In recent times, the Internet has become increasingly important in our everyday lives. This trend is most apparent in the United States, where outlets like YouTube, Google, and Facebook dominate the lives of many Americans (including myself). The popularity of these sites resides in the convenience they offer; they facilitate the completion of complicated tasks at the simple click of a button. Ultimately, the result of this new found convenience is our dependency upon them to function and carry out a normal day. Three main problems have arisen in society as a result of our new found dependency on these sites: a decrease in our privacy, an increase in introversion, and increase in the misinterpretation of information.
The first problem, a decrease in our privacy can be observed in many of the sites that we visit on a daily basis. Things that were once very difficult to access can be discovered by anyone within seconds. Did you know that Google keeps a log of searches made on its’ site? In 2009, the Google search history for “how to make chloroform” and “neck braking” on a computer accessible to Casey Anthony nearly led to her demise, as it was used against her as one of the main pieces of evidence to convince the jury that she was guilty of murdering her daughter, Kaylee Anthony. Did you know that Facebook violates our privacy by selling information put in our “personal” profiles to potential employers for profit? The lack of privacy on Facebook and other social networking sites also provides many potential opportunities for predators and stalkers to gain easy access to prey. “New users…are most vulnerable. The default privacy settings on Facebook allow for maximum exposure, and it’s not unreasonable to think that, in the absence of shared knowledge, the boundary between public and private becomes all the more difficult to set.” (Schoon, 71) What a scary thought, but this is the sad reality.
Mayor Carmen Kontour-Gronquist was fired from her job as Mayor of Arlington, Oregon after she posted photos of herself in her underwear on her MySpace profile; pictures which she thought were private. She thought wrong! Similarly, when “sexting” pictures of Congressman Anthony Weiner got out to the public, he was forced to resign. With YouTube there is also a lack of privacy! Videos can be uploaded on the site within a matter of minutes; then the video can easily go viral when it is posted across the various mediums of the Internet, and just in a matter of hours that person’s life is ruined forever. Videos of the like manner, such as sex tapes and videos of people highly intoxicated have shown up regularly on YouTube and almost always had a deleterious effect on the way the person’s character is perceived by others. Furthermore, with more fiscal transactions being made through the Internet, the occurrence of identity theft is increasing as hackers make a living on stealing people’s private information (passwords, credit card number, secrets, etc..,) .
The second problem created by these sites is an increase in introversion. This is mainly due to the addictive powers of YouTube and social-networking sites like Facebook. The substantial impact of these sites can be observed in our everyday lives. Instead of talking to your brother, who is sitting on the other side of the couch, you text him. Instead of calling a friend for homework, you message him over Facebook. Instead of buying and collecting your groceries from the supermarket, you have them delivered to your house. Instead of playing a game of Basketball with your neighbors outside or in the park, you watch videos for hours on YouTube. Instead of actually speaking with people face to face, you are content with your 600 virtual friends on Facebook, who give you a feeling of popularity, false-popularity to be exact.“Social network sites like Facebook imply that people can maintain infinite numbers of friends provided they have digital management tools…These digital Friends are not necessarily close friends and friendship management tools are not good enough for building and maintaining close ties” (Boyd, 17). Consequently, a result of the growing introversion among Internet users is high levels of procrastination.
The last problem created by these sites is an increase in the misinterpretation of information encountered, especially through the Internet. Many things found on the Internet are not actually true; many are either exaggerated or just plain lies. When we conduct searches on the various search engines of the Internet we always have to question the credibility of the source this information came from. If you are guilty on one occasion or another of buying into these lies, like me, you might want to reconsider the way you use, I mean abuse Wikipedia and other sources of information found on the Internet. Tabloids and amateur bloggers thrive on articles read by viewers who believe their exaggerated tales and absurd lies. The clip created by blogger, Andrew Breitbart of USDA employee, Shirley Sherrod is a prime example of information being misinterpreted and misconstrued over the Internet. As discussed in Signs of Life ,
“…Breitbart clipped out one portion of the speech and posted it on his blog. In Breitbart’s clip, Sherrod seemed to be speaking about a time when she refused to help a white farmer on the basis of his race. That post was picked up and rebroadcast so widely and quickly that within a few hours Sherrod was ordered to resign. At the time few people, if any, checked to see whether Sherrod’s remarks were being taken in the proper context, and when a video of the full speech was brought to light, it turned out that Sherrod’s anecdote was meant to illustrate a time when she overcame her own racial prejudices.” (Maasik, 448)
Another instance of information being misconstrued over the Internet is the Bert is Evil collage posted by Dino Ignacio, which depicted Bert standing next to Bin Laden. It was then misinterpreted by Afghan publishers as pro-Bin Laden imagery and used across the Middle East to protest American presence in the region. On Facebook and other social-networking sites of the Internet misinterpretation of information has been a source of various conflicts. This happens because over the Internet when messages and posts are made there are no emotions or facial expressions, leaving lots of room for ambiguity and misinterpretation on the part of the reader.
As an avid user of the various sites of the Internet (including WordPress), I can contest to facing these problems on a daily basis. However, I would be lying if I said the invention of the Internet has only had a negative impact on society since its’ first introduction. Like many great inventions of history, which bring great improvement to society, upon their first introduction, they have many flaws that are gradually fixed and modified over time for better functioning as the public expresses its’ discontent with these flaws. For example, the telephone when it was first introduced to society was bulky, had rotary dial, and a cord; however as time passed these flaws were modified for better functioing. There are obviously many benefits to using social networking sites, YouTube, Google, and the Internet in general. Before their invention, how were we able to instantaneously stay connected and up to date with friends and family that lived on the other side of the globe? How else were we able to find instant answers to questions troubling us? How else were we able to remember all our friends’ birthdays? How else were we able to watch the shows we like, at a time convenient to us? How else were we able to rapidly share our personal thoughts and interests amongst our friends? How else were we able to instantaneously get the latest music? How else were we able to instantaneously pay our bills without leaving our homes?
It is clear that these three problems created by the Internet will need to be addressed very soon. The first step in doing so, is educating the public on them. Google is attempting to do this with its “Good to Know” campaign, which can be seen in the subways and across various mediums of the Internet. Yes, these media outlets have many flaws, but how many of us are actually willing to give up usage of them? Furthermore, how many of us are actually successful at doing so? Few!
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