Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What is the Internet? OR Post Your Answer to Dr. Donnelly's Final Exam Question so I Can Steal It and Use It for Myself.

The Question:

“What is the internet? What kinds of conversations does it permit? What are the intellectual tendencies it encourages? What sort of culture does it produce?”

The Correct Answer:

It’s difficult to define exactly what the internet is because the internet can be so many things to so many people.  To prescribe it with any single definition would be to pigeonhole it.  So instead of giving an absolute definition of the internet, I will simply describe it in my own capacity.  In my experience, the internet is primarily a device for communication.  Whether it be through blogging, shopping, or networking, it’s difficult to imagine using the internet without communicating with others in some way.  This can serve many great purposes.  Personally, the use of the internet has improved my skills as a writer, reader, and critical thinker overall.  I’ve also gotten really good at Facebook creeping.

With all of the communication permitted (or perhaps necessitated) on the internet, however, it is also has its limits.  The internet does not permit face-to-face interaction, no matter how near it may be to replicating it with tools like Skype and Facetime.  For this reason, the communication that takes place on the internet is oftentimes relatively impersonal, which in my experience, sometimes gives its users an almost false, and perhaps dangerous, sense of security.  All too often I see people, on my Facebook feed for example, viciously arguing and attacking each other over any given issue.  I cannot help but ask myself, would they be arguing in the same fashion in face-to-face interaction?  My guess is usually no, they wouldn’t.  This is because the internet can serve to detach its users from each other.  When we cannot see the other person we’re communicating with, we cannot directly see the consequences of what we say.  Indeed, the long held notion that most communication is conducted non-verbally may hold a great deal of truth, and removing it from the equation could be harmful.  The internet’s detachment may embolden some users to such an extent that they could say something truly harmful to somebody else, and they may not necessarily even know it.  Furthermore, there are unknown implications in how internet communication translates into face-to-face communication.  Can the sometimes vicious nature users take on the internet carry over into face-to-face communication?


Seriously though, I'm interested in how others decided to approach this--what did you come up with?


  1. You have brought up a very good point and often the least attractive feature of the internet. I agree we can use it make us as individuals and members of society better. But, when we use the internet to extend the image of ourselves it creates an illusion. Technology is expanding at an alarming rate that we cannot always predict or even understand what consequences may lay ahead. I would say in response to face to face communication becoming less, worse or nonexistent overall we have to take ownership of that problem. We have to take responsibility that the internet has made this issue feasible and try to make it less harmful.

    With each new piece of technology, cars, radio, the light bulb, we bring new dangers into our daily lives. I would say that it is a part of being in a world that is developing. The car made us travel long distances easier, but it also polluted our world. It doesn't mean we stop using these great inventions. We just need to be smarter about it and more considerate. If people choose to hide behind false user names and attack others, it is not a fail on technology. It is a fail on people and those who use it unwisely.

  2. I do agree that the internet has a way of detaching users from reality and one another. Because of the internet, people have easier ways of communicating with one another, which allows for less face-to-face conversations. The internet also makes people feel more secure in expressing their opinions because users feel like they can say what they want whether it be hurtful or helpful and not think of any consequences that come from what they are writing.

    Because of this I have noticed a lot of cyber bulling in many public forums and social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook. One thing that I have also noticed as a user of Facebook is that people are constantly posting passive aggressive statuses and things like that to get their point across to people rather than discussing problems in person. The internet has a way of making people both more confrontational and less confrontational at the same time it just depends on the situation.