How the Internet is changing society

The last decade we have had two important inventions, the Internet and the cellphone. Brought together in the smartphone, we have probably the most important and culture-changing invention in a long time.

But how big do you think the online revolution in terms of impact on society. Compared to the TV, radio, car, rock & roll? In some ways it seems to me it could be even bigger than all of those.

One of the things it brings to mind is the divide that seems to be widening between people who successfully make use of the internet and people who don’t. There are people my age (20s) who can’t find information online, who can’t deal with shared calendars for a project, or google docs. This puts them at such a socio-economic disadvantage. I don’t think that was ever the case for tv, radio etc.

It’s changing us completely. Especially as it pertains to ones privacy. Just look at us 15 years ago. We were very private people. It would never even occur to us to share with our entire circle of friends what we had for dinner last night. On some thing called Facebook.

If this upward trend continues, I wonder if a hundred years from now people will look back on us and wonder why we thought privacy was so important. I dare say it may seem strange or dubious to them.

A brave new world.

On a somewhat related note, at the onset of the arrival of the internet, there was the perception that we would evolve into much smarter beings. I’m pretty certain that this hasn’t happened.

I remember the idea touted was that research would be so much simpler from what it was pre-internet that students or anyone for that matter, would be able to so thoroughly research a topic this would surely smarten us up a bit.

Let me explain. Prior to the internet, if you wanted to research something that wasn’t from a book, you used a manual called the Periodic Guide to Literature which was printed quarterly. You then had to schlep your way to the local college library.

Say you were doing a paper on, I don’t know, volcanoes. You’d go to the Periodic Guide to Lit. and see the most recent articles on the subject from newspapers and magazines.

Based on the title and a very brief description of the article, you would fill out a slip of paper listing the magazine / newspaper release date or issue number and head over to the microfiche area. You gave your request sheet to whoever was working behind the counter who then retrieved the microfilm that had that newspaper or magazine stored on it.

Then you headed over to individualized viewing carrels and scrolled through to found your article. More times than not, you discovered that the article in question didn’t provide much as to what you were looking for so you then repeated the entire process from step one.

Obviously we’re talking hours here in what can be now done with but a few clicks of the mouse.

And now circling back to my point, the belief was that since we could so dramatically streamline the research technique, we’d have mountains of available time which would no doubt be used in the pursuit of life’s greater offerings.

Instead we came up with Angry Birds and Twitter.

Oh, and lots and lots of porn to look at.

Lots of things, but just a few that come to mind:

  • It lets people in rural, isolated areas have access to information they would never get otherwise.
  • It allows people to have contact who might otherwise feel isolated and alone. Now at least they can keep in contact with family and friends, or just reach out to boards like this or other groups they want to keep in contact with and communicate.
  • Research. Not necessarily for college homework, it is also good if you find out some bad medical news about you or a loved one - you can go online to read up more and find out what treatments are available or hear/read what others have gone through. This info can be very powerful and allows someone to get the information they need to process what is happening.
  • Entertainment - movies, books, music, photos - all at the click of a button. And yes, porn too!
  • News - whether it be political or world news, or sports, or entertainment, you can now keep up with what is happening and get real-time data instead of waiting for the morning newspaper or flipping channels on TV.
  • Practical tools - writing a letter and emailing it, or doing online banking, or creating a spreadsheet, or doing taxes online, or doing art projects or photography or films - yes a lot of that can be done without the internet, but you can submit your work instantly when finished. Look how many people are now working from home - if not full time at least part time. Oh, and you can often find work and apply online!
  • Idiots will be idiots. Yes, you can find what you want to find - bigfoot, aliens, tons of urban myths, evil bigoted glurge, hateful groups - but they were always out there. You just have a larger group of idiots buying into that bullshit.

I think for the most part, the internet has been a positive force. We need to make access free to everyone, and give them the skills to learn how to use it - be it poor kids in urban areas, elderly people home alone, or just the busy stay-at-home moms and dads who need support.
It would be easy to come up with a list of bad things but I am the optimist and will stick with my viewpoint that the internet has been a good thing.

Many valid points already made. Yes, I think the impact will be bigger than TV, radio, and cars combined.

But *rock & roll? * I don’t know about all that…

Not just information but shopping.

even basic dialup internet can easily open up thousands of shopping options to folks way out in the sticks. I have several customers who order probably 75% of their material needs via internet. Clothes, non perishable groceries, tools, books, small appliances, decor items. If you are 50 miles from the nearest walmart, $10 in shipping sounds like a fabulous deal. Sites like amazon that often allow you to consolidate shipping on a broad variety of items can make this even more practical.

I live in a beautiful area of my city, the houses are pretty, the trees are huge, it’s lovely. I walk my dogs on these streets and parks every day.

Almost everyone I see now, has a device in their hand that they are looking at or earphones in their ears listening to some thing.

Like, everyone. All the time. Seriously, students on the way to/from school. Mom’s pushing strollers, people walking their dogs, coming out of building, going into banks, standing at bus stops. People glance up to cross streets and enter buildings and such. But it’s like they’re all in their own little worlds.

Sometimes I stand on the street corner and every person I can see is engaged more with their phone than their surroundings. Including people driving cars, it’s truly pervasive.

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not judging. I’m sure I would spend my time happily playing Angry Birds, while waiting at a Dr’s office. But always looking at your device? Sometimes I want to say, “Lift your head, engage with your world and your life!”

When I got my Shuffle, I did listen, when walking my dog, for a time. But gave it up as I felt less engaged with my dog, and I kind of felt like the dog understood that. I could be wrong about that last part.

People go into variety stores talking on their phones, shop, pay and leave without ever getting off them. You over hear people’s conversations almost continuously. Hell, you can hear people conducting their business!

I once saw a beautiful hawk in the park, it flew quite low and was huge, wildly out of place, and gone in a second. The park, being in the core, was busy with pedestrians, but they were all looking at phones or lost in their tunes.

It’s definitely a different world.

The impact is already enormous, and I think people are only now beginning to realize its collective potential.

Look at the backlash against SOPA/PIPA: Millions of people organized into an ad-hoc political movement in a matter of days, a movement that succeeded in derailing a juggernaut of bought-and-paid-for legislation.

Look at Child’s Play, a multi-million dollar charity that works in large part by enabling people to donate specific goods directly to children’s hospitals, without a lot of administration getting in the way and soaking up funds.

Look at Kickstarter, which lets people directly fund the production of products–from gadgets to games to books–that they want available. This goes far beyond shopping from home; it’s not just accessing the marketplace, it’s changing it.

The internet is opening up new ways to coordinate and act, personally and collectively, to shape the world. It’s active in ways that previous communications breakthroughs were not. It’s participatory. Sure, it can and will be misused and overused, as elbows complains, but that hardly diminishes its impact.

It causes revolutions that lack leadership leading into anarchy. Or ennui.

It’s hard to articulate, but it will continue to happen on a global scale, getting much much worse, before it gets better.

Not complaining so much as observing, truly. It’s a noticeably different world than just a few years ago, in this regard.

We’re at the tip of the iceberg. When corporations and law enforcement can check out your parents, and grandparents Facebook profiles and web history…that’s when they own you.

I disagree that the web is having a negative impact on learning and literacy. EVERYBODY wants to be literate (in America at least) so they can keep up on the internet. 50 years ago, a kid could drop out of middle or high school and spend the rest of his life reading nothing else (like my dad, for example). Even a guy who was functionally illiterate in the 60s (hell, even up through the 90s) could still make a good living as a steelworker or handyman.

There are still relics of that age around, but 50 years from now it’s going to be a whole new world. In a very *good *way. People decry textspeak and tweets, and claim Facebook is making us stupid. But the general literacy and education level of the populace is going to be fantastically, positively impacted by the internet. *It’s already happening. *People who have no specific education in a variety of fields are able to learn things about those fields, with a speed and ease that were unheard of 20 years ago–about the medical field, politics, and current events, to name a few.

Sure, there’s misinformation out there. But it’s greatly outnumbered by the good stuff. And even if Mary Lou Smalltown doesn’t know the exact diagnostic criteria for depression, or what medication would be best for a bipolar sufferer, or how to solve problems of genital mutilation and food scarcity in the third world, she knows that these issues exist. And, if she becomes especially interested in one of these topics, she doesn’t have to wait for a newspaper/radio station/TV station to decide they’re important enough to cover.

The internet is so good for imparting a hugely broad base of knowledge to a hugely broad base of humanity. It’s possible to argue that Mary Lou doesn’t need to know about most of this stuff anyway, but I’m all for education in any form–even for its own sake.

Which while people joke about it, is quite the change. More porn than you could ever run out of, catering to an immense number of different tastes & fetishes. The control freaks have lost the war against porn.

Not to mention that the outlet of watching porn is strongly correlated with a decrease in sexual crime.

The internet is sparking relationships that would not otherwise occur all over the world, it is probably the greatest source of international relationships and marriages in…ever. I think if you look at the rate of spouse based permanent residency applications in the USA you see a crazy spike around 2008.

If your view is widely held by people of your age, I feel sorry for you. You apparently did not receive a basic education in elementary through high school that I did. The skills for using the Internet should have been taught to you long before your fingers ever touched a keyboard.

Yet, if you know you have a problem, what are you doing about it?

How is the internet REALLY changing society? It’s not like the industrial revolution where they were inventing stuff like cars, railroads, steam engines, skyscrapers and airplanes. Stuff that actually made real fundamental changes to society. All our top research these days seems to go into figuring out new algorithms for complex financial instruments and social networking sites.

I would say that the internet is actually making people MORE isolated, not less. It lets people spend long hours online reinforcing their pre-existing beliefs by reading the inane postings of people who already agree with them. It lets them safely belittle those they don’t agree with without having to worry about any real social consequences.

It’s great that someone in Bumfuck, Wherever can “feel” connected by going online or high school “friends” you barely talked to in high school can reconnect with you after 10 years. But those connections are no more “real” than s relationship with porn is real.

And the fact that you now have this time-sink to occupy you makes it less likely you’ll move out of Bumfuck to get some real life experiences or make some real friends.

My best friend is almost unable to live in the moment anymore. Her phone is always on, and it is always beeping or buzzing with calls, voicemail and text notifications. It’s really frustrating going on vacation with her; all of her friends and family’s daily dramas come along with the smartphone.

The Internet ruined everything. Kids are losing it.

They no longer feel motivated to sneak into Daddy’s toolshed and steal the porns to distribute to their friends at school. Now all they need to do is turn on the computer. Takes a lot of the fun out of it.