Every time I’m asked a question or every time I need an answer, my first instinct is to grab my phone and Google it. I find this reflex of mine and of so many people around me fascinating, especially considering the fact that web browsing was only invented 32 years ago (another fact I googled) and yet people of all age groups seem to have acquired this skill instantaneously.
But what is the internet? Technically, it is a group of interconnected computer networks that allow us to share information and communicate from anywhere in the world. But what does it really mean to us, humans? I know my grandparents get all their information through WhatsApp forwards and fake news. My parents scroll through the news section on their laptops, primarily work online and have embraced this ‘modern technological world’. My brother spends hours on his iPad, watching YouTube videos and playing video games, all of which could not have been possible without the internet. The concrete grip this world has over our easily corrupted brains is terrifying and it’s everywhere. Having a platform as widespread as this makes it so easy to influence such a wide audience, and more than that it makes us susceptible to anything thrown our way.
One example of just how much power the internet holds over us was the case of the 2016 presidential elections and the alleged data scandal operated by Russia. The fact that our individual social media feeds are designed in such a way that they reinforce our pre-existing beliefs highlights just how easily the internet and social media apps can use confirmation bias to their advantage over the world. Additionally, there’s the topic of fake news and credibility. The internet gives its users an unbridled opportunity to post whatever they want, whether it be facts or opinions, and then gives us no real way to distinguish between the two.
Nowadays I’ve found that the internet is my only source of entertainment with all my other previously ‘entertaining’ activities being dimmed in comparison. There’s something about the constant stimulation we get through Netflix shows or social media posts. And the thing is, these forms of entertainment don’t require any active thinking from us, such as what reading a book or engaging in a craft would. Instead, it’s just passive consumption of convenience rather than active engagement that provides us with mental stimulation and pleasure. Personally, I’ve started to consider everything that I do to be productive, I realised that I no longer read for pleasure I just read so I can feel as though I’m engaging in a fruitful activity. My very definition of productivity has changed ever since I started using the internet more and more. Now whether that’s a good thing or not is still an ongoing debate in my head.
Are We Dependent On The Internet?
I’ve never been a particularly social person and to be quite honest I’ve always preferred staying at home to going out and meeting people. But nevertheless, I have found importance in actual face-to-face social interaction, after all, humans are social creatures at their very core. It is this very ‘human’ need to interact with people that the internet is slowly destroying, by making it easier and easier to make friends or engage in social activity without actually meeting someone in real life. Although it is great that we have the opportunity to get to know so many people we would never have been exposed to before, I still feel as though online social interaction is not an adequate substitute for actual, real-life interactions.
That being said, I do believe that this dependence on the internet isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it does hold a lot of benefits. The pandemic, for instance, really showed us just how dominant the internet is in today’s world, when everything switched online. Social interaction, schooling, entertainment, suddenly everything that we experienced in real life was put onto the screen, and the very fact that we managed to find ways to continue our normal lives through this relatively recent medium is astounding. We now have so much information right at our fingertips, making the gaining of knowledge so easy and accessible to everyone all across the world. We can now communicate with family on the other end of the world, and stay a lot emotionally closer with loved ones even if we are physically distant. We can shop for necessities, pay our bills and continue our work without moving out of our houses.
Quite frankly I don’t know where I would be, and where all of humanity would be without the internet in today’s world. Be it entertainment, information, general knowledge or academic work, the internet really gives us everything we need to live the life we live today, but I’m not sure if that’s necessarily a good thing.
The views expressed are the author’s own.