It really comes as no surprise that a lot of people would agree (most of them students) that the internet is one of man’s greatest inventions. Why wouldn’t it be? It practically has everything one needs to know. And with just a click of a mouse, you are able to access so much information in so little time. Who would’ve thought that something that started out as the US government’s way of sharing information within its own network blew up to something of a cultural phenomenon that is not limited to just its 50 states.
The way the internet has made life easier for most people means that all other resources for information are becoming obsolete. During the first half of the 20th Century, print and radio communication was the primary media sources. Later on, television replaced radio and now the internet is replacing television. And even more amazing is that the innovation process has only just begun. As Bill Gates mentioned in his essay Shaping the Internet Age, the internet is just in the infancy stage. There is so much that the internet has revolutionized (particularly in the field of communications) and has yet to make so. Just how big is the impact of the internet? This video that I found not so long ago showed the numbers that back up the internet’s influence over us.
Gates stressed a number of reasons behind its tremendous impact on the world, namely: making the world smaller, bringing people closer together, and making the world simpler. I would have to agree on all points, particularly the third. It seems as if an internet connection is the single most important thing to have these days if you want to survive in this era. In all honesty, I could do without television (YouTube), radio (Last.fm), or newspapers (Yahoo! News) as long as I have a desktop or laptop on hand and a router. I can’t tell you how much I get really pissed off when my internet service provider gets a glitch. The internet’s promise of having something to look forward to every time I open my browser makes it such a necessity. The fact that I am able to learn via the internet makes the Php999-a-month subscription fee to BayanDSL worthwhile.
However, not everything is all fine and dandy about the internet. It is the proverbial double-edged sword. It may have had a huge role in making everything a whole lot easier for us, but it’s that very reason that makes it potentially harmful (especially when we talk about privacy). Some people have the internet to thank for for the current success that they are enjoying (read: Justin Bieber) but it is also the same thing to blame for ruining them (basically anyone who’s had a sex tape or any incriminating document that has been passed around the web). Virtually anything that goes viral on the web has the potential to destroy one’s reputation. Cyber-bullying is also a problem and has led some people to commit suicide. Just imagine if Hitler had access to the internet during World War II and had Twitter account! Tsk tsk.
And of course there’s always the issue of intellectual property. It has, for the most part, almost killed the music industry (and to a certain extent, the film and television industries) for being the medium people use for downloading mp3s and videos. Also, it has served as the lazy student’s go-to “person.” Wikipedia is helpful and all but some push the envelope by copying and pasting whatever it is that is posted there and submits it as homework. What bothers me more is that some take pride in the Ctrl+C+Ctrl+V+Ctrl+S activity (yes, there’s a fan page on Facebook). It has led people to say that Google is your best friend because you can look up almost anything with it, and you’re bound to find it at one point or another.
Certainly, I could go on and on with the numerous pros and cons of the internet but that would be reiterating everything that Gates has mentioned in his essay. I have to give it to him for being very meticulous with the points that he raised. Surely enough there are a whole bunch of bloggers out there who have said these as well. For now, however, the challenge for us users (and occasionally abusers) of the internet is to be more responsible and a lot more careful. The least we can do now is use the power of the internet for good (particularly with bridging the gap between the “digital divide”) than use it for our own selfish needs.