The Internet – Boon or Detriment to Society? by Rob Purdy

There is no doubt the Internet is a wondrous creation. The entire world is rapidly becoming obsessed with it. Everywhere you look you’re bound to see something related to the Internet. Click on the icon at left to see an Internet growth summary.

There is little doubt about how useful the Internet can be. Schoolchildren [PAGE 2] can receive help with homework, investors can keep track of stocks, sports scores and statistics are just a click away for fans. These are but a few of the myriad ways people use the Internet.

When television exploded onto the scene in the 1940-50s, it provided much the same things the Internet is providing people today: entertainment and information. However, the Internet has certain advantages over television and, most importantly, it provides instant access to specific information. It is interactive, whereas television is not.

Avid proponents of the Internet claim it could feasibly replace print media. The cost of publishing a newspaper or magazine online is far less than the cost of printing one. There is no need to purchase bulk paper and ink, which in itself makes publishing on the Internet more attractive. Moreover, not as many hired hands are required to publish online.

Newspapers and other print media have yet to take full advantage of the Internet. Their online publications usually appear as carbon copies of their printed publications. There is no interactivity between the reader and the source. Advertisements online do not offer direct gratification.

Yes, the Internet is indeed spectacular. But, as the saying goes, “Behind every silver lining …” There are several problems associated with the Internet. It allegedly opens the world to everyone, regardless of race, creed, sex, etc. But despite lowering costs of necessary technological equipment and the advent of Web TV, not everyone can afford to go online.

Those who do decide to begin signing on risk becoming “addicted” [PAGE 3] to the internet. Internet Addiction (IAD) was identified two years ago by Dr. Ivan Goldberg, a New York City psychiatrist who coined the term “Internet Addiction Disorder.” Dr. Goldberg said IAD is not a recognized medical addiction like alcoholism, but “more like an out-of-control behavior that threatens to overwhelm the addict’s normal life.”

Whether or not a user becomes addicted, the attractiveness of the internet still has strong appeal. The internet can be divided into six services: 1. E-mail; 2. Telnet; 3. File Transfer Protocol; 4. Usenet news; 5. Mailing Lists; and, 6. World Wide Web. Of these, the two most used are E-mail and the WWW. I discuss E-mail briefly later.

The Web, as the World Wide Web (WWW) is commonly referred to, is witnessing a massive growth. Many people confuse the Internet with the Web, thinking they are the same thing. Most major online services and internet providers shoot users straight to the web, so the confusion is somewhat justified.

Adding to the confusion is the outpouring of “Web TV”, a product created and designed to allow non-computer owners to surf the web/internet from their television sets. Why they didn’t call it “Internet TV” will only cause more and more people to believe the Web IS the internet.

Adults aren’t safe from the attractive lure of what the internet can bring them. IBM and Dennis Leary challenge web users to “work the web.” The Internet can be used to make money and it’s not hard to do, depending on how advanced you want to get.

Advanced technology always has dramatic effects on society. With the ability to work at home, a lot of people are leaving their offices for the greener grass that allows them to set their own hours, spend quality time with family and not have to deal with the often hasslesome commute to and from work.

The University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, has done extensive research on the various effects our digitally growing globe are subjected to. The advent of telecommuting, while desirable for personal reasons, harms the Central Business District.1

Another good web page put up by UW discusses “Culture and the Digital Society”. Essentially, the page posits that “… new technologies wage war upon the culture they emerge into.”2

Technology can’t bear the blame or accept the laurels. “Technology is often seen as the culprit. However, it is the people that use and apply the technology to their projects that are at fault and make the mistakes, NOT technology. It must be recognized that information technologies are not changing what we do. Rather, they are changing the way we do it!” This is the thrust of a paper published online.3

The Internet’s number one feature is email. The number of users logging on continues to skyrocket. Most do so for email capability. It allows one to stay in touch inexpensively with family, friends and acquaintances next door, in the next town, in the next state, in the next country and so on. Email is faster and cheaper than “snail mail” (regular Post Office mail). A big problem with Email is junk mail or Spam that inundates internet users’ mailboxes. These useless messages usually try to entice the unwary person into investing in some form or fashion in a “get-rich-quick” scheme.

So, is the internet a boon or is it detrimental? The question is being intensely investigated. It is a valid question. The simple answer, of course, is society embracing the pluses of technology and searching ardently for ways to alleive or eliminate the minuses.

About Justin Logue - MA Digital Arts
I'm 22 years old, from Glasgow and obtained a BA(Hons) Digital Art from the University of the West of Scotland in 2011. Currently studying the online version of the MA Digital Arts programme at Camberwell College of Arts in London.

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