Internet: A Double-Edged Sword

Internet: A Double-Edged Sword

“This is for everyone”, said Tim Berners-Lee’s, the British founder of the World Wide Web when he made it open to the world on Aug 6, 1991.

The terms Web and Internet are often used interchangeably. World Wide Web is a face to the internet which is a collection of globally connected computers. The internet was developed by Americans, Vint Cerf ,and Robert Kahn, with its foundation laid as early as 1983.

The Internet is indeed for everyone. A democratic entity making available to each one of us all the information that we might possibly need. An oracle of sorts.

We no longer need to visit the library to delve in depth into a topic. For the politically inclined, there are particulars about the candidates, their opponents, supporting viewpoints and the ones that differ. Art, theater, music, science, cooking, nutrition, career, math, grammar. You name it. Information on anything and everything we need is available to us as fast as the speed of our Wi-Fi.

Wealth and power no longer hold a monopoly on the availability of information. A common man can get to the most specialized of knowledge by perusing through the plethora of resources available there. With the internet, it’s almost as if the world is our oyster.

Nowadays, everybody assumes, when they wake up in the morning, if they have a question, it will get answered. Because they have the internet. No matter what the question is, someone will answer their question. — Jack White, American Singer, and Songwriter.

Internet not only mentally stimulates us, it also appeals to us emotionally. We all have a need to belong, to feel understood, to feel validated. We look for the fulfillment of these needs from our family and friends and now… from the internet.

Yes, the World Wide Web which is our go-to entity, our guide and a source of our knowledge. Internet, by curating data according to our personal preferences and presenting it to us via Related Content displayed on the side-bars or beneath the write-ups, drives us deeper and deeper into articles and news stories that agree with our viewpoint and make us feel good.

As we bask in this smug and comfortable zone, regrettably, it also evokes within us the convictions of rigidity. It entrenches us in our way of thinking by bombarding us with evidential texts that support our viewpoint. We find ourselves becoming increasingly polarized, shutting off our minds to any opposing opinion. Emboldened and secure in our ideologies, we start feeling more at ease with people who agree with our mindset. Disregarding other commonalities, we focus on our disparate beliefs and loosen up on relationships with people that do not agree with us. According to a survey taken by the Pew Research Center,

“Nearly two-thirds (63%) of consistent conservatives and about half (49%) of consistent liberals say most of their close friends share their political views. Among those with mixed ideological values, just 25% say the same. People on the right and left also are more likely to say it is important to them to live in a place where most people share their political views, though again, that desire is more widespread on the right (50%) than on the left (35%).”

Our choice of partners and family relationships are also not immune from this polarization. According to a survey done by Pew Research Center,

“Three-out-of-ten (30%) consistent conservatives say they would be unhappy if an immediate family member married a Democrat and about a quarter (23%) of across-the-board liberals say the same about the prospect of a Republican in-law.”

The Internet has undeniably become a double-edged sword.

It will not be far-fetched to say that the technology of the internet and world wide web has taken on an unfathomable direction with wide-reaching consequences. It is causing “ideological silos” to be developed where people are holding strong views resulting in anger and hatred towards those who are opposed to their thought process. Helping in propagating this separation are contributors to the internet. This includes anyone who types and post their perspectives, but mostly media houses who want to sway opinions based on their political agenda.

The Internet is a blessing and a gift that gives us access to a myriad of viewpoints that enrich and broaden our outlook. Instead of using it to divide us, we need to use it to educate us, to enlighten us and to help us grow to a better version of ourselves. Leading to a nation and a world that is empathetic and tolerant of diverse views.

A direction needs to be set, where for each write-up, instead of links to just related supporting content, there needs to be posted links to an opposing viewpoint.

We all need to take responsibility for this. As individuals, as media houses, and as technology power-houses.



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