An American Editor

August 8, 2012

The Shirking of Responsibility

Filed under: Miscellaneous Opinion — Rich Adin @ 4:00 am
Tags: , , ,

Making the blog rounds in the not-too-distant past was commentary about how the new Nook with GlowLight has an easily damaged screen. The posts and comments came about as a result of an article that appeared at Gizmodo, “You Really Don’t Want to Drop the New Nook Simple Touch.” The article author relates what happened when he accidentally dropped his remote control onto the unprotected screen of the Nook.

A lot of bloggers immediately jumped all over the Nook. I understand that screen fragility can be a problem. Most of us know that we cannot drop our ereaders into a bathtub filled with water and expect the device to continue working; the devices aren’t waterproof. Similarly, most of us know that we cannot give our ereaders to a 6-month-old baby to play with; the devices aren’t childproof.

Yet many of these same people think the Nook should have been made car-key and remote-control proof. Why? We all know that the chance of being shot in America is high. Should the devices therefore be made bulletproof? The likelihood of carrying the device outside during a rainstorm is probably higher than the likelihood of dropping a remote control on the device, so shouldn’t the device be made waterproof?

It seems to me that we know that these devices are delicate before we buy them. Consequently, many of us buy protective covers and make an effort to keep the screen protected. It is also one of the sale pitches made when the sellers try to get you to buy extended warranty protection that protects against even dropping car keys on an unprotected screen.

But all of this is really beside the point, which is self-responsibility. In recent years, I’ve noted an increase in finger-pointing: whatever is wrong is wrong because it is someone else’s fault. The finger-pointer rarely points to him- or herself while claiming to be part of the problem. Need we look any further than the American Congress? Everything is President Obama’s fault, nothing is the fault of congressional partisanship.

Even in the world of ebooks the lack of personal responsibility is evident. Consider how many ebookers think there is nothing wrong with pirating an ebook simply because it can be done or because the price is too high or because the edition the ebooker wants isn’t yet available. The justifications are myriad but what is really important is that the moral code of responsibility for one’s actions has deteriorated in the Internet age.

The Internet has made it easy for people to find like-minded netizens who encourage antisocial behavior and the finger-pointing that occurs. Even if a person takes steps to assuage some critics, there are always new critics who are not satisfied. Because the Internet has made it easy to shout one’s complaints to a worldwide audience, we have become a society of complainers rather than of solvers.

I’ve noted an additional phenomenon of the Internet age that acts as support for the lack of self-responsibility; that is, the Internet supports and encourages anonymity, which tends to drown out solutions and trumpet problems or claimed problems. In my youth, which I admit was a very long time ago, if I had a complaint, I had to make it in person or in writing with my identity clearly revealed. Everyone ignored anonymous letters and telephone calls. Contrast that with today. Anonymous is found everywhere.

Reputations are readily sullied today by anonymous rantings. As I noted in The Uneducated Reader, people give credence to anonymous book reviews, even to ones where the reviewer clearly has not read the book. As a result of the anonymous phenomenon that the Internet encourages, people believe they can say and do anything without the need to take responsibility for what they say and do.

Consequently, products that work well are subject to atypical tests and downgraded because they fail the atypical test. How many Kindles, I wonder, could withstand concrete blocks being dropped on them from a height of 5 feet or could survive being washed by itself in a washing machine (normal cycle) and then run through the dryer for an hour at high heat? Isn’t that how you would clean a dirty ereader?

Look at what people display on social media like Facebook about themselves. Do I really care that Jane Doe got rip-roaring drunk last night? In olden days, the world didn’t know about it; today, there is not a place in the world that doesn’t.

This is not only a problem of a lack of self-responsibility, it is also a problem of lack of self-esteem. The two seem to go hand-in-hand — the more a person lacks self-esteem, the more irresponsible they seem to be and the more they are inclined to finger point. The more they finger point, the more they are willing to see themselves as outside the problem and not part of the problem.

Am I the only one who has noticed this?

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