become more and more sophisticated, cleaner, safer, more open and honest, in fact easier to do the right way, in the right time, place, and amounts. For example modern online casinos like Euro Palace openly support responsible gaming principles, and also offer demo play just for fun so that you can, if you're attracted to this sort of entertainment, try it without actually investing anything. Another example are artful porn sites that besides being an outlet for sexual fantasies also promote feminine beauty while following high safety and health standards for their models. The internet's free market nature allowed for highest levels of competition, and consequent increase in expectations with regards to quality in all industries, and these more controversial industries have been following that same trend as well.
And speaking of putting things in the right place, and doing them the right way, gambling is supposed to be a form of entertainment, NOT a desperately sought for way to getting rich quick, as the industry players themselves will point out. Drugs of various types (not all of which are illegal everywhere) are supposed to be a way to experience different states of consciousness, or simply relax or stimulate, but they're NOT for continuous escapes from reality. Porn is supposed to be relaxing entertainment, and for some a way to explore people's sexual fantasies, but they're NOT a replacement for a real sex and love life. You get the point.
It's not a mark of a good decent person if he completely abstains from that which we habitually consider dirty, just because it is considered dirty. It's a mark of a good decent person if he is capable of balancing no matter what he engages in, and engages in whatever he is driven to without fear of judgement.
On this web site we talk about the good uses of technology, and some might think that the "good" here may refer to "puritanical". This is not the truth. As the history of this web site shows, we were never afraid to question the meanings of commonly held values and principles, and as I've found in the last half a decade, a lot of what is normally considered noble, virtuous, and good or vice versa, often isn't, or isn't the whole story.
It's not that I'm calling people here to go and engage in bad habits, because neither are these necessarily bad habits until they do bad things to your life, nor is there any pressing need to tell a person who wants something to go for it. I'm telling people to not be ashamed of it, to not be judgmental towards themselves and others, and if they're gonna engage in something to know that it's OK so long as you're taking the same precautions and rational thinking that you would do in any other area of life.
It's about equalizing, lighting up what we always wanted to keep in the dark, and owning up to everything we are, not just the parts that fit some incomplete, self-contradictory, arbitrary, and unexamined notion of decency and virtue.