To explain the statement: “The internet has made the world smaller”, the essay will study the positive and negative influences the Internet has on people, and humanity as a whole.
Thirty years ago, one will not have even dreamt of getting a copy of a speech, aired by some prominent individual, say a presidential one. There was little hope of ever accessing that information; one couldn’t have even tried to get it. To get it, he/she had to access it physically from the owner and copy it. Nowadays, that information is only a click away. All that a person needs is to Google it or browse through some other search engine or a website (Raymer 2009, 456).
A scientist can use the Internet to learn what others colleagues have discovered in the same field. Some years ago, the scientist had to wait until such information was published in some scientific journals. If the journal was published far away, he/she had to wait for many years before the same information was translated say from Russian to English. Today, the scientist will only need the Internet to read an online article, which may even mention some unpublished information in Russian. He/she can even go ahead to use the information provided to search for personal contacts of other scientist and email him/her on some issue. A friendly communication may continue and may even end up in research collaboration. It may later develop to visiting each other’s countries, homes, or Universities! (Raymer 2009, 456).
With programs, like Google Earth, one can easily take a look at almost any place in the world. All that it takes is typing the name of the place, for instance, a town, and you are taken there in a matter of seconds! One can use the ‘zooming in’ tool to see the streets, and small details of places he/she could never see.
Video hosting services, like YouTube, enable people to capture and share anything using a camera. Whatever is uploaded on YouTube can be viewed worldwide by millions of people within seconds.
The use of webcams enables real-time communications with friends and beloved ones, who are miles away. By using the Internet and the webcams, people can actually see and talk with others far away, in real-time.
The aspect of online dating is also very important. Long are the days when one had to dress properly and move out looking for a lover. With the Internet and social dating sites, one can actually be “out there” without having to be really out. One can meet thousands of singles, see their appearance, and find out their interests, values, and background. They can then chat by use of email or instant messaging. It is, therefore, possible to know each other relatively well without ever meeting physically, which may sometimes be too costly or even impossible. The Internet has enhanced learning and investigative processes. For instance, an individual can educate him/herself on any topic virtually. Interested pagans can learn Christianity and the Bible ask questions on the online forums and receive immediate responses. By doing so, the Internet does away with limitations of occupation, distance and funding (Pocock, Van Rheenen, & McConnell, 2005, 26- 27).
The Internet has also created a fertile ground for the development of global commerce. Many companies and individuals are now taking their businesses to places never to be imagined before (Ambrogi 2004, 195). As people say, “information is power”. In this era, information is not controlled by a few elites. For example, there is now an increase of online trading firms. It is now possible for anyone to buy or sell anything through the Internet without even going out (Hewitt, 2004, 16).
The least privileged one can now get the most benefit through the Internet. Think of a street cleaner in Johannesburg, South Africa, or a single mother in Bonn, Germany. They can now take advantage of the many online Universities around the globe that offer online courses via the Internet. Some online programs actually translate from one language to another. There is increased communication that is now reshaping many processes, like commerce, business, education, and politics (Hewitt 2004, 16).
The Internet can be used by politicians or ideologists to communicate and even organize several events from a far. The U.S President Barack Obama and American politician Howard Dean were among the early successful Internet users to use the World Wide Web in their campaigns. On the other hand, some worldwide terrorist groups have been said to have used the Internet to post data and other communications harmful to human kind. Much as the Internet provides vast information for ordinary people; it can also put personal information at the mercy of others (Raymer 2009, 457). This action of prying into other people’s privacy may have positive or negative consequences. The positive side is that it can prevent an imminent violence or attack from criminal groups or political extremists. On the negative side, some governments may use it to violate laws of decency and privacy. An example here is the case of the USA in 2006, when AT&T and MCI helped the National Security Agency (NSA) to eavesdrop on phone calls made between citizens in the USA and people in other countries. This was done without search warrants. When this was disclosed to the public, there emerged struggles between the Congress, telecom companies and the White House, whereby the administrators were arguing for immunization of the telecoms against criminal charges (Raymer 2009, 457).
Private individuals may also use the Internet to spread news and events that the government may not be ready to share. They may do this by posting events on YouTube, putting tweets on Tweeter, Facebook, or other social sites. For instance, some tourists in China posted videos, which showed the Tibet protests. This led to the spread of the protests to other provinces of the country. The Chinese government was forced to block the Internet access to YouTube within the country, as they deemed it harmful.
The Internet has many social networks, like Facebook, MySpace etc. As a result, it offers an ideal playground for creating social viral marketing. However, not everybody benefits from the Internet (Raymer 2009, p.457). Think about that old woman in a remote village in some poor third world country, who is not even aware of the Internet. In this sense, the Internet has helped to stratify society more than it was in terms of the haves and have-nots; thus, ending up with some in the society being “Technology Ghettos”. Raymer (2009) calls this “digital divide”. As of such, access to information is not uniform nor is it an opportunity to learn and acquire skills related to the information technology (Raymer 2009, 458).
Through the Internet, child sexual assault and exploitation has increased. These evils were once restrained to physical locations, like homes, playing grounds, schools, and champion trips. Nowadays, there is a virtual hunting ground through the web. This has facilitated a multi-billion dollar trade in some illicit material. It includes many forms of child sex abuse, like enticing minors to engage in sexual activity, such as production, distribution and importing child pornography, and promoting sex tourism on children (Ferraro, Casey, & McGrath, 2005, 3).
The Internet also is killing morals as it provides anonymity and creation of fantasy. Offenders and other criminals meet support and likeminded people on the Internet. This reduces their sense that they are marginalized. Among the impacts of this peer support through the Internet is that it “normalizes” abnormal desires, making offenders view their traits as acceptable in the society (Ferraro, Casey, & McGrath 2005, 4).
In conclusion, many appliances connect to the Internet via the mobile phones, iPads, and computers. It is possible that, in future, every human on earth will be connected to the Internet. Who knows? Our clothes will have appliances that connect to the Internet; we may need to put on some eye and ear pieces to keep us online. On the extreme, computer chips may be inserted in our brains to enhance and intelligence and memory! (Hewitt 2004, 17). Who knows? Today, the Internet is making the world smaller and winning new users every day, and it depends solely on a person whether he/she would use the new opportunities for good, or for bad.