The Effects Of The Internet On Society

The Internet, IT, computers and social media are having, an enormous effect on everyone. These computers and the Internet have become one of the most important changes to modern society. They bring transformations to human daily life. This process has changed politics, relationships, news, science, learning, information and entertainment. The Internet has transformed the reality of distances and has made individual self-operating information collection machines that get immediate and easily access to information and communication.

The Internet has turned our existence upside down. It has revolutionised communications, to the extent that it is now our preferred medium of everyday communication.

Now for many people sending emails, ordering a pizza, buying a skirt, sharing a moment with a friend, sending a picture over instant messaging, all is now often done by using the Internet. The Internet is the decisive technology of the Information Age, and with the explosion of wireless communication in the early twenty-first century, we can say that humankind is now almost entirely connected, although with dissimilar bandwidths, effectiveness and price.

People, companies, and institutions feel the depth of this technological change, but the speed and scope of the transformation has triggered all manner of utopian and dystopian perceptions that, when examined closely through methodologically rigorous empirical research, turn out not to be accurate.

Before the Internet, if you wanted to keep up with the news, you had to go to a shop or news-stand and buy a local edition paper and read what had happened yesterday. However, today a click or two is enough to read your local press and any news source from anywhere in the world, updated up to the minute.

With about 7.7 billion people in this world and with limited use among those under 5 years of age, it’s almost safe to say that the entire humanity is now connected to the internet! There are however variations in the bandwidths available, the efficiency and cost of its use.

While early adopters saw possibilities in using the Internet as a vehicle through which the many challenges facing the world might be addressed, more recently questions have arisen about how Internet technology can be used to spread false and misleading information, and to radicalise and recruit potential terrorists.

There are also concerns as to whether the Internet serves to reduce or exacerbate social divisions; and whether it contributes to the dilution of social norms or, conversely, serves as a channel to perpetuate them.

It’s been postulated that about 95% of all information available has been digitised and made accessible via the Internet. This processing system has also led to a complete transformation in communication, availability of knowledge as well as social interaction.

However, as with all major technological changes, there are positive and negative effects of the internet on the society too.

The Internet’s positive effects include the following:

  • It provides effective communication using emailing and instant messaging services to any part of the world.
  • It improves business interactions and transactions, saving on vital time.
  • Banking and shopping online have made life less complicated.
  • You can access the latest news from any part of the world without depending on the TV or newspaper.
  • Education has received a huge boost as uncountable books and journals are available online from libraries across the world. This has made research easier. Students can now opt for online courses using the internet.
  • Application for jobs has also become easier as most vacancies are advertised online with online applications becoming the norm.
  • Professionals can now exchange information and materials online, thus enhancing research.

The Negative Impacts of the Internet on Society include:

  • Easy availability of illegal or inappropriate materials online that isn’t age-suitable.
  • It can be addicting and it can hurt our communication skills. Extended screen time can result in health ramifications like insomnia, eyestrain, and increased anxiety and depression.
  • Using the Dark Web to trade stolen material and data.
  • Addiction to social networks can disrupt an individual’s life, both personally and professionally.
  • Some miscreants use the Internet to hack into people’s accounts for spurious activities including stealing data or banking information.
  • Yet others have been known to misuse the Internet for spreading hate and terrorism, two dangerously catastrophic scenarios.

New Social Structures and the Culture of Autonomy

In order to fully understand the effects of the Internet on society, we should remember that technology is material culture. It is produced in a social process in a given institutional environment on the basis of the ideas, values, interests, and knowledge of their producers, both their early producers and their subsequent producers.

In this process we must include the users of the technology, who appropriate and adapt the technology rather than adopting it, and by so doing they modify it and produce it in an endless process of interaction between technological production and social use.

Indeed, we live in a new social structure, the global network society, characterised by the rise of a new culture, the culture of autonomy.

Internet is a technology of freedom, in the terms coined by Ithiel de Sola Pool in 1973, coming from a libertarian culture, paradoxically financed by the Pentagon for the benefit of scientists, engineers, and their students, with no direct military application in mind (Castells 2001).

The expansion of the Internet from the mid-1990s onward resulted from the combination of three main factors:

  • The technological discovery of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee and his willingness to distribute the source code to improve it by the open-source contribution of a global community of users. The web continues to use the same principle of open source.
  • Institutional change in the management of the Internet, keeping it under the loose management of the global Internet community, privatising it, and allowing both commercial uses and cooperative uses.
  • Major changes in social structure, culture, and social behavior: networking as a prevalent organisational form; individuation as the main orientation of social behavior; and the culture of autonomy as the culture of the network society.

The Internet has opened up options and capacities for individuals to exercise increased autonomy, it also has the potential to change the very ways in which human beings think and analyse data.

BBVA OpenMind:     Internet Society:    BBVA OpenMind:     MIT Technology Review:   

Pew Research:      NCBI:        Inquiries Journal:  

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