In this day and age, it’s hard to imagine life without the internet. Accessible via our PCs, laptops, tablets and phones, it has permeated society and transformed the way we go about our day to day business. But is it actually a good thing? DisCUss takes a look at the good and bad points of the worldwide web.
Good: You have an enormous library of information and resources at your fingertips
Bad: Not every source is reliable or trustworthy
How wonderful that almost all of the questions we ponder, from the sensible “where is my nearest takeaway” to the inane “what would a chair look like if your knees bent the other way” (actual search), can all be Googled in seconds. The internet is a powerful source of knowledge for all of us, certainly few students could imagine getting though their studies without this amazing research tool.
However, it is important to remember that not everything you see or read on the internet is 100% reliable or genuine. Online encyclopedia giant Wikipedia is a prime example of this: it is created and edited by volunteers around the world, but “anyone with Internet access can write and make changes to Wikipedia articles, except in limited cases where editing is restricted to prevent disruption or vandalism.” Best to keep this in mind before you reference an article in your assignments.
Good: It’s really easy to keep abreast of current news and events
Bad: Internet can also be used as a platform to spread negative messages
The internet is a fantastic global resource for current affairs and entertainment news, with many channels now updated in real time. Important campaigns and messages can be promoted, such as health awareness campaigns, so that it reaches a greater audience and ensures we are well-informed. Most news articles now allow readers the option to comment and voice their opinions too, which make us more engaged with the world and sparks interesting debates and viewpoints.
The downside, as with any platform, is that people can also use it to share propaganda and/or inappropriate content. The challenge is trying to control how these messages are spread, as they can reach vulnerable and impressionable audiences.
Good: You can do all your banking online, and shopping on the web is so easy
Bad: Accounts can be hacked into
From food shopping to keeping track of your outgoings, the internet allows us to manage our finances and buy the things we want with relative ease, all without having to venture out of the door. While businesses are constantly developing ways to make your online customer accounts more secure, it is worth remembering that accounts are at risk of being hacked, so ensure your passwords are changed regularly, and where possible, try not to save your card details on shopping accounts.
Good: Social media means I can keep in touch with friends old and new
Bad: Social media changes the way we interact, and not everyone is who they say they are
Social media can sometimes get a bad rap, but we cannot deny it has become a prevalent part of society, and a key tool many of us use to keep in touch with loved ones or expand our virtual social circles. Long distance friendships can be maintained, conversations can be struck up over shared content and we are allowed a glimpse into the lives of others, which will always be a source of fascination.
However many people argue that this is making us lazy in our interactions, and accuse social media users of ‘cherry picking’ the content they share with friends, so that it makes their lives appear a lot more exciting and glamorous than it really is, inadvertently making others feel inferior (#FOMO).
Good: When you’re bored, the internet provides entertainment
Bad: It can become addictive
The internet hosts a plethora of technology and entertainment. Our impatient natures are satisfied by the ability to instantly conjure games, music and videos. It can provide a talking point among friends, keep the kids quiet for hours or provide you with a window of escapism from a stressful day. But have you ever just been scrolling through your Instagram feed or playing a game and then before you know it, it’s 2am and you haven’t even had your dinner yet? Yeah…we’ve all been there. Emerging research has indicated that the effects of using technology can mimic those of drugs and alcohol, where the brain’s frontal cortex — which controls executive functioning, including impulse control — is affected in exactly the same way as it would be through cocaine use. Technology is so hyper-arousing that it raises dopamine levels — the feel-good neurotransmitter most involved in the addiction dynamic.
The internet continues to be an enigma: we are still learning about its capabilities, and new ideas are constantly being developed to improve and expand usability. While it’s true that some of the negatives can never be completely eliminated, it is fair to say that through education and experience we as a community are gradually becoming savvier. Awareness campaigns surrounding cybersecurity and online conduct are certainly helping us to recognise how to protect ourselves and others online, and recent research has shown a decrease in the amount of time we are spending on sites such as Facebook, perhaps suggesting that the novelties of social media are less overpowering.
What are your thoughts? Do you think the internet has a positive effect on your life?