Might as well question whether soap opera's, tabloids, espn, disney, movies, television in general, music, and just about every other form of entertainment and media stimulation are destroying the world. After all, isn't modern music crap? Was FRIENDS really worth spending all that time watching? Who really needs to watch 50 NFL games per year? Could there be a greater waste of time than NASCAR? Most movies are an extreme waste of time because they're so terrible, so why make them?
It's a completely absurd premise, and it applies just as well to all media as it does to Twitter or Facebook or Wordpress.
There are often two camps when it comes to topics like this - the free-will proponents who posit that people's behaviors and choices are based on their own conscious, controllable volition. Then there are the contextualists, who would have us believe that people behave as the system dictates and can be held blameless for their failings.
The truth is, naturally, somewhere in between. We can suggest that people are negatively influenced by certain things without denying them free will and personal responsibility.
> "It's not your choice, it's not your life, it's none of your business."
Note that Mr. Mullenweg didn't suggest that systems be designed to actively curb this behavior. There are no Big Brother nor Nanny State overtones to this at all.
> "If people want to spend their time reading blogs and Twitter, who are you to say otherwise?"
Again, nobody has tabled that we should disallow people from reading blogs all day. Mr. Mullenweg seems to be feeling guilt that he's helped create something that may have a negative overall impact on many of its users.
Imagine if you've created the world's most addictive cigarette and completely cornered the market. People all around the world are lighting these things up by the packloads. You wouldn't feel any concern, or even guilt? Surely this is not as simple as "these people are adults, if they smoke like a chimney it's their own damn fault". That logic applies just as easily to crack cocaine or war, and represents the most extreme end of the "free will" argument.
> "and it applies just as well to all media as it does to Twitter or Facebook or Wordpress."
And it does. This is the nation that, after all, invented the TV dinner and the couch potato. In fact, TV's influence on society is a big can o' worms. If Mr. Mullenweg wants to feel better about his role in the creation of new media, he may want to take note that the Internet is the first thing in 50 years to get people off the damn couch and onto a far more interactive, more informative medium. The Internet has some serious information addiction problems that we're just scratching the surface of - but IMO it beats the pants off what it replaced.
Information addiction in general does not have me overly concerned about the future of society and the Internet. What does worry me is the growth of the personalized web - we are very, very rapidly sailing into a future where a person would never have to hear a single word of dissent to their own beliefs. This troubles me more than any other issue that faces the Internet today.
I concur. I don't think this is limited to online interactions either. There were stories a few years ago of how people in the real world were increasingly moving to be near like-minded people (and the negative effects this had on reinforcing their world-views). Wish I could find the story but no luck.