Though my college days of learning will one day come to an end, my self-education will never cease. I have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and an access to outlets for the flow of new ideas. I love to learn. I am constantly striving to broaden my horizons and improve my skills. My main source of research for work, play or life in general is the internet. I still refer to books for a substantial amount of information, but the use of the internet is something I have worked for years and will continue to work towards mastering. I have been privileged enough to have been born into a generation and society where the internet has become the most convenient means of conducting research, among its many other uses. This is how it is today for most people in first and second world countries. Though I tend to have a rather old-fashioned way of going about things in general and a particularly keen interest in and appreciation of that which has become antiquated (i.e., hand writing letters instead of emailing someone, or listening to a vinyl record on my phonograph instead of on an MP3 player) for someone my age, I admit I am not excluded from this majority. I have been using the internet to find answers to questions I would not have found conveniently elsewhere via the Google search engine for years, just like everybody else I know. I have accounts on all the popular social networking sites, which I have used for years to acquire necessary career-related connections or promote and expand my personal music projects. I have used the internet as a tool for research in nearly all the expository writing I have done. I have used it for research required by the content of my blogs, books and plays. I have used it to investigate history, to inform myself of current events, to learn how to better take care of my mind and body, to learn new skills and activities, to obtain inspiration, to better understand my fellow human beings, to prepare and instruct myself, and I have even utilized it through the process of making important life-changing decisions.
Anybody who spends a substantial amount of time on the web has been influenced in some way by the information they came upon. Over the course of numerous hours spent browsing the reaches of this virtual realm one can easily be barraged by thousands of pieces of varying information, each of which will inevitably have some kind of impact on the individual, no matter how harmless and miniscule. Obviously, with the potential to have this much influence on so many aspects of human thinking, there lurks the stark reality that something is bound to be misused or misinterpreted. All great things come with great risk or cost, do they not? And this is only from the perspective of the recipients of said information. The concept is reversed once we start looking at things from the perspective of the sharers and developers of such information; the millions of bloggers, web journalists, editors, developers, designers and reporters who share a piece of their mind or help to spread someone else’s ideas. They have the ability to change the world—sometimes in 140 characters or less. With so many varying points of view, ideas and opinions swirling through society there will never cease to be subjective information and distorted facts. Nobody is invulnerable from the inevitable; anybody who spends time on the internet is influenced by something that somebody else has written or designed. This is both a wondrous and deadly aspect of the World Wide Web. Never before in history has it been easier to share one’s own thoughts, ideas and beliefs with the rest of the world. The inspiration and influence of others has never been more accessible. It has never been more convenient, popular or accepted (and even expected).
While there is no denying the unlimited potential of the internet as a powerful and constructive tool for bettering and empowering those who use it, there are many elements to it that pose unwelcome risks to society. There are two types of people who are especially susceptible to these risks, both voluntarily and involuntarily: 1) those who would intentionally use or misuse the information for destructive purposes and 2) the naïve and gullible.
The following list is a rundown of several of the major pros and cons of the internet, according to my own personal opinion.
1.A Teaching Tool: It presents unlimited potential for expanding knowledge. Vast amounts of information have been made readily available and can enable people to learn or accomplish just about anything they desire.
2.Convenience: It is one of the quickest sources for obtaining information and conducting research available to most people today. All the information you could ask for is at your fingertips anywhere you have a connection.
3. Portability: One no longer has to rely solely on literature betwixt the bindings of heavy, cumbersome books that take up obscene amounts of storage space and are not easy to transport. Rather than walking to the library in the rain, I can access any nonfictional information I want from the convenience of my laptop at home or work computer at any given time. Those with smart phones can do so also on these devices where they have connection to the internet.
4. Relevance: It is easy to keep information current and up-to-date.
1. Little Confidentiality and Spread of False or Useless Info: Vast quantities of information are available around the clock, and indefinitely even, as the information some may assume has been permanently eliminated once they take it down has often already circulated and leeched so far into the reaches of the system that it will never be completely eliminated. I will not go into the obvious privacy issues that arise here, as that would open an entire new can of worms, and I wish to stay at least somewhat within my original context. But, what this means for the informants and the informed when it comes to information on the net is that incorrect information, or information that may have even been shared by mistake is not always easy to correct. Once something is out there, it is usually out for good. From the moment the first person hears, reads or watches something online and shares it, that information can spread like the plague. This is also how pointless, useless and sometimes vulgar content “goes viral” at an alarming rate. The efficiency and convenience of the internet, the very things it is praised and utilized for, become freighting avenues for the spread of unsavory information, which can have a negative impact regionally, nationally or even globally.
2. Accuracy: Few sources can be 100% trusted. And it is a practiced and invaluable skill being able to identify and determine which sources can be. Sometimes it can prove to be a difficult or even impossible task locating the true and original sources of any given information shared through a second or third party. For the untrained, it is not uncommon to stumble upon articles that at first glance seem legitimate and objective, but upon further investigation, prove to lack thorough citation of any outside sources that may have been used. No matter how professional some content may come across as, it makes for a very weak source to cite should you wish to use the information provided. Because print sources require much more time and resources to publish, they have and most likely always will be the most trustworthy sources of factual information. Unfortunately, in our modern age of technology and the worshipped concept of speed and efficiency, they prove a dreary and inconvenient option to many, who would much rather turn to the internet and risk more than they know in doing so.
3. Negative Social and Cultural Effects: The age at which people are exposed to the marketing schemes of money and power-seeking corporations, corruptive worldly views on subjects such as sex or drugs and media bias concerning political affairs becomes younger with each passing year. Family time is not stressed as much as it once was. Children and teens learn acceptable and desirable social behaviors from whatever the media and through social networking rather than by their parents. Instead of asking Dad how to tie a fly for a hook or Mom how to make a lasagna kids grab their smart phone, iPad or hurry for the nearest computer to consult Google for eHow instructions or WikiAnswers. Worse yet, Dad doesn’t know how to fish and Mom never cooks, so the kids are online watching porn in their bedrooms because...well, they can. And there is no family dinner to sit down to. With the explosive growth of technology and the way it dominates modern life as we know it today, people’s values have shifted and morphed over recent decades. I am no doom-sayer, but I fear that the very thing that has enabled mankind to develop into such a wondrously powerful population will be responsible for the ultimate downfall of society. In the end, the corruptive risks posed to humankind’s moral standings will overshadow the damage caused by any earthquake or hurricane to wreak havoc on this planet. As the downward spiral of the world’s integrity continues, countless destructive behaviors can be traced back to what has become the single most powerful source of information on the globe: the internet.
4. Bothersome and Intrusive: This last one is half rant, half legitimate point. But, I know there are many out there who would agree heartedly. There is such a saturation of garbage on the internet, it is hard to get anything done while trying to avoid pop-up ads, those pervasively annoying social media trends (GIFs, memes, “inspirational” quotes, etc.) repetitive and excessive celebrity gossip, and so on. Besides those obvious obtrusions and distractions, supposedly legitimate content itself is sometimes questionable or misleading. Once again, I cannot stress enough how it is often a precarious process navigating one’s way through a slew of gaudy content and filtering out the bad from the good on the web while trying to conduct important research.
The internet is a powerful tool with unlimited possibility for rapidly informing and empowering individuals who know how to use it correctly. But, it comes also with a great risk for corrupting, de-moralizing and generally littering and misinforming the minds of the less-adept with useless or even dangerous ideas and information. It must be used correctly and for constructive, productive pursuits. If a larger focus on this is made to the up-and-coming generation, the world will see more positive changes than negative. The potential is there; it simply needs to be tapped into by courageous and willing young minds.
Explore on. Learn on. Dance on!