The Internet has evolved over time. It all began in 1969 as ARPANET. ARPANET was a project of the United States Department of Defense to create a ‘nuclear-proof’ computer network. This meaning that the network would continue to function even if a part of the network was destroyed. Today, the Internet extends around the globe and includes numerous networks and computers connecting millions of people from all around the world. ( What is the Internet? ;2001) The Internet is a collection of computer networks that use a common software standard to exchange data with each other.
Using satellite links and telephone wires, Internet users can share information in different ways. The Internet allows users to easily connect through local computers, exchange e-mails with colleagues, friends and family around the world, post information for others to see, connect with friends and family through social networking sites such as ‘Facebook’ and ‘Myspace’, research information and online banking, to name just a few. (What is the Internet? ; 2001) The Internet is an important part of our everyday lives however it is not perfect.
There are many merits and pitfalls of having easy access to the vast amounts of media and information provided on the Internet. The Internet provides a quick, easy and simple method of searching for information. The Internet has become one large cyber library with enormous amounts of information provided on almost every topic imaginable. The Internet is one collective site that provides one with all the information one could possibly hope for. Using the Internet saves a lot of time as opposed to searching through books upon books in a library just to find a page where the topic concerned is mentioned briefly.
Search Engines such as Google and Yahoo provide you with instant access to hundreds of websites and files concerning the topic you wish to research. It takes a few seconds to type on your topic on a search engine and within moments, all the information you require is at the tip of your fingers. In today’s society, the youth are more concerned with instant gratification versus delayed benefit and the thought of spending hours searching through books seems somewhat ridiculous.
One reason why the Internet has become so popular is that no matter where you are in the world, If you have a computer and access to the internet you can gather information from anywhere in the world. Information is not restricted to certain users or countries, therefore allowing anyone to access information from anywhere in the world at anytime. This allows users to share useful information with one another throughout the world. Another advantage of the huge amounts of media and information provided by the Internet is the unlimited amount of information provided.
Each search provides one with hundreds or even thousands of related links. The number of related searchs and sources available are endless which provides us with all the information we could possibly need. The Internet is like all the libraries in the world combined into one in what we can call ‘cyber space. ‘ The Internet keeps us up-to-date with the modern world. Websites are continuously being updated with new information and new websites are being created everyday keeping us tuned in to the modern world.
This has a major advantage over the use of books as information in books takes a substantial amount of time to update whereas information on the Internet is updated with just a click of the button thus making the information available to us off the Internet relevant to today. Not only can we stay up-to-date with information, but also one can stay tuned in with what’s going on in the world. There are hundreds of news sites allowing one to know what is happening within minutes of the event actually taking place. One can follow the rand-dollar exchange or the world stock markets.
Sites such as these connect users from all over the world, aiding the world in the move towards one unified global village. Alongside the merits, there are also many pitfalls to having this huge amount of information and media available to us on the Internet. We have easy access to all the information in the world, however how can one differentiate between what is reliable information and what is made up? This is a major downfall of using information off the Internet as opposed to using the ‘old-fashioned’ way of using books.
It is so overwhelming having all this information presented to you and you have to now sort through it and figure out what information is true and reliable as opposed to information which could be bias and inaccurate. Some sites are neglected and not updated on a regular basis leaving one with information that is irrelevant and outdated. Websites such as Wikipedia are created in such a way that anyone has the opportunity to edit the information available by adding, deleting or modifying it.
This falls into the idea of Online Collectivism where the collective is said to be better than the individual. The General Public has the ability to change information that is displayed to the world with just the click of a button. It is a huge power and the information presented might be bias and inaccurate as a regular person writes it. This might leave one at a disadvantage thinking that everything they read is accurate and true. (Lanier:2006) Another pitfall of having access to all this information is that in order to access this information, you need access to a computer and to the Internet.
Although this has become much easier with Internet cafes, the use of this online library relies solely on this technological access. Not everyone in this world has that access, especially living in a country like South Africa, it is evident that a large majority of our fellow south Africans do not have this luxury and are therefore disadvantaged when staying up-to-date with current affairs or researching information for educational or work purposes. The Internet has made people lazy.
They no longer take the time to go to the library and search for information in books when all one has to do is type a few words and instantly receive the relevant information. People get lazy when searching for the information; as soon as they find some piece of information that is remotely significant they do not look any further. This laziness is further evident in this relatively new trend amongst the youth of skim reading. People want to find their information as soon as possible, and so they skim the surface not really taking the time to absorb or think about what they are reading.
The youth especially struggle to keep their attention focused long enough to read an article or even a book. (Appleyard: 2008) This can be directly related to the concept of the ‘Attention Economy. ‘ Attention is scarce. A problem of society today is that one doesn’t have enough attention to meet the demands of society and business. In this Attention Economy, human attention is in short supply. Gaining one’s attention is an incredibly powerful thing to have. For news sites, blogs and search engines, it is vital to gain one’s attention.
The chances of someone leaving a website if they don’t see anything that grabs their attention is very high. So websites need to make sure they contain relevant content to be a big enough incentive for one to stay on that site. Therefore it is up to the individual to decide how and on what to divide their attention on. This becomes increasingly more difficult when we are surrounded by constant distractions. ( Iskold: 2007) It this modern day, it has become difficult to focus on one task at a time without becoming distracted by these constant distractions surrounding us.
Whether it is at school, University, at work or at home – we are subject to constant distractions of the form of e-mail, ‘Facebook’, phone calls and browsing the Internet. It becomes difficult for us to decide where to put our attention. In order to ensure that I reap the benefits from everything that the Internet has to offer I need to be critical of everything I read. I cannot just assume that because I am reading something on the Internet that it is true.
To verify that the information you are using is reliable, you should check it with other sources especially books or any other form of media that excludes the Internet. I also think it is very important especially as being part of the youth of this generation to limit your time spent on the Internet and engage in human interaction. Most of the youth communicate through social networking sites and they lose the essence of communication and human interaction. I also think its is very important that we continue to read books and focus our attention on reading and absorbing rather than just skimming the surface.
Being constantly distracted by all that the Internet has to offer decreases our concentration levels leading to us never reading between the lines. Bryan Appleyard agrees where he states in the article: “Stoopid… why the Google generation isn’t as smart as it thinks. ” “The computer is training us not to attend, to drown in the sea of information rather than to swim. Jackson thinks this can be fixed. The brain is malleable. Just as it can be trained to be distracted, so it can be trained to pay attention.
Education and work can be restructured to teach and propagate the skills of concentration and focus. People can be taught to turn off, to ignore the beep and the ping. ” (Appleyard:2008) The Internet provides us not only with information we need for research, but it provides us with news from around the world, social networking sites such as ‘facebook’ and ‘Myspace’ connect us to friends and family in different countries, we can pay our bills and transfer money without ever going to the bank with online banking, one can download videos, music and movies and more.
The Internet is no longer just a source of information; it is a source of recreation and entertainment. We need to remember that the Internet does not control us. We are in control of our own lives and need to make sure that we do not become dependant on the Internet. We need to continue with our everyday lives and learn to live with these constant distractions without letting them dumb us down. I believe that the Internet was an important discovery and its evolution has certainly impacted our lives greatly but we cannot let the Internet consume us.