Negative Effects of Internet Usage

Why is the Internet so addicting? Two reasons: information and freedom. People go online to get information (music, news, stock prices, etc). Logging onto the Internet is like a kid going to a toy store; there is so much to do and explore that once you get in, you never want to leave. People also go online because the Internet offers freedom to do whatever they want, to say whatever they want and to be whoever they want.

This could have a negative effect since people will act in certain ways and say certain things that they otherwise wouldn’t do in real life. Furthermore, because the Internet offers so much freedom, you can find your ideal self much easier, but it’s not the same as your social self. The difference is due to you talking to a computer screen and you talking to a real person. Thus, the experiences we encounter on the Internet are not the same as the ones we encounter in real life.

Even though our overt use of the Internet can cause a conflict between your virtual self and your social self, many still excessively rely on the Internet for their activities. As a result of information and freedom, the Internet has become an unbreakable addiction for individuals and society. Computers are as common as televisions in households; in addition, laptops and Internet-ready cell phones enable the Internet to travel with us.

“By 2000 it was estimated that the number of adults using the Internet exceeded 100 million in the United States alone” (The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition). We believe that the Internet experience is the same as real life experience, but it’s not. Although the Internet has many benefits, it also separates us from others while causing many unruly behaviors in the process.

We know that the Internet has an unlimited amount of information and services; consequently, we excessively rely on it too much while ignoring social interactions in the process. That is not to say that the Internet is bad, it’s just being misused. The Internet is the information superhighway; it contains more information than we ever need. When we open our web browser, you get to your home page; from there, you can go to an unlimited number of destinations. Online, you can do just about anything: chatting, gaming, shopping and much more.

People can literally spend their whole life on the Internet. They can attend an online school and get an online job. They can pay their bills and invest their money. They can order whatever they need online and have it delivered to them; heck if they want to, they can even order a wife. The quirk is that you can do all that at the comfort of your own home in front of the computer screen. The Internet not only has an abundant amount of information but it also provides the blazing speed for acquiring them. Ever need information on something?

Instead of wasting your time checking the dictionary, encyclopedia or yellow pages, you can just type it up on a search engine like Google and you will get the information instantaneously. With the limitless amount of information and instantaneous speed of acquiring it, the Internet has done an excellent job at bringing the world to its user. For many, however, the Internet is the world. The Internet is so expansive and accessible, we often find ourselves spending countless hours wondering from one website to the next. Along the process we often lose focus on time and reality. Ever heard of the expression: time flies when you’re having fun?

That is what happens when we use the Internet. As a result, the Internet cuts out the social interactions of our lives. With the Internet doing so many jobs for us, we have become lazy and non-social. We often ask questions like why go shopping when the Internet can deliver the products to your door or why go the library to research when you can do the same online. We may lose out on being social, but we save a lot of time. However, we spent the time we saved by using the Internet some more. We are easily distracted and side-tracked when online. In typing this essay, I spent more time chatting and surfing than working on my essay.

The Internet has become counter-productive not because of what it offers but because of what it causes.
Free information on the Internet is not enough for us; we, never satisfied, steal data like music and video files online. Stealing online is as simple as using the Internet. KaZaA, for example, made stealing easier because it enables users to share their files directly with each other. Although KaZaA faded, new programs like LimeWire and BitTorrent carry on its legacy. If the governments of the world would arrest everyone who has stolen information on the Internet, pretty much all of the Internet users will be in jail.

But they hardly arrest anyone because the laws of the Internet are different from the laws of society; it’s more abstract and harder to enforce. Although the government has gone after individuals and companies in recent years, “file sharing, most of which is illegal, continues to grow,” John Boudreau writes, “nearly 10 million users worldwide simultaneously clicked into peer-to-peer technology last month – 12 percent more than in May 2005.” Despite the effort, Internet piracy is expanding rapidly. Fact is, unless you excessively steal and share, you will hardly get caught because of the expansiveness of the Internet.

Just like the island of Lord of the Flies, a world without laws will be chaotic. In a materialistic world, we naturally want as many things as possible at no cost. The Internet allows us to accomplish this goal in regards to data like music and videos. Yet, the concept of TINSTAAFL (There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch) suggests that while we are acquiring these data for free, businesses are losing money as a result. Why should we care about businesses that have far more money than we ever have? Because, consequently, the music and video files won’t be as high-quality in the future as businesses will put less money and effort into making these products because there is no profit to be gain. With no centralized authority to govern over, the Internet has literally become a “free” market.

With confusing and hard-to-enforce laws, the Internet not only encourages illegal activities, but also promotes many vile and ignorant thoughts. Looking for fewer restrictions, people flock from their social life to online. You can’t blame them; the Internet offers more freedom than real life. They think that going online is the ultimate form of freedom from the restrictions of religion, society, culture and life in general. The Internet is essentially one big illusionary communication network. Going online is like being in a place without actually being there; thus, the Internal is all mental and not physical. Online, there is no need to act or behave a certain way because of your religion, society, culture, etc. You can just be yourself and need not worry about what others think about you. Therefore, you can be free online.

Yet this aspect also has negative connotations. People can say whatever they want without suffering the consequences. Therefore, you don’t need to be politically correct online. Because of this, many are allured to the Internet to express their hate and anger towards specific groups; as a result, many racist, sexist and just plain hate websites exist. These haters know they are hiding behind a computer screen and not facing a real person. The first time I heard or seen racist words like “chink” and “gook” is from online (no one has ever called me that in real life). These individuals avoid speaking in public places because racist and sexist beliefs will be countered with face to face confrontations and looked down upon by peers. The internet is a sanctuary for those who are afraid to express their vile opinions to the public.

These haters also take advantage of the fact that nobody knows who they are online. Rather for the right or wrong reasons, being concealed on the Internet attracts users to spend most of their time online. Begin online is like being invisible in real life. Because of that, making friends online is easier as thoughts are more easily expressed online since people feel less pressure facing a computer screen instead of a real person. Additionally, remember that the Internet is mental and physical. Since you are hidden on the Internet, people won’t make stereotypical judgments on you based on the way you look but instead on your thoughts, feelings, habits and interests. However, we shouldn’t replace real friends with online friends. “The overwhelming majority of online friendships aren’t deep” (Stoll 650).

Your online friends may not be there when you needed them. People should treat their online friends like they treat pen pals; people should rely on them for mental support-that is not immediate since it takes time for them to respond back- not physical. Moreover, the dangers of being concealed are that people can be completely different from their online persona. You know the joke: you may think you may be chatting with a girl online when, in reality, she is actually a middle-aged man. Danger arises when people who get to know each other online will want to meet in real life. Robert Rinearson reports, “A survey by The Intelligence Group, 65 percent of males and 62 percent of females between 14 and 18 admitted they had met strangers online who asked to meet them.” Most people, including teenagers, who meet and build relationships online will eventually want to meet offline.

Yet, since the Internet allows someone to be completely different, an offline encounter is almost always different from the online one. Pedophiles operate this way. They pretend to be a teenage boy or girl to chat with real teenagers and ask the teenager to meet in real life. Conversely, being concealed online also has another benefit: it can mean comfort for someone seeking for help. Online, they can talk about their problems without being embarrassed about it. Uncomfortable topics like STDs and teenage pregnancy are easier to discuss online. As a result, more and more people are looking at the Internet for help and advice. However, “Those weaned on computer communications won’t learn the social rules of conversation” (Stoll 651). Those who rely on the Internet for help will continue to rely on it because they lack the social skills to feel comfortable talking about their problems in public.

Information and freedom makes the Internet’s virtual worlds seem like a cool and different way to socialize; for many, however, they consider these worlds as real. MUDs and online games allow a person to be someone completely different. They are popular because “as players participate, they become authors not only of text but of themselves, constructing new selves through social interaction” (Turkle 677). MUDs and online games allow people to virtually start their lives over again in a completely different environment. In real life, your goals are to try getting an education, working a well-paid job and starting a family; online, you get to save the world.

You get to be the hero or heroine you always heard, seen and watch about. People are attracted to these virtual simulations because they allow more freedom in a simulated environment than in real life. In addition, MUDs and online game also has their own unique way of socializing. Players talk with the characters they created not with their real selves. Moreover, when you screwed up -for instance, like you happen to die- you can start over again; low risks and high rewards is something real life can barely offer. With all of these aspects, people’s virtual self tend to have a better life than their real self; as a result, MUDs and online games has become immensely popular.

This can be dangerous, however, as many center their lives on playing MUDs and online games. In the television show Serial Experiments Lain, for example, Lain was a shy girl at school. When her father brought her a new computer, she became a completely different person online. She was absorbed by the Internet and began using it excessively. Soon her personal life meshes with her online life, causing confusion on her behalf.

She eventually abandons the real world to live in the virtual world. Like Lain, many people who get sucked into the virtual world won’t care about their lives in reality. They stop caring about their jobs, responsibilities, families, friends and themselves while choosing to focus on their virtual selves instead. Another example: Reuter reports, “A South Korean man who played computer games for 50 hours almost non-stop died of heart failure minutes after finishing his mammoth session in an Internet cafÃ?©.” He didn’t care what was happening to him in real life because he was immersed with the online game he was playing. MUDs and online games are fun, but they shouldn’t consume your social life and well being.

On the Internet, we create our ideal self in a virtual environment; unfortunately, the ideal self we created often does not translate well into real life situations. A living, breathing human being is different from a computer screen. Just like the advent of television, the Internet has changed the way we lived. Many have spent most of their lives with the Internet and not with other people. Consequently, we don’t appreciate the companies of each other. The Internet also conceived new ways to commit crimes and expressing hate. Without a doubt, the internet has made life much easier.

Communication and information has never been as accessible and faster as they are now with the advent of the Internet. But did it make life so easy that we rely on it to do all the work while we overlook the value we have on social interactions? The more we rely on the Internet, the more we isolate ourselves from human contact. Because society’s reliance on the Internet is permanent, individuals must decide on their own what is best for them. They have two choices: either move to a society where the Internet doesn’t exist or, better yet, “cultivate our awareness of what stands behind our screen personas” (Turkle 687). Instead of completely focusing on the positive effects, individuals need to have a better understanding on the negative effects of the Internet.

Works Cited

“Man dies after 50 hours of computer games.” Reuters Limited. 2006. 20 Jun 2006.

“The Internet.” The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001-05. 2 Jul 2006.

Becker, David. “When games stop being fun.” CNET Networks, Inc. 2002. 2 Jul 2006.

Boudreau, John. “Unlawful file sharing fight rages.” 2006. 2 Jul 2006.

Rinearson, Robert. “Protect your children: Don’t let them wander the Internet alone.” News-Sentinel. 2006. 2 Jul 2006.

Stoll, Clifford. “Isolated by the Internet.” Mind Readings. Ed. Gary Colombo. Boston/New York: Bedford St. Martin’s, 2002. 648-655

Turkle, Sherry. “Who Am We?” Mind Readings. Ed. Gary Colombo. Boston/New York: Bedford St. Martin’s, 2002. 675-687

Ullman, Ellen. “Out of Time: Reflections on the Programming Life.” Mind Readings. Ed. Gary Colombo. Boston/New York: Bedford St. Martin’s, 2002. 656-666

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