Tuesday, June 02, 2009

A Quick Word... On The Internet

I love the internet.

I love the idea of a collective bank of knowledge; whether that knowledge is something like Wikipedia, a collaborative, up-to-the-minute peer-reviewed encyclopedia, or whether it's an old lady with the username Mabels_Plates selling her old china on ebay. I love it all. It's just that simple. I'd rather have access to everything than nothing, and to me the internet represents our greatest light of free-speech against the engulfing darkness of the misinformed media.

But the internet is a dangerous place. Although it represents an information highway, it's the kind of highway that stretches further than the eye can see. The kind of highway with hokey gas stations only every hundred kilometres, each with the threatening name of 'Last Chance'. It's the kind of highway you start driving along first thing in the morning, and only stop when you can't keep your eyes open any longer.

I'm suggesting then, that if the internet poses any problem to our generation, it is as a resource so rich in opportunity, that we become bogged down inside it. How many times have I seen status updates complaining that someone will never get an assignment done, or can't focus on their study, only to wonder... Is it perhaps because you're on facebook instead of just doing it?

I have a facebook and I love it. I love my twitter account. I love my multiple email accounts, I love digg.com, I love goodreads, I love this blog and I love the various programs I use to chat with. They connect me via the information highway to so many people with just a few clicks, and it's fantastic - but there is also a danger in it. The danger is that when you enter into a system where you can contact anyone at anytime, you allow the inverse to occur, and it can stop you getting things done.

At the moment I'm in study mode for my exams, and was stunned yesterday to find that I spent the entire day either clicking 'refresh' on twitter, facebook and my email, or simply browsing news sites and videos on youtube. And it's a problem. It's a problem because I've seen all three videos of Susan Boyle performing on Britain's Got Talent, and I didn't even like the first one. I mean honestly... what did I expect to see in the other two? Fireworks? Her throwing screaming cats into the audience? If the videos were there, I would've seen them.

I'm going to suggest here that internet addiction is not a fault of the internet, but a fault of the way the internet is used, particularly on my part. There is so much emphasis these days on the instantaneousness of communication, but I'm going to suggest that in many respects it's a bogus cause. The internet provides us with mail that comes instantly from the moment it is sent. But does the reply have to be instant also? What difference does it really make if I don't reply to it until later tonight, isn't it still quicker than a letter? What difference does it really make if my twitter account isn't updated in real time? What difference does it really make if I don't read the news as it actually happens but instead check it later?

You see technology is our greatest resource, and the internet is one of our greatest technologies, but it is only useful as long as it doesn't rule us. Even the fact I own a 'laptop' seems to inherently suggest that as long as i'm sitting down it should be in my lap. But this is simply not the case. I'd argue that the internet is running at its optimum efficiency as an entertainment tool for about two to three hours a day. Beyond that you're entering the realm of timewasting. So i'm cutting down, and starting my web 2.0 diet. Feel free to join me.

I'm going to check my various email, chat and social networking accounts, including news sites only twice a day. Once in the morning and once at night. These blocks will only be one hour in length, as otherwise 'checking' becomes 'dawldling'. Weekends are excluded, and I can fool around as much as I like on the net for Saturday and Sunday or if I have nothing else that needs doing (which seems pretty unlikely).

This is a pretty simple, and I would argue generous plan, but you can see that it immediately shaves off lots of the redundant time. No meaningless quizzes, no silly videos and no constant browsing. The internet is used as a means of making life easier, and as soon as it oversteps that boundary and restricts you, you cut it loose.

The internet is being used every day in greater and more innovative and exciting ways, and it brings us closer to the a worldwide community, and faster access to a greater wealth of information. The internet takes the world and puts it on a screen for all of us to see. But never forget that while your screen is a window into the wider community, it's not the wider community itself. Just as a telephone call will never beat seeing your friends and family in real life, so will the internet never fully replace seeing the world and the people who inhabit it for yourself.

So close this browser and step out and grab some fresh air! That email? It can wait til later.

1 comment:

  1. Haha I always talk about going on food diets but I really need an internet diet.. It is my number one procrastination tool and I could do so all day! Haha said diet may involve not wasting my time reading peoples blogs.. Haha screw it, lifes to short! In the meantime, I may have a new notification on facebook, it has been about ten minutes since I last checked!!