The Internet. That beautiful yet awful, useful yet time-wasting, world in which many people are lost in. The history of the internet is complex and involved many factors that played together to make it what it is today. The concept of networking was there from the 60s where the idea of packet switching was introduced and written about. With time it developed to the ARPANET, and other technologies which developed into what is known as the World Wide Web today. The internet was developed first as a method of sharing information, such as e-mails, and it has now become a means through which we communicate, access information, get entertained, and it facilitates activities that are otherwise tedious, such as job or accommodation searching. It allows you to communicate with people all around the world, reducing travel or mail costs. The internet has become an integral part of almost everyone’s life nowadays and this, despite the many benefits associated with the internet, also carries with it a heavy load of issues that need to be addressed. The issues discussed are by no means all the problems that arise from internet use, but only a handful to discuss.
Addiction to the internet may seem like something insignificant, or in some sense comical. I mean, it’s the internet, it’s always there, what could possibly be the problems of overusing it? Psychologist Kimberley Young defines four types of addiction; cyber sexual, being online, purchases or gambling, and compulsive surfing. Just like with certain drugs or smoking, internet addiction can be associated with withdrawal symptoms, not necessarily pathological, but more of psychological effects. These could include the sense of missing and wanting to get back on the internet as soon as possible. When travelling through areas with no connection or spending some time in a certain place, addicts tend to look for a Wi-fi signal whether they are at a rest stop, a fuel station or even at their friend’s house. There is a certain void in their life that they are using the internet to fill. Addiction can lead to overspending money and time, introduction of harmful websites and laziness in general.
Laziness is caused by the internet for obvious reasons. Do you want to buy something? You can on the internet. Are you low on medication? Buy some from the internet. Hungry? Delivery is available after purchasing on the internet. Want to see someone? It’s convenient to just open video-calling software and contact them on the internet rather than making your way over there. It simplifies many things; you can even earn money from home on the internet (through ethical and unethical ways) and learn stuff as well!
Privacy and abuse
Big issue. Should we be concerned about our privacy? Yes we do. Why? Well, because whatever we post, we don’t know where the information might end up. For example, having accounts on certain websites externalizes information to service providers and other people. If your picture is available on the Internet somewhere, it can be taken and used for other purposes than intended. There is a rising issue with girls, for example, sending pictures on the internet that can be used by the recipient as blackmail. Despite the act being voluntary, it still poses a risk on the long term. The pilot of the recently lost Malaysia Airlines flight was shown to have a flight simulator, which he posted a picture of on Facebook, probably causing authorities to search his home and laptops for information from the simulator that might help them conclude whether he hijacked the plane or not. Access to personal information online can help people track down others. Ethical issues in the workplace or in education have arisen when people posted abuse on the Internet, causing people to lose their jobs or place. It can be used to socially profile people; a recent opening of a café in Egypt had the management request reserving customers to send them their Facebook profiles before going.
As mentioned, many turn to the internet as a means to fill up a hole or a gape in their lives. People look for friends and even soulmates on chat sites, dating sites and through social networking. But do online friendships really feel the same as friends you make in real life? I certainly don’t think so. You can find someone who seems perfect for you somehow when you look at their pictures, read their description and chat with them. Then you meet them and there isn’t really that same connection that you get with the friends you know and hang out with. Physical presence and contact are important in establishing connections. Forming a ‘profile’ and conveying yourself to others, and becoming friends or following them on certain social networks may give a false sense of that connection. And with social networks sucking more and more out of some people’s lives, it might cause the development of a new form of friendship that is different to the one we were used to before the internet became such a huge establishment. This form is certainly less genuine, less intimate, and less likely to continue on the long term. Yes, the internet has helped reconnect old friends, something that is near impossible otherwise, but most things have their positives and negatives, and we’re mainly discussing the issues here. Despite it being a great time-filler, the internet is not enough to fill that gape that people might suffer from due to lack of intimacy or close connections with at least one person.
MOOCs, or “massive open online courses”, are now becoming increasingly popular on the internet. Despite it being a much more accessible (probably more affordable as well) form of education, I still believe it is not as effective as college or university life. As well as contributing to the laziness factor, I believe there is not the same feel from studying virtually than going to university. Most of us have heard stories from our parents’ university life and one day we students will do the same with our children! Studying online is dull, and with a lack of motivation, such as that from university friends, it might not take you far. There probably is going to be bias between someone who stuck to traditional forms of education and others who have achieved degrees online, it almost doesn’t sound as serious. Will they replace universities? I doubt it, at least not any time soon. MOOCs can be used as a supplement to current education, but probably won’t replace it for a long time, if it ever does. It needs improvements and innovations before it can be taken as a serious alternative.
Although we find a lot of drawbacks as we talk about internet and how it affects people, it’s still the number 1 source of information. For example, google, the fastest and most convinient source of information right now. This gives people the chance to get trustworthy data they need in a matter of minutes.