Many people have started to question constant access to the internet because in some cases it has turned into something that people abuse excessively with social networks like Twitter and Facebook, occupying their limited and precious time on silly trivial stuff.
Some have started to say that we need to unplug and go offline in order to enjoy life more completely. While I understand this sentiment, that the internet can be bad if abused, I would argue that the internet saves people a lot of time and money when it is used responsibly with balance, wisdom, self control and self respect. I also believe the internet is a powerful tool with multiple useful functions in many areas of a persons life.
Lets examine why balanced use of the internet is not only useful, but in many ways important and essential to increasing numbers of people! Going beyond email......
The internet has a unique and special way of democratizing access to information about almost anything with powerful and highly functional search engines like google.
The human brain is an information processing organ. From the first moments of consciousness our brain is constantly changing its structure and function to make sense of our sensory experiences of phenomenon, events and information. The internet has ushered in the "information age" where ubiquitous access to information becomes ever more accessible to everyone.
How people choose to use this powerful information tool (the internet) is a matter of personal choice. As we well know, personal choices have a huge impact on a persons trajectory through life: so choose wisely what you use the internet for: the ideas and information you gain access to on the internet can be far more powerfully mind changing than drugs or alcohol. When used with intelligent moderation however, the internet will save you time and money in all sorts of different ways!
Online or offline : we have a choice in how we experience life, what we take in, and how we choose to react to anything that comes up in our lives: be that a new job, a new friend, a news article in print or online, a book, music, movies, tv, radio, conversations….
We go offline every time we go to sleep, but our brains keep going (dreaming et. al.)
We go offline every time we are not using a device to access the internet: technically that means not using a TV or Phone these days in many cases: since these services are increasingly relayed through the internet instead of their clunky inefficient antique legacy networks.
Computers multiply a humans ability to handle and process information by actually enhancing our ability to think about things with more of our brains, by allowing us to offload memory we would otherwise waste dealing with information storage to search engines which are superior at retrieving information quickly, precisely and accurately. Think of facebook's cloud storage of your personal images, videos, postings, links, ect for example, which can be referenced anywhere that has access to the internet.
Search engines come in different formats: the one that helps you find music on an iOS device or the much more powerful internet search engines. All sorts of custom search engines are used by academia, and municipalities for services like public transportation (Metro King Country Transit Trip Planner for Example).
For many people the internet has become a cookbook which saves money and paper/ trees, gas and emissions while internet cookbooks with search engines built in enable really interesting “search by ingredients I have on hand” recipe finding and other helpful functions not possible in paper cookbooks. Making the switch to Vegetarian or Vegan eating has thus never been easier since good recipes of this type are just a few clicks and keyboard inputs away.
For many people the internet is a phone book, map, bank, bill payer, ect, ect. The internet has become everything to everyone. It is no longer a luxury, but for many, it has become an essential tool for critical financial services (those who go paper free to online banking for example) : renew your vehicle tabs: Amazon: you have access to a world of music, movies, books and consumer goods that would be impossible or otherwise extremely wasteful and time consuming to access on foot, by car, bus, bike or otherwise.
It is all a matter of perspective: you can enjoy the world the way that Paul Miller is living now (offline), without shunning out information networks: we are exposed to them one way or the other in most situations of active mobile living anyway. That said I think Paul’s experiment is interesting, and proves that balance is the key to experiencing life completely.
Most other people can feel that a facebook friendship is different than first person personal interactions with our friends. I miss a lot of my friends in real life because they became busy to absorbed by surviving adulthood's challenges. We cant blame this on the internet: people started becoming introverted as a adults long before the internet arrived.
The social power to change society is enabled by information networks: The arab spring was really facilitated by internet access and social networking. China blocks and censors the internet in order to attempt to prevent such a radical social shift from occurring where the Chinese people would rise up, emboldened by knowledge that millions of others are part of the movement, with the confidence gained by knowing that they are part of a larger movement for positive changes for the benefit of freedom and democracy for human rights and justice.
Democracy is enhanced with free access to the internet and information: think of how wikipedia has enhanced access to a constantly evolving knowledge base for hundreds of millions of people who are then informed to make better choices.
The internet is becoming a library too, a place where people go to find knowledge: even becoming a school in certain ways. The internet has become so many different things to so many different people.
Lets not be brash and throw the baby out with the bathwater: balance is key. Abusing anything, including the internet can be costly to a person by introducing imbalances into their lives.
What the Internet Did to Me
When I was 14 I gained access to dialup internet via AOL. Microsoft Encarta was more functional to me back then, because slow dialup made accessing rich information and content very time consuming. I gained access to high speed internet during my sophomore year of high school in 1999. While at school I was able to access information networks about chemistry, physics and applied science that ultimately fueled my desire to become a scientist in college, which after a lot of decisions ultimately became the path I took.
Still Typo Challenged
As you will note from reading my blog, english has always challenged me. My strengths in information handling and analysis are strongly contrasted by a historical legacy of poor grammar and atrocious spelling problems in my writing. These structural issues with my writing improved radically as I continued reading interesting literature and articles online. From 2003 to 2011, I spent an average of 1 hour per day, almost every day, reading research papers, technology and science news, and encyclopedia articles. This increased my breadth of knowledge far beyond that which was covered under the scope of my studies at school at any point during my academic journey, while also improving me communication skills as a writer. I continue to absorb knowledge from internet sources, but in far more diverse ways. I also now spend more time publishing then ever before. While I was critically reviewed for posting thoughtful content to facebook, not a single one of my real life friends or family has given me grief for this blog: actually many told me they love reading it :)
I hope to continue improving my communicative skills as a writer by passionately sharing ideas that I spend time Thinking About here on this blog.
I want to encourage others to become thoughtful, loving people who can maximize the utility of search engines and the power of the internet in productive balanced ways that add value to their experiences of life.
I love everyone and all of God's beautiful living creations. I have been a natural helper and problem solver all of my life, and those skills are used to inform a lot of my postings. I am motivated to share thoughtful ideas because other people shared thoughtful ideas with me online that transformed the way I see everything in the world more positively.
Busted Laptop Love
It was ironically, through my desire to help a friend with a malfunctioning laptop that brought me to interact more with my beautiful, intelligent, artistically gifted, loving, honest, loyal, honorable, humble and kind spirited partner for life, Megan Otto, who I adore and love more than I will ever be able to convey with words ! To convey the depth of my feelings I can only show her with my actions, choices and behaviors: but I have room to improve on being emotionally demonstrative with words as well.
A Mixed Bag
The internet has not always been a rosy tool to me. Facebook arguments caused the loss of several friendships which I still feel bad about. I posted a lot of comments online that were reflective of unresolved feelings and negative perspectives that I no longer hold. I blasted people on discussion threads, posting forums and other places online with harsh mean spirited words. I had failed to embrace God's love back then, and ever since turning to focusing on Love and the positives in life, I have completely changed as a person: so much that other people feel it when the interact with me and tell me so :) I am going to credit Megan Otto with this shift: by showering me with love she caused me to feel loved, and I was reciprocal of this not only with her but with all people I encounter.
I want to bring others to know that God is Love; that Kind words are healing. Sins are different than people who make mistakes and everyone deserves another chance. God even said we are to love on those who hate us or harm us. It is easy to love people that are nice to you, the real challenge is to show love to everyone. By showing people with negative ideas love, we help to break them free from the oppressive negative thoughts so that they may be free to choose to accept a loving relationship with Jesus Christ and God: or to just become nicer more thoughtful people :)
Think about it!
This posting was partially inspired by Paul Miller the tech editor/ writer from "The Verge" who has gone offline for 1 year, as an experiment/ sabbatical.
In the above article Paul M. talks about what the internet is today, an interesting editorial article about the subject of this blog posting. Enjoy
Extension and Commentary
Emerging digital worlds are an example of entertainment that can easily turn into addiction. I am not going to openly condemn massive multiplayer online role player games, or mmorps as they are called by the industry, instead I will take issue with their dangers.
TV, movies, and music can be seen as "escapes" from life's more difficult realities: these form of entertainment can be enjoyed or abused. It is not difficult to find a person who spends an excessive amount of their personal time watching TV, especially not in America. It is not difficult to find a person that spends excessive amounts of their personal time online goofing around. These mmorps are like a blend of text messaging, video game play, fictional narrative structures like a movie, and music. This fusion of media types creates an immersive digital environment in which the "player/ user" can easily loose track of time. I know of countless people who fell victime to the time vampire effects of playing mmorps (everyone from school children, to college students, to professional adults).
My defense of internet access comes from the overwhelming number of useful positive functions that the internet can provide a person who exercises balanced thinking and good judgement while online. Balance is the key; people can develop imbalances in almost any areas of life. I am not trying to jam normative statements into the airwaves about how people should or should not spend their time: that is up to each person: I am saying that a lot of people derive many useful functions, time saving utility, and unique functionality from internet connected devices like smartphones, tablets, mid's, and other computers.