Friday, April 05, 2024


How to browse the dark web - Lifehacker: “The dark web, for the uninitiated among you, is a virtual neighborhood beyond the borders of the normal, everyday internet (which includes the website you’re looking at right now). 

It’s somewhere Google and Bing don’t index, and you need special tools to get to it. It’s a place where you’ll find data leaksand illegal trades, but also legitimate, legal online activities users want to carry out without attracting the attention of law enforcement agencies or governments. 

It’s a part of the internet that’s less regulated and more shadowy, for better and for worse. Piqued your interest? I’m going to explain how to get on the dark web and what you can find there—though of course Lifehacker doesn’t endorse doing anything that breaks the law, so I’m not going to tell you how to do something you shouldn’t…”

Senior Tory William Wragg has told the Times he gave personal phone numbers of fellow MPs to a man he met on a dating app because he was "scared".

William Wragg: MP tells paper he is sorry for sharing private phone numbers

Police investigate cyber honeytrap scandal after senior Tory admits giving MPs’ numbers to sex sting plotter he met on Grindr dating app after sending intimate pics of himself Daily Mail. Making The Thick Of It look tame….

THE ANXIOUS GENERATION: Jonathan Haidt on why today’s young people are so anxious.

The technological geegaw Haidt holds responsible for the “great rewiring” of brains of people born after 1995 is not, interestingly enough, the iPhone itself (first released in 2007) but its front-facing camera, released with the iPhone 4 in June 2010. Samsung added one to its Galaxy the same month. Instagram launched in the same year. Now users could curate online versions of themselves on the fly — and they do, incessantly. Maintaining an online self is a 24/7 job. The other day I had to catch a stroller from rolling into the street while the young mother vogued and pouted into her smartphone.

* * * * * * * *

Why are people born after 1996 so, well, different? So much more anxious, so much more judgmental, so much more miserable? Phone culture is half of Haidt’s answer; the other is a broader argument about “safetyism,” which Haidt defines as “the well-intentioned and disastrous shift towards overprotecting children and restricting their autonomy in the ‘real world.’”

Boys suffer more from being shut in and overprotected. Girls suffer more from the way digital technologies monetize and weaponize peer hierarchies. Although the gender differences are interesting, it’s the sheer scale of harm depicted here that should galvanize us. Haidt’s suggested solutions are commonplace and commonsensical: stop punishing parents for letting their children have some autonomy. Allow children plenty of unstructured free play. Ban phones in school.

For Gen Z, this all comes too late. Over-protection in the real world, coupled with an almost complete lack of protection in the virtual world, has consigned a generation of young minds to what is in essence a play-free environment. In the distributed, unspontaneous non-space of the digital device, every action is performed in order to achieve a prescribed goal. Every move is strategic. “Likes” and “comments,” “thumbs-up” and “thumbs-down” provide immediate real-time metrics on the efficacy or otherwise of thousands of micro-decisions an hour, and even trivial mistakes bring heavy costs.

In a book of devastating observations, this one hit home very hard: that these black mirrors of ours are “the most efficient conformity engines ever invented.”

London Times interviewer said to Haidt, “Climate change is often cited as an alternative explanation, I suggest.” He responded:

“If the mental health crisis started among girls in 2018, I would say, wow, Greta Thunberg really affected girls. But why did this start, especially with preteen girls, in 2013? And why are 12 and 13-year-old girls particularly affected? So it doesn’t fit the timing or the demographics.” Similarly, if economic gloom was to blame, adolescent depression should have spiked in 2009, hit boys equally and subsided as the economy recovered. “But we’ve seen the exact opposite.”

What about the pandemic? Haidt shakes his head. “Covid is a tiny player in this story. When you look at the graphs, it is a blip in the long run. By 2023 the data was all now basically where it would have been if Covid had never happened.” If social media is so dangerous, why are we not seeing the same mental health crisis in adults? “Because the people with the least willpower and the greatest vulnerability to manipulation are children and adolescents.”

Haidt owns a smartphone and gave his own son an old iPhone at the age of nine, when he began walking to school alone. “We didn’t even think about alternatives.” By the time his daughter was eight, and beginning to pop out to the neighbourhood shops alone, Haidt had read enough data to give her a Gizmo watch instead, offering only GPS tracking and limited phone calls. By 11 she was begging to be allowed on Instagram, because “everyone had it. And she is very much the sort of girl who would have gotten sucked into Instagram, had we let her. But by 12 she was telling me that she doesn’t even want it because the girls on Instagram in her school are stupid.” Now 14, his daughter is begging for Snapchat, but won’t be allowed any social media until 16.

Politico interviewer asked Haidt, “Why is it that social media is causing bigger mental health problems for girls than boys even as girls outpace boys in the classroom?”

They are two separate issues. I believe social media harm girls more because social media offers the lure of social connection in a way that appeals to girls, but then it literally blocks quality social connections. So it harms girls more than boys.

As for school performance, the issue there is not that girls are doing so great, it’s that boys are withdrawing from the real world. They’re just investing less time and effort in everything that matters for success in life, as Richard Reeves has pointed out in his wonderful book Of Boys and Men. They’re largely spending more and more time on video games and other digital pursuits.

The digital life is not causing depression and anxiety in boys to the extent that it is in girls, but it’s causing them to drop out of life, not cultivate skills, like flirting or courtship or working for pay. It’s causing them to drop out of life in ways that will block their flourishing for the rest of their lives.

You call for action in the book from parents, educators, Congress and Silicon Valley. Who has the most responsibility to limit kids’ access to smartphones and social media?

The parents have the primary duty and oversight; the problem is that parents are struggling to do it and they’re not able to. The situation is just as if we said the drinking age is 21, and it’s the parents’ responsibility to enforce this because you can’t expect bars and casinos and strip clubs to check IDs. That’s obviously absurd. Parents can’t do that unless they literally lock up their children and do not let them outside, and it’s the same thing here.

If your child can get to a computer that is connected to the internet, they can open as many Instagram and TikTok accounts as they want. You’ll never know. Parents are in an impossible situation.

Both the libertarian-oriented Reasonand the leftists at the New York Timesare skeptical of Haidt’s argument. Regarding the Gray Lady, John Sexton of Hot Air writes, “Despite the subtle shade directed at him, most of the readers seem to believe Haidt is on to something with his new book. This is the top comment, upvoted more than 1,800 times:”

I taught high school for nineteen years. I left in 2022. Number one reason: the phones. Students enter class looking at their phones, they walk down the halls looking at their phones, and they sit around the cafeteria and campus after school looking at their phones. It’s only because the handheld digital onslaught occurred over several years that we don’t see it for what it is. Now I teach at a middle school where students never have their phones available. The result? Eye contact, good cheer, lively conversation, laughter, playfulness, and a sense of camaraderie. I left the clouds behind, and now the sun is out again. I’m happy.

Newton Minow, grappling in the early 1960s with negative effects of television, the omnipresent new technology of his era, might have had an inkling of what was to come in the 21st century, but would have had no idea how it would reshape the brains of the young.