Some will find it ironic that the forum I choose for voicing the view that the Internet is detrimental to society is the world wide web. However for me, and most people in the developed world the Internet has become essential for day to day functioning, whether it be for communications, news, banking or even education.
At the beginning of the year I decided that during March/April I would attempt to take part in the Christian tradition of lent whereby for 40 days a person gives up an activity or luxury item. My idea was that I should give up the Internet for this period as it was steadily becoming a huge part of my life. Especially with the advent of technologies such as smart phones, not an hour would go by where I had not interacted with the Internet in some way. For me and a lot of other people, this is not a healthy obsession and wastes precious time from studying and other more productive activities.
It became apparent before the March Lent period that the task of not using the Internet for 40 days would be nigh-on impossible. It is so freely available in modern society that it’s not feasible to avoid. I use it at school daily whether it be for finding Maths papers or studying Economics and at a point where I was constantly checking University application statuses there was no way I could like without it. Consequently I rejected the idea of giving up the Internet for lent citing it as a logistically impossible task.
This hasn’t, however, changed my view that the Internet is detrimental in excess and I still find myself interacting with it several times a day. Websites such as Facebook and Twitter have convoluted the normal structure of human social interaction. Instead of meeting friends or acquaintances at pre arranged times or events we can now interact with fellow humans instantly, from anywhere in the world. People can interact and build relationships with people that they’ve never even met from places that they’ve never been to. This sort of constant interaction and the Internet’s constant stream of information leaves society with a type of addiction that is difficult to break. Even though the Internet has only been in widespread existence for under two decades it has become an integral part of all infrastructure. Can you imagine the effects if the Internet was not available, for even a day? Financial systems would not function, international business would stall and virtually all facets of modern existence would be affected in some way. It seems to me that we should be more wary of hinging all of our functions onto one single system especially something as fragile as the Internet which can be altered and accessed by anyone from anywhere.
Take for instance the case of Sony’s network breach that ended a few days ago. Millions of account details were able to be stolen by just a single network of hackers who could have, with the right tools, effectively stolen all those people’s money, collapsing several banks in the process through over withdrawal and still remained anonymous.
But this is not an isolated event, the same type of thing occurred when popular blog site Gawker Media was hacked a few months ago. Again, several million account details were stolen and could have been used in a malevolent fashion with the only way to prevent damage being to reset passwords on all associated accounts on other sites. However, despite events like these society has never really questioned the role of the Internet in a widespread forum (possibly due to that fact that the biggest and most active forum is the Internet itself). Instead it is touted as one of the biggest technological advancements of all time and any augmentations in it’s function are hardly ever monitored or researched. Think if advancements in Internet were treated like new advancements in medicine. Would sites like Twitter ever be allowed to exist if their effect on society were to be foreseen? I must mention however that the idea of restricting of Internet advancement would never be possible due to the prevailing laws of free speech which are so often cited with regards to social networking and news sites.
Another problem that we have encountered with the Internet is it’s incompatibility with the current legal system. Take the examples of injunctions or piracy. The Ryan Giggs scandal of present shows how the current legal system cannot legislate for someone breaking an injunction in place in one country by using a website from another. In terms of this law it shouldn’t be possible to theoretically be in two places at once, how can someone be in Britain but act as though under Californian law?
Also, with piracy its perfectly possible to be restricted from downloading content from a website based in America but be unrestricted from getting the exact same file from another country. Additional piracy cannot be technically classed as stealing as the very definition of stealing is to take an item from another person or entity. However, in the case of piracy, only a copy is made and the original is not lost plus the original producer is unable to claim lost revenue as it is unprovable whether the downloader would have bought the download at Market price anyway.
At the moment the almost unregulated Internet makes it like an untamed animal and at detriment to society. However I do believe that with more regulation, more up to date laws and more fragmented integration within
Society that the Internet can be tamed. Conversely this would require the inner workings of almost a police state hence why the Internet, for all it’s good, can still be regarded as a plague.