The internet is not helpful: how can we both we right?

The first/biggest argument my husband and I had about our newborn was not helped by the internet.

Husband didn’t want a thumbsucker, so wanted to go out and buy a soother. (He’s a planner.)

I wasn’t keen on soothers, so didn’t want him to.

We argued for a bit, while the baby was asleep, and then retreated to our corners and pulled out our phones.

After a few minutes going down google-rabbitholes, we both declared victory, and came back with our proof.

I had found an article that said soothers were not helpful for future development blah blah blah.

He had found an article that said thumb sucking was not good for future development blah blah blah.

We were both right. Apparently. Completely vindicated by… experts? someone, at any rate.

We realized that we could continue like this for days, amassing more and more evidence in our favour. And when we came back to the table, we’d simply be more entrenched, and facing an equal weight in opposing evidence.

Huh.

How on earth are we supposed to navigate the uncertainty, new scenarios, the unknown, when there are solid arguments to be found in favour of pretty much any approach?

In the end, we decided not to force anything, and just watch and wait… he bought a soother, the baby spat it out. It went into a drawer for some in-case time that never came. Turns out, kiddo was neither a thumbsucker nor a soother user. (Probably because he was attached to a boob. Haha.)

What was the right thing to do? I still have no idea.

To a new parent now, I’d probably say, do whatever calms your own nervous system down enough for you to be able to self-regulate to the best extent possible, and that will help your baby to co-regulate, attuning to your system for his or her bigger picture soothing and sense of calm and safety.

I read Braden Dupuis’ brilliant editorial in the Pique this week, and it reminded me of how fierce that first sleep-deprived anxiety-filled debate was. We were scared of all the things we were getting wrong, we needed some reassurance, we had our own sense of what to do and we needed back-up to give us some sense of validation. And the internet magically delivered.

And guess what? No matter what ideology or idea you need validation for, the internet will deliver.

The thing to keep in mind is that not everyone sharing information out there is neutral, has no agenda, or cares for your best interest.

In fact, the internet has been identified as a fantastic platform to strew misinformation and destabilize communities, entire democracies, by exploiting our uncertainty, and delivering us polarizing stories.

A report in mid July from the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) concluded that Canadian voters are likely to face foreign cyber interference both before and after they head to the polls this fall.

While Canada is a lower-priority target relative to other countries, “we assess that an increasing number of threat actors have the cyber tools, the organizational capacity, and a sufficiently advanced understanding of Canada’s political landscape to direct cyber activity against future Canadian elections, should they have the strategic intent,” reads the report.

Braden Dupuis, Pique Newsmagazine

“Russia, China, and Iran are very likely responsible for most of the foreign state-sponsored cyber threat activity against democratic processes worldwide.  Most significantly, threat actors can harness and amplify false narratives related to the COVID‑19 pandemic to decrease confidence in elections,” says the report.

“We assess that the most significant cyber threat faced by voters is online foreign influence, which is when foreign actors covertly create, disseminate, or amplify false and misleading material online to influence the beliefs or behaviours of voters. 

Online foreign influence has become a common tool for adversaries. They use online influence to further their core interests, such as national security, economic prosperity, and ideological goals. Online influence campaigns can try to:

  • impact civil discourse;
  • influence policy makers’ choices;
  • compromise government relationships and the reputations of politicians;
  • delegitimize the concept of democracy and other values such as human rights and liberty; and
  • exacerbate existing frictions in democratic societies.”

If this just sounds outrageous, check out the documentary The Great Hack.

Photo by Ludovic Toinel on Unsplash

The report says that a 2020 Oxford study identified 48 cases of private companies deploying disinformation on behalf of a political actor. Since 2018, the same researchers have identified more than 65 firms offering disinformation as a service.

As Braden says, We can now find info and sources (legitimacy be damned) to prove or disprove any claim.

Here is the report: http://cyber.gc.ca/en/cyber-threats-canadas-democratic-process-july-2021-update

Here is a great podcast discussing “information warfare”, which is what Carl Miller, the co-founder of the think tank Demos, calls what is at play.

Braden’s advice is pretty solid:

My humble advice is also built on four pillars: step away from Facebook and go outside; get involved in your community at a local level, where real change begins; talk to other humans face to face (preferably those with opposing viewpoints); breathe.

Connecting with each other is the remedy for everything. Regulating our nervous systems is what we need to learn to do most, and the internet pretty much cannot do that for us. Being outside, breathing, being with other people, moving, dancing, crying, laughing – those are all things that can help. Facebook, social media, doom-scrolling, reading the news – NO NO NO and no again. If my husband and I had dug in and held on to our convictions 8 years ago, we wouldn’t still be together, raising a kid who in the end didn’t need either of our ideologies in order to flourish. What he needed was our ability to wobble around in a new space, flailing, wondering, doing our best, tolerating the uncertainty of the whole wide ride, and trying to support each other through it, as best we could.

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