This week, Safer Internet Day was celebrated around the world with the theme: “Create, Connect and Share Respect: A better internet starts with you”. As internet specialists, we have a natural interest in all things internet, so we started talking about the ways the internet has changed the world.
There is no doubt the internet is a wonderful place, full of more information, entertainment, opportunities, and cats than any of us could ever dreamed of back in the day.
But it is also a dark place, that has allowed some of the most disturbing elements of human nature to find a voice and flourish.
Let’s have a look at some of the ways the internet has changed the world.
There is no doubt the internet has made life easier. Errands that used to take us half a day or more to complete can now be done from home, work, or even public transport, 24 hours a day. Banking, shopping, and booking appointments now takes us a few taps or clicks. Long gone are the days when we would have to go to the bank and wait in line to pay our bills.
This freedom leaves us more time to spend on leisure activities or with loved ones. It makes services more accessible to those with physical or mental health issues. And its secure.
Winners all round!
Connecting Loved Ones
The vast majority of people have family or friends who live a long way away. All the good intentions in the world still didn’t make letter writing any easier. But now, thanks to emails and social media, it is so simple to connect, or reconnect, with distant family, long lost friends, or even busy friends. We no longer have to wait for two weeks for a photo of a new baby niece or nephew to arrive from Australia (a physical photograph, no less). Or rely on the family members to remember to post the letter in the first place. We can Whatsapp, Facetime, or message.
The world has opened up, thanks to the internet.
Finding a Voice
Whatever your political leanings, there is no doubt that the internet has had a huge impact on politics and society.
The Arab Spring that swept through the Middle East in 2011 would arguably not have happened if protesters had not been able to communicate and rouse support through social media. So much so, one man in Egypt actually named his baby daughter Facebook, in homage to the social media platform that he credited with being responsible for the uprising.
We Never Switch Off
The internet has meant we are always contactable. Day or night, emails texts, and messages come through, meaning we never properly switch off.
Internet addiction is a real addiction. It even has its own Wikipedia page, which sites countless studies exploring it. The fact the internet is always being added to, and always available makes it a likely addiction source.
We are vulnerable
Every day we put out huge amounts of information about ourselves. Most people have photos of themselves, their location, and their personal details out online. We are sharing every facet of our lives. It has become normal to share previously intimate details of our lives with strangers at faceless corporations.
Huge tech companies like Google and Amazon are even putting listening devices in our homes, and we are ok with it. We are even paying for it.
Our location sharing settings on our devices makes it easy for people to know where we are at all times.
When Kim Kardashian was robbed at gunpoint in Paris in 2016, it was thought that social media had played a part. A couple of days before the robbery, she had shared photos of herself, her jewellery, and her location.
We self diagnose
Everyone has been guilty of searching for symptoms online, then panicking. Most of us have probably had a cough, googled it, and ended up convinced it is a tropical disease.
This puts strain on the NHS, as people are going to the doctors with WebMD symptoms and nothing really wrong with them.
Having a little bit of knowledge is not a good thing, and nothing can replace a proper diagnosis by a qualified doctor.
When the American author, Lizzie Velásquez, was made into a cruel meme, she hit back, calling out people for mocking her disability and physical appearance. But not everyone has the platform to do that.
Cruel memes are all over the web, and make fun of sick kids, disabled people, and people of various races. They expose the ugly side of human nature.
The Dark Web
The dark web is the stuff of nightmares. It is a hub of human, drug, and child trafficking, child sexual exploitation, and depravity.
Its existence has provided a platform for, and legitimised, the worst aspects of people.
Trolls and Cyber Bullying
The anonymity of the internet makes people think it I ok to say stuff that they would say face to face, and often there are no consequences.
People can bully, send death threats, and stalk people with impunity and no sense of the damage they do to the subject.
Making the Internet Safe
Here at Bandicoot Towers in Burnley, Lancashire, we are internet experts. We can help you make your home or business internet as safe as possible, to minimise exposure to the murky side of the internet.
Or, if you want to take advantage of the benefits of the internet for your business, we can get you online.