Many of us are unable to survive without the internet because our modern society has become so reliant on it. We go online every day and have become so accustomed to the net that we don’t realize the impact that the internet has on our lives. Needless to say, the internet has served us well by allowing us to connect with the rest of the world easily.
Yet, this convenience comes with a price tag. We should take a moment and ask ourselves what some of the things we may have sacrificed along the way are. That way, we can gain a proper perspective and approach the internet with caution to ensure that we don’t lose more than we gain.
This is something all of us internet users are probably aware of, especially if we’re on social networking sites like Facebook. It used to be the case that stalkers had to resort to physical means to stalk their victims. Not anymore, with our greater reliance on the internet to provide us with entertainment, goods, information, etc.
Such dependence usually means we have to reveal bits and pieces about ourselves (i.e. contact details, credit card numbers, our preferences, etc.) in order to transact with the net. Privacy gets compromised as a result, and stalkers use that to their advantage.
Even if you resolve not to engage in any social networking sites by not signing up for one, photos of you or any other information about yourself may still end up on Facebook.
How? Well, as long as you have friends who are using Facebook or any such sites, they can always post things about you that are open to the rest of the world.
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Did you get drunk at a party last night? Your friend (or enemy) snaps away with their mobile device and posts it on Facebook for the pleasure of the entire network.
Besides, you have probably provided your particulars to some internet company as you register for their newsletters, purchase their products online, etc. Who’s to say that the information you’ve given to them is kept confidential? Don’t you ever wonder how you receive random email spams? Cookies are also embedded within sites to track your mouse movements so that they can be analyzed for marketing purposes, or even for the government to track you.
Are we not all under tight surveillance here in cyberspace?
2. Reliability of Information
With millions of blogs and websites on the internet, one question we often ask is how accurate and reliable the information they provide is. Due to the convenience and low cost of publishing a blog or website, there seems to be a lack of accountability for what is being published.
The ease of modifying online publications (compared to offline publications like books and newsletters) makes putting out incorrect information less of an issue for the owner of the site. They can always amend mistakes at no cost.
Specialized journalists, who adhere to the accuracy of the stories they produce, are now replaced by bloggers who may not have such practices. The result is a massive number of different versions of the same story because there is no way to verify it without a trustworthy source (such as a news site). At worst, opinions can be misinterpreted as facts by readers online, who may then spread them as the gospel truth in social networking sites.
As internet users become aware of rumors masquerading as truths, we become skeptical of whatever we see or hear about, whether on Facebook or blogs.
This creates a generation of cynics among us who regard internet information as unreliable and shaky at best.
While some bloggers write their entries and pay little attention to the correctness of their information, others simply lift them from other sources and claim them as their own.
Plagiarism, as it is called, is rampant in cyberspace. You have probably seen the same content appearing on different websites with no references to the original source. The reason why many seem to be doing it is perhaps that the free concept of the internet has led us to believe that information is meant to be spread.
Such an ingrained mindset has a similar impact on our perspectives of paying for entertainment. Since the coming of Napster, purchasing music has become unnecessary for some of us. We can just download the latest albums of our favorite artists off the internet. Then came the popularity of movies, e-books, applications, and games, all of which could be downloaded illegally through file-sharing and bit-torrent applications.
Whether or not you support the free distribution of information and digital commodities like music, copyrights have never been so drastically infringed before the internet was available.
4. Genuine Communication
On one hand, the internet facilitates communication like no other technology has done before. Emails and chat messengers allow us to be in contact with anyone in the world as long as we are online.
In that sense, internet users like you and me are empowered with an enriched network of unprecedented accessibility. However, communication is more than just accessibility or contact ability. For the sake of connectivity, the internet has sacrificed quality and perhaps genuine communication.
Messages in the form of text can be hard to interpret. Most of us have experienced misunderstandings that arise from the ambiguity of emails or online chats. To make up for the lack of facial expressions and body language present in real life, emoticons naturally arise to minimize the confusion.
Nevertheless, it is still quite hard for one to feel as heard online as when one connects with another in real life. Yet, such quality communications are being more and more replaced by online communication. Again, it has to do with our dependence on the internet.
Shy individuals may hail such superficial online communication as their savior to a better social life. To that, I would say the internet provides a good initiation stage for them to get to know people.
For the friendship to progress further, it would still require a physical meet-up in order to truly connect. What happens is that these individuals end up relying on online communication so much that they become too comfortable with it to advance to offline conversations.
A virtual social life online is still a pseudo one.
5. Work/Life Balance
As accessibility, connectivity, and contact ability improve with the internet, work expectations increase. Customers expect companies to be available 24-hours a day online, which means that a fully functional website is a must.
The implication of such universal expectation is that employees have to access their work emails during the wee hours after office hours. The line between working time and personal time becomes blurred.
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Even without the rising expectation of society at large, the mere fact that the internet is accessible 24/7 means that you can check your emails at any time outside of work. Your bosses know that for a fact and may use that to their advantage by sending you to work during weekends.
Their reason? Everybody’s doing it, so it’s expected of you to follow with the rest of the world.
But, of course, it may not happen that way because it depends on the company culture and policy on taking work home. What I’m saying is that the temptation is there in most workplaces to utilize the awesome accessibility of the internet to push work into our personal space. Sometimes even employees themselves want to take work back home, knowing that they can do it over the weekend.
If you want to maintain work/life balance, sometimes it’s necessary to draw that line and segregate work time from personal time.
One Thing the Internet Will Never Ruin: Creativity
However, one thing remains unruined by the internet and probably never will be: creativity.
It seems that there is no end to human creativity, especially when user-generated content is a primary characteristic of the internet. Looking at all the video mashups on YouTube, satirical blogs, podcasts, etc., it is clear that the internet will evolve along with humans’ unlimited creativity.
The beautiful thing about the internet is its ability to connect with the world, with everybody inspiring and sharing information with everyone else. Rather than undermining creativity, the internet cultivates and unites the world with it.