The internet is like smoking. There is a vast amount of evidence which tells us that it is chronically bad for us but this is nowhere near enough for us to pack it in completely.
Without doubt, the web has become an indispensable part of the argot of the late twentieth century. It drives everything that we do. People say money makes the world go round, well, now the internet does too.
However, for me the internet is the world’s best and simultaneously worst enemy. It is everywhere and nowhere at the same time, it provides everything from the world’s biggest library to your social network. Its popularity is mind-blowing, all day, every day there will be someone on the internet.
For most people, the fear factor of this truly global phenomenon is its anonymity. It’s the fact that there is no governing body, head office or leader of this vast intricate network of communications. Ultimately, the is no ‘King of the Internet’ that you can mount complaints to.
But, it’s this same anonymity which makes the internet so attractive for the majority of us. On there, you can be anybody, talk to anybody, see, hear and watch anybody or anything. Let’s face it, if you really wanted too, you could spend the whole day surfing the web aimlessly. Anything from music, books, television, videos, photos and your social life is just a mouse click away and it doesn’t cost you a penny. I can see the attraction.
Partially, the fear of this international convenience stems from the old age fear of modernity. Professor Michael Hulme of Lancaster University found that, in those aged 16-24, fear of the internet is a rare problem. In fact 65% of people in that age bracket didn’t believe that the it is dangerous in any way. It is obvious that the criticisms against the web abound in people above this age bracket because they did not grow up being exposed to such fast, efficient and omnipresent communication.
However, it is the argument that the internet has brought about a generation of cyber-geeks who prefer being online to being in the real world that I don’t agree with entirely. It’s not that it is a false accusation, it’s just that it misses the point entirely. The internet is now a full functioning part of the real world.
This is not a depressing fact, it is an opportunity. We have at our disposal, something that essentially conveniences and ameliorates our world, nothing more, nothing less. It is not some unprecedented evil from which all forms of paedophile, murder and thief can exploit. As long as the necessary precautions are taken, it cannot be considered as dangerous. Obviously, meeting someone in person who you met online is evidently not a good idea, but this kind of stupidity is not due to the web, it’s due to our capacity to display idiotic curiosity.
In any case, the internet is now far too big and influential for it to be changed by any one person or body. Google started in 1998 as a small search engine-it now reports over 2 billion web documents alone and is the benchmark for all search engines. It influences the way every company views the internet. Facebook is estimated to have over 200 million active users, with 100 million of those logging in every day.
Whether we like it or not, the internet is part of our everyday lives and some people will always find it more comfortable than the real world. The fact that on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, you can block people, therefore erasing them from your life is always going to be an attractive commodity. After all, you can’t do that in the real world. When you are online, superficial matters such as age, sex, race, disability, style, weight and so much more are blissfully absent. Therefore, there is an undeniable subversive attraction that accompanies aimlessly surfing the web. It’s a place to lose yourself and find yourself, a place of amusement, interest, freedom and convenience all right by your bedside.
I completely understand the criticisms that are leveled at so called ‘cyber space’. It can produce anti-social, lazy, manipulative and even criminal youngsters. There is also an argument to say it increases criminality on the streets as well, because youngsters have more money to spend thanks to online downloads. When people had to go out and buy commodities such as books, videos, CD’s for pleasure, they didn’t quite have the money or energy to then go out and wander the streets at 3am smashing up car windscreens and the like.
However, for me the internet is just too much of a useful tool to survive without. And the best part is, it’s ours. We built it. It is not only a feat of human expansion and invention, it is a beacon of freedom, a truly egalitarian experience.
We need to accept the fact that this consortium of information cannot be checked, it is in infinite expansion and we will never be able to fully understand it again. So let’s stop all the philosophizing and just enjoy it!