Since electronic computers were invented in the 1950s, packet networking has been in place. The US awarded defense contracts in the 1960s involving packet networking, which could be considered the first version of the internet. Our modern internet, however, is thanks to Tim Berners-Lee and his research at CERN in the 1980s.
The internet has made the world a smaller place. It has also helped people to become more anonymous in their interactions with others, which has created a certain level of conflict that didn’t exist in the past. There are many pros and cons of the internet that worth considering. Here are some of the main key points.
What Are the Pros of the Internet?
1. Communication happens globally and in real time.
Thanks to the internet, it is possible to chat with someone half a world away in real time. Businesses can hold global video conferences instead of paying for people to fly in for meetings. Entrepreneurs can start with a good idea and expand it to a global audience from a home computer. We can communicate cheaper and easier with one another more than ever before in history.
2. We get more stuff done in less time.
Remember when you had to go down to your bank or credit union to deposit a check? Now you can take a picture of it with your tablet and send it to your bank through an app thanks to the internet. You can check bank balances in real time. Instead of printing out a manuscript and mailing it, a writer can electronically submit their work via email instantly. The internet lets us be more productive and still gives us more time to spend with our family and friends.
3. Information is available like never before.
The internet allows us to access newspapers from all over the globe and many of them are free. You can follow a blog to get helpful ideas from someone who has conquered a challenge you’re currently facing. All it takes to find information is a simple keyword search on a preferred search engine. Even an 8-year-old kid learned how to drive because of YouTube.
4. You can become active about anything you are passionate about.
If you want to get involved in politics, the internet can guide you toward what you need to do. If you want to promote a local photography club, the internet can help you market it. If you have a business that you’re trying to grow, the internet can help people pay attention to it. You can follow, get involved, or criticize virtually any cause that someone has because of our connectivity.
5. People can connect with one another more often.
Social media has allowed people to connect with others unlike any other time in the past. In its early days, long-lost friends could find one another and re-establish connections. Today, social media allows us to promote business opportunities, local sports teams, or personal causes with incredible ease. In just seconds, you can talk with a friend and have a conversation, even if you haven’t seen them in person for 10+ years.
6. Digital payments increase the speed of transactions.
Thanks to companies like PayPal, it is possible to hold a digital account with digital funds, but still have access to real currency when it is needed. With a PayPal debit card, you can withdraw money from an ATM. You can also use it wherever branded cards are accepted. Some stores, such as Home Depot, allow you to access your PayPal balance directly from a payment terminal. This is all possible because of the internet.
7. Freelancing is easier than ever before thanks to the internet.
There are numerous tools and platforms that allow people to freelance their skills from home. This allows people to have more control over their lives and schedules. Amazon has even jumped on-board by committing to hire 5,000 home-based customer service representatives in 2017.
What Are the Cons of the Internet?
1. It has decreased personal privacy.
The amount of personal information being shared on the internet is so enormous that personal privacy is at risk. It’s not just identity theft that is an issue. Kim Kardashian West had jewelry stolen from her in Paris because of the amount of information that was being shared. A group of 17 people got together, tracked her movements, and struck because of the information freely shared. If you share vacation photos in real time, then you’re announcing to the world that you’re away from home.
2. The internet can become an addiction.
Internet addiction is an impulse control disorder. It can cause some people to develop an emotional attachment to online friends, activities, or idea exchanges. This addiction can be so great that people become preoccupied with the internet, risking their jobs in real life and significant personal relationships for the chance to connect with others online.
3. Internet dependence can lessen productivity.
If your business operations are based on internet access, then what happens if the ISP goes down? In March 2017, one key piece of equipment owned by Comcast caused a complete internet and cellular outage on Whidbey Island, Washington. For more than 4 hours, there were no data connections of any type. Without that access, an online business suddenly can’t do business.
4. There are multiple expenses not often considered with the internet.
If you want to connect to the internet, you need some sort of device to do so. That means a computer, a smartphone, or a tablet is required. If you want a website, then you’ll have domain registration and web hosting fees to pay. There are ISP fees, taxes, and data use charges that need to be paid. Time Magazine reported in 2015 that the average cost of a broadband connection in the United States was $50 per month. Even basic dial-up services can be $10 per month.
5. Exploitation is a very real problem.
Our laws have not caught up with our levels of connection with the internet. Actions like revenge porn can be very damaging to its victims, but as of 2017, there are still 15 states in the US which have no laws regarding that kind of conduct. Ransomware is another growing threat, where hackers gain control of specific files and refuse to release them without paying a ransom and only California has sought to address the issue. This means exploitation can happen in a wide variety of ways and victims may have no way to counter such conduct.
The pros and cons of the internet show us that connectivity is either good or bad depending on how it is used. By taking protective actions, we can work together to limit negative outcomes. That means we must encourage our laws to evolve as our use of the internet continues to grow.