In these distopian worlds, social relationships are not even based on reality, but on the façades of other online users, whose anonymous interactions can be untruthful and unreliable.
I was doing some reading tonight regarding the current state of the Internet and recalling all the conversations I had in my early years of using the World Wide Web. I remember looking hopefully into the future for the worldwide realization that we are all humans stuck on this spinning rock together and we have so much to offer each other in the way of knowledge and experience.
Generally, one wishes not to see themselves as naive. None of us wishes to learn that society, or life in general, has gotten the better of us. I stumbled upon a debate on Stanford’s site that caught my attention. The debate is titled The Internet: Bringing People Together Virtually or Pushing Them Away Physically? At once, my mind was engaged and while this page is a very short read, I still cannot seem to redirect my attention away from the truths we have learned about the Internet.
While we know much evil has made entrance, and set up shop, on the Internet, it is important to note the good that has been done as well. The Internet has become a place to share our thoughts and opinions. Even those who live in countries without the freedom I know from the United States, have avenues to access the Internet, legally or illegally, to share their views.
Medical advancements have been made through the joining of efforts of universities and companies around the globe. Educational resources abound in almost every language. Religion has found a place within the structure of the Internet and more and more people are aware of the spiritual idiosyncrasies of various religious groups. All of these things are good.
The world has shrunk in size due to the ability to communicate across all types of borders, geographical or otherwise. Friendships have been developed between peoples of many nations. While misuse of private information has been a huge concern for a number of years, even the status and location of loved ones has become helpful in better connecting families.
I have to admit that I had higher hopes for the World Wide Web. In the early days of the Internet, as it was understood by the common home user, we used to have monikers, pseudonyms, or facades which we used to represent our actual personas. However, we used those as protection as we ventured out into an unknown world to express ourselves. These personas protected us, but would often be used to attack others. This behavior is still seen today, but it is even worse as I will share later.
Rings or syndicates of criminals have turned the Internet into a marketplace for corruption and vices. What once used to be stopped by a door is now invited into the home through a small lit window. All manner of vices and illegal activities can be fed over a connection to an ISP server. This access to unhealthy options has created a society with little moral values. To some this might not seem like much of an argument, but consider how different the morals of “connected” nations are versus before the entrance of the Internet.
One problem is that many of the current users of technology are too young to see the difference that the Internet has created. They use technology that was developed way before their time. What technology has been created in their time was built off of foundations that came years before. While the technology has been passed along and superseded, the values of the people who began this journey have not been.
I mentioned earlier that we used to hide behind false personas. Today, we have beyond the need to hide behind these facades. Now, we create accounts with our real names and we throw caution to the wind and carelessly belittle, berate, and destroy others without concern for ourselves or anyone else. A reputation no longer means much, and there is no place for civility in Internet discourse, evidently.
I am ashamed to see our misuse and neglect with technology that could have greatly impacted our world for the better. While we still see glimpses of good coming from the Internet, society is not focused as a whole on that goal. If the Internet will ever truly be the benefit that it was created to be, society, or societies and cultures, must determine that it is good that we want.
If you are unable to tell at this point, I have a lack of optimism about the desire of humanity to do good. I do not subscribe to the theory that all people are innately good. I believe that every person is innately flawed and selfish. We must strive to be better than our nature and look for opportunities to ensure what I read in this debate from Stanford does not become the norm. However, I think we have already reached that point. The Internet is not bringing us together, it is tearing us apart.
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