The Internet :
A global computer network providing a variety of information and communication facilities, consisting of interconnected networks using standardized communication protocols. - The Oxford Dictionary
During our evolutionary journey from Homo erectus
and then to Homo sapiens
, we have come a long way. Because of our continuous quest for more amenities and better standard of living, we have been able to invent and discover many new things. The nineties witnessed a major revolution with the invention of the first electronic digital computers. Till then, the term Internet was practically unknown to most people. However, today, the Internet has become the most powerful tool for people around the world. With the advent of Internet, our earth has virtually reduced in size and has attained the form of a global village.
The Internet can be explained as a network of computers, designed to receive and send data in the form of e-mails, blogs, webcasts, etc. To put it simply, it can be likened to a super-massive server, armed with a plethora of information which is used by billions of people simultaneously. The Internet is basically a network that connects other, smaller networks
. All modern technologies are connected by the Internet, thereby leaving no stone unturned. This digital world can be a playground for some and a battlefield for others.
The Internet has become an indispensable business tool, which has helped bring the world closer. Receiving news from across the world, accessing knowledge resources, and shopping online are simply a click away. The Internet has tremendous potential and a lot to offer in terms of services. However, like every other innovation in science and technology, the Internet comes with its own advantages and disadvantages, which have been discussed in this Buzzle article.
Advantages of the Internet
The Internet has been mankind's greatest means of communication yet. Newer innovations are only making it faster and more reliable. Today, we can initiate real-time communication with someone who is in another part of the world.
For more personal and interactive communication, it is possible to avail the facilities of video conferencing, chat and messenger services. With the help of these services, the geographically fragmented countries have come together to form a community that is able to share its thoughts on global issues, that affect each and every one of us. The Internet has given us a common platform and medium through which we are able to explore other cultures and ideologies.
Abundant Information Resources
The Internet is a treasure trove of information; which offers knowledge on any given topic under the sun. Search engines make information accessible on various subject matters such as, government law and services, trade fairs and conferences, market information, new innovations and technical support, and even dispense advice on love and relationships matters.
It has become common practice to seek assistance from the web in order to research and gather resources for homework, office presentations, and supplement ones own research. The web also updates news about the latest breakthroughs in the field of medicine, technology, and other domains of science. Numerous websites such as America's Doctor, have made it possible to seek online advice from specialist doctors without having to actually fix an appointment.
The Internet has become an essential propagator of knowledge, both through free as well as paid services. The credibility of this form of education and whether it is safe, secure, and trustworthy, is usually proven through the quality and authenticity of content presented by each website. The World Wide Web has become a remarkable avenue for the academically unprivileged, to amass greater knowledge and know-how on subjects.
The entire scope of homeschooling has expanded because of increased accessibility to videos of teachers giving lectures, showing diagrams and explaining concepts, much like a real classroom. Nonprofit organizations too have opened websites that seek volunteers and donations in order to help the ones in need. There are also sites like Wikipedia, Coursera, Babbel, Archive, and Teachertube, among others, that have dedicated themselves to the art of imparting knowledge to people of all age groups.
Entertainment for Everyone
Entertainment is one of the foremost reasons why people prefer surfing the Web. In fact, the Internet has gained much success by marketing for several multifaceted entertainment industries. Finding the latest updates about celebrities and exploring lifestyle websites have become day-to-day activities of many Internet consumers. On the other hand, even celebrities are using the Internet effectively for promoting their cause and for keeping their fans happy.
There are innumerable games that can be download, either for a price or for free. Indeed, online gaming has tasted dramatic and phenomenal success because of its ever-increasing demand throughout the world.
Social Networking and Staying Connected
One cannot imagine a social life without Facebook or Twitter. These portals have become our means to stay connected with friends and family, and stay in touch with the latest happenings in the world. Social networking has also evolved as a great medium to connect with like-minded individuals and become a part of interesting groups and communities.
Apart from finding long-lost friends, the Internet also makes it easier to search and apply for jobs and business opportunities on forums and communities. There are public chat rooms where users can meet new people. For those who are single, the Internet also provides the option to select a suitable dating partner through secure online profiles, that can be filtered as per personal preferences.
Online Services and E-commerce
Thanks to numerous monetary services, we can perform all our financial transactions online. We can book tickets for a movie, transfer funds, pay utility bills and taxes without having to leave our homes or offices. Travel websites for instance, offer quick booking schemes and plan itineraries as per the preferences of their clients.
E-commerce is used for all type of business dealing that involves the transfer of money through the Internet. Online transaction of money has become the norm with almost all kinds of business. E-commerce, with its vast reach over a variety of products and services, makes it possible to have the client's orders delivered at their doorsteps. Websites such as eBay allow customers to bid, buy, sell, and even auction products online.
Disadvantages of the Internet
Theft of Personal Information
The use of Internet for banking, social networking, or other services, often makes our personal information vulnerable to theft. There are no fail-proof ways to securing names, account numbers, addresses, photos, and credit card numbers from being stolen or misused by thieving websites and individuals.
Unscrupulous hackers can access our sensitive information through unsecured connections by planting phishing software. Needless to say, the damage caused by having our identities misused and our accounts broken into, is often irreparable and most of all, embarrassing.
Spamming refers to sending unwanted e-mails, which serve no purpose and needlessly obstruct the computer system. Such illegal activities can be very frustrating as it makes it slower to access our email accounts and makes the entire service unreliable for consumers.
Spammers usually use bots that bombard the receiver with an endless line of advertisements. This can prove to be increasingly perplexing, as it keeps getting mixed with our more important emails. Fortunately, email service providers often have security systems in place to guard against spamming. Fortunately, it is possible to report an email as spam, so that all emails from the same email id or IP address, are blocked.
One of the most annoying problems with the Internet is the ease with which any malware can infect our computers. Internet users are often plagued by virus attacks that harm their computers and important files. Virus programs are inconspicuous and may get activated simply by clicking a seemingly harmless link. Computers connected to the Internet are extremely prone to IP targeted virus attacks that may end up crashing the system completely.
Internet virus can be of three types. The first type of virus affects files and goes directly for a particular file or file type. The second type harms system and executable boot files. These can be particularly nasty, as they can effectively stop the computer from starting again. Lastly, there's the macro virus, which is the most common as well as the most harmless of them all. The macro virus simply keep changing things like symbols on word files. The type of virus that can replicate and spread itself is known as worms. When a virus is disguised as something else, it's known as a trojan.
Pornography and age-inappropriate content is perhaps the biggest disadvantage of the Internet. The worst being underage porn, which is largely rampant in the deeper parts of the web. It is the lack of control over the distribution and unrestricted access of pornographic material, that is detrimental to children. All that parents can do, is lock harmful sites and monitor the sites viewed by their children.
Pornography is not just frowned upon by most societies, it's also banned by some. The Internet makes uploading shocking content so easy, that we end up coming across inappropriate words and images, despite not wanting to.
Social Isolation, Obesity, and Depression
The biggest problem with having the Internet is, its ability to create rifts between the real and virtual world. The virtual world can often seem so alluring that once hooked, going back to real life seems daunting.
There is an addiction for everything that pertains to the web and that includes excessive surfing, online gambling, social networking, and gaming addiction. There are now psychiatric clinics and doctors that specifically cater to resolving the problems created by the Internet. These addictions create both physical as well as mental issues that can lead to health complications if left unattended. It is ironic that, while it is easy to find plenty of online support for agoraphobia, the Internet itself can be a big cause or trigger for it.
The link between obesity and the Internet is rather easy to understand. The more one sits in front of the computer, the lesser one exercises. At the end of the longish list of physical and emotional maladies, is depression. Since all problems are so deeply linked with one another and with the Internet, it isn't uncommon for people to be afflicted with multiple issues. Recent studies and research have gone deep enough to actually differentiate between compulsive Internet use and excessive Internet use. Furthermore, thanks to smartphones, holding a simple face-to-face conversation seems out of the ordinary as compared to chatting online.
Thus, even though the Internet has the potential to make our lives simple and convenient, it also holds the power to wreak havoc. Its influence on us is mostly dictated by the choices we make while being online. With prudent use, we can manage to harness its unlimited potential and steer clear of its adverse effects.