Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Effect of the Internet on Society Essay

The world in which we live is vastly different than that of even those who lived in the generation that came before us, especially in the arena of computer technology. Few would debate that the most revolutionary innovation of the last several decades, along with the home computer is the Internet. It is through the Internet that the average person can access the largest libraries and art galleries of the world, instantly review the news and weather up to the minute, and communicate with others-all without leaving the classroom, home or office. In fact, Internet technology has also made it possible for online access from the local coffee shop or fast food restaurant. Like other advances that came before it, however, the Internet brings up questions as to whether the Internet helps or harms society, what the implications are for an Internet society, and other key considerations. This research will analyze and discuss these various issues in an effort to better understand where the Internet began, where it will go in the future, and what it means to the modern society itself. The Birth of the Internet Before the Internet can fairly be examined and discussed, it is important to take just a slight step back in time and look at the origins of the Internet. Many people falsely believe that the Internet was the creation of marketing gurus who sought a better way to sell products and advertise to the masses in an instant, or the brainchild of a certain former vice president of the United States, but in reality, nothing could be farther from the truth. What many do not realize is that the Internet was, in the beginning, a top secret American governmental creation to allow for the effective sharing of information between the many government authorities. The first version of what we today know as the internet was launched in 1969 by the Advanced Research Projects Administration, ARPA (Vangelisti). Eventually, to make a long story short, the Internet was introduced to the general public, and soon gained massive popularity that in the 21st century has included use by people virtually from age 1 to 100. Just as quickly, the debate of the utility and best use of this awesome technology arose. Use and Usefulness of the Internet On a typical day in the United States alone, over 55 million people of all ages and demographic backgrounds access the Internet for purposes ranging from business to entertainment to academia and beyond (DiMaggio, et al). Any media form with this type of influence and allure for the general population will undoubtedly have its share of supporters and critics, legitimate users and abusers. With this consideration, it is worthwhile to discuss exactly why people use the Internet and if the Internet itself, in the end result, is really as useful as the hype surrounding it seems to indicate. A common denominator for the ultimate utility of almost any technology or product is of course money- if something cannot create monetary value, in the eyes of many, it is essentially useless. This traditional view was quickly realized by those who pioneered Internet usage in the general public in the 1980s. Before that time, anyone who wished to engage in the selling of any commodity, from shares of stock to cardigan sweaters needed to physically set up a physical place of business for customers to visit for the transaction of business, keep regular business hours and so forth, spending many thousands of dollars in the process and of course being limited to doing business in a realistic geographic area. Thanks to the Internet, however, a great deal of business can in fact be done from anywhere, as long as both parties in the transaction have computers and Internet access (Monthly Labor Review). Beyond the traditional business arrangement, in recent years, what has come to be known as telecommuting has emerged. Basically, telecommuting allows a worker to complete assigned work tasks away from the traditional office setting by using computer/Internet technology for communication, transference of data, etc. Additional popular uses for the Internet are in education, allowing for school children to access libraries thousands of miles from their classroom, or for homebound individuals to study the curricula of some of the top universities in the world. Certainly, the Internet has demonstrated already that it has a wide range of uses, and with time, more of those uses will emerge. This being understood, however, the issue of the usefulness of the Internet needs to be weighed. In researching the idea of the Internet as either something highly useful or causing more harm than good, it is fair to say, and is in fact supported by evidence, that the Internet can in fact be highly useful in a complex and fast moving world such as the one in which the people of the 21st century live. Even before the Internet was brought forward for the general public to use in more traditional settings, it is not unreasonable to assume that the technology had protected the citizens of the US from a military and governmental standpoint in countless ways that most people would not be aware of for obvious reasons (DiMaggio, et al). In the public arena, Internet technology has made it possible for physicians across the globe to consult on medical cases to save lives; essential news and information has been spread in split seconds, and billions of dollars of revenue has been generated through the use of the earlier discussed e-commerce applications of Internet technology. These uses are hard to dispute or to question the value of; however, there are likewise some areas of question for the usefulness of Internet technology. It was discussed earlier that the Internet has in fact made it possible for many people to work or conduct business away from the traditional sites of that work or business-telecommuting, virtual study for eager young minds and the transmission of vital data at the speed of light. The natural assumption would be that these features would bring pure benefit with no ill effects. However, the reality is that with many other things, those will less than pure intentions have turned the Internet into an open season for criminals. In brief, the Internet has given rise to a new breed of criminal who harnesses the power of computers to steal valuable information from its rightful owners, defraud innocent people, and victimize innocent children (Vangelisti). No innovation is without danger; therefore, the key for society to safely interact with the Internet in the future will be to use common sense and be aware that there are those that would harm them in the online world. The debate of the usefulness or lack thereof, as well as safety or danger of the Internet could take up thousands of pages and never fully be satisfied; what can be looked at in a more defined way, however, are the implications for a society that seems to spend much of its waking hours online. Implications for an Online Society For a generation of adults who changed their everyday lives due to the advent of the Internet, as well as a generation of children who were literally born and raised in the age of online interaction, there are of course implications that have been seen and are worthwhile to discuss. While the implications for the material world as it were has already been covered, the implications from a social and psychological vantage point are just as significant, if not more significant. For children who are sat in front of a computer keyboard as soon as they are able to use their hands to touch the keys, it seems that the first effect that multimedia like the Internet will have on the developing mind of a child is again what some would call a double-edged sword. Obviously, a child who has the ability to hear classical music, view priceless art, and learn as much as possible as their young mind is in its formative years would have a much better chance of maturing into an intelligent adult than the child who spent his or her early years taking in the often obscene content of cable television programs. On the other hand, if a child is enabled to access the Internet without restriction and precaution, they could in fact be exposed to content that is in fact worse than anything that has ever been seen on television. Either way, this is a key consideration for an online society, as there have been countless studies which prove that an early childhood which consists of the viewing of obscene and violent content can spur mental disorders in these people in childhood and moving into adolescence and adulthood. Additionally, even in the cases when the child does not evolve into a criminal or problem individual, there are also social problems which take place when children, or even adults, substitute an artificial media source such as the Internet for the traditional communication methods such as having face to face conversations with other people. Research proves that the activity of interacting with people in person helps children to develop key social skills that are necessary for the proper development of the human personality. Adults also have to continually sharpen their interpersonal skills. Therefore, when the Internet becomes the main outlet for the communication between people of all ages, what is seen is a society of isolated people who lack the necessary social skills to be fully functional members of that society itself. This can lead to increased psychological problems over the long term (The Classroom in Cyberspace). The physical wellbeing of society, especially children, is also affected by the Internet. The wide appeal of the Internet is without question and as a consequence, the children who are growing up with the Internet as a regular part of everyday life are spending a majority of their waking hours using the Internet not only for studies, but also for communicating with other children via e-mail, playing online games, etc. When a child picks up the computer mouse instead of engaging in physical activity such as playing outdoors with a soccer ball, for instance, the affect on developing humans is staggering. Research proves that when human beings choose sedentary activities like endless hours of Internet usage as opposed to engaging in outdoor activities that include physical exercise, the occurrences of obesity skyrocket, which in turn can lead to chronic ailments such as high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer (Wartella & Jennings). It would appear that for all that the Internet has to offer, too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Conclusion As we have seen in this research, the Internet is both a benefit to society when used properly and a threat when abused or used to excess. Looking back through the history of innovation, this same conclusion applies to the introduction of motion pictures, radio and television, yet society has managed to survive, even with those in it that would seek to cause problems and harm others. Therefore, in conclusion, what can fairly be said about the effect of the Internet on society is that the ultimate effect is in the hands of every member of society. The challenge going forward will be for individuals to realize that the Internet can be the best invention of the age- if they will only allow it to be. References â€Å"The Classroom in Cyberspace. † The Mail on Sunday (London, England) 11 Feb. 1996: 30. Dimaggio, Paul, Eszter Hargittai, W. Russell Neuman, and John P. Robinson. â€Å"Social Implications of the Internet. † Annual Review of Sociology (2001): 307. â€Å"Telecommuting or Work Invasion. † Monthly Labor Review 123. 3 (2000): 62. Vangelisti, Anita L. , ed. Handbook of Family Communication. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004. Wartella, Ellen A. , and Nancy Jennings. â€Å"Children and Computers: New Technology-Old Concerns. † The Future of Children 10. 2 (2000): 31.

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