Recently, I was watching a news report that detailed how the internet was making people dumber with each passing day. And at first, I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing. The reporter claimed that the Trump campaign had a large role to play in this ‘mess’. What with all its heated talk about ‘alternative facts’ and ‘the fake media’.
Although I understood that all these concerns were valid, I disagreed with the production’s conclusion. Just to be sure that I got all my facts right, I re-watched it several times through my Spectrum Internet plan. And then I started penning my response. This blog post is a concise summary of some of the major points that I made.
In Defense of the Internet: Five Ways in which it makes You Smarter
The Internet does make you Smarter.
But at its core, it is nothing more than a weapon to be wielded – for good, or for bad. This totally depends on the motivations of its users.
It makes you smarter in one of five ways:
1. It keeps you fully updated on the latest news & information cycles,
2. It imparts skills that allow you to pursue better employment opportunities,
3. It allows you to interact with smart and accomplished specialists,
4. It exposes you to all kinds of emerging fields,
5. It allows you (as a business) to keep track of your competition
When used positively, the internet can play a decisive role in promoting all kinds of social causes. The fight against global illiteracy, political repression, press censorship, and all other varieties of oppression; to name a few.
Explaining the Positives
The web has also turned out to be an unprecedented tool for providing up-to-date information to people. With a simple click of a button, any person with an internet-enabled device can conduct research on virtually every topic under the sun. Nothing similar to this existed in the previous ages.
By learning new (marketable) skills, any person can go on to better his or her lot in life. This is because most workplaces require their employees to be proficient in a certain area of their overall trade. Specialists, instead of ‘jacks of all...’ And the internet, in this respect, has turned out to be a savior for many people all across the globe.
By providing a wealth of educational resources to train people, along with platforms to practice what they’ve learned, it empowers them. To seek new employment, and then to raise their social status. Because money, if you didn’t already know, does make the world go round. And it’s destined to stay that way. The internet simply shows people how to exploit this set system.
I personally know of many people who have completely turned their lives around because of this advantage. These individuals didn’t have a lot of financial stability, to begin with. But through the free skills sessions they took online, and their engagements with specialists, they learned to pull through. And now they are in a position to give back to their societies. Generously.
If anything, I would call their example to be a big indicator of how the internet makes people smarter.
Not through one, but a variety of, ways.
Countering the Negatives
The internet is a democratic space like no other. This is because it allows all viewpoints to be aired. It connects people with varying opinions to each other. And to ensure that a free-flow of communication & expression is maintained, it allows them to respond. In whatever manner that they choose.
No wonder many people use it for ranting!
In this way, it allows for a ‘multitude of narratives’ to permeate through the sociocultural sphere. And with no censorship, so that all on-going debates are open to public scrutiny and adoption.
Like in any majority, the viewpoint with the largest number of proponents wins the day. And so it becomes the dominant voice of the web, which in turn influences even more people.
This cycle continues until there emerges a new viewpoint. This can be a ‘counter-narrative’, which completely seeks to refute the prevailing discourse. Or it could be a new Idea entirely, which the people may find more attractive. And very slowly, this idea becomes entrenched.
In this way, as in the real world, the lifecycle of ideas continues to progress on the internet.
Playing a Part
This process, however, does in no way guarantee that an ethical idea will always prevail. Only the one that has the most adherents. And so in times when the ‘bad’ should be seen to overshadow the ‘good’, it becomes the responsibility of the people to set matters right.
They can do this by raising their voices.This is best done by writing blogs and producing other types of content that raise a challenge. That speak truth to power.To come back to the discussion about Trump, I have relied on the written word to make my protests heard.
Using my Spectrum Packages subscription, I continue to submit op-eds on a daily basis. In the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Chicago Tribune. As well as other such publications. And I don’t lose hope in the process. Because I know that in a democracy like ours, every expression does count!
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