Is the Internet good for humanity, or is it one of the forces contributing to our demise? I haven’t decided.
As someone whose job is to make the Internet better, you would think my opinion on the matter would be solidified. I should be thinking, “Of course the Internet is good. That’s why I have spent so much time, sweat, and tears dedicating myself to my professional endeavors. Free information for all whenever they need it. Who couldn’t love that?”
The Internet enables a world where I can travel without worry. It provides the ability for populations to communicate across borders. The Internet is a place we’re able to share opinions, passions, and truths. Without it, entire revolutions wouldn’t have happened and people wouldn’t have been found, nor freed.
The Internet is GOOD then, right?
I’m still undecided.
Some weeks ago, I was introduced to Ear Hustle, a podcast detailing what life is like in prison. While listening, I noted an inmate’s comment about the lack of Internet available to him. Instead of feeling discouraged by this lack, I felt relief. "Finally a place the clutches of the ever present information can't reach!"
At this thought, I panicked.
“Less Internet? Wait, the Internet is what I do! Why do I want less of it?”
Yet, I do want less of it. I want to go to a family gathering and see children playing games with each other instead of with their phones. I’d like to get on public transit and see people aware of their surroundings as opposed to having their necks craned over a device. I’d love to see people sitting quietly reflecting instead of doing everything possible to escape from the world around them via the piece of plastic in their hands.
I want all of this, and, at the same time, I want to see the curious expand their knowledge base with just a tap of their finger. I want to feel the joy of seeing the less fortunate empower and enable themselves via the information the Internet provides. I’d even love to witness something so small as more people show up on time due to the assistance of mapping technology.
Despite all of the positives, the seeming overabundance of the Internet has me greatly questioning my work. I frequently ask myself questions like, “How much am I to blame for the parts of the Internet I despise?” and “What can I do to turn the 'too much time on the Internet' tide?" and "If my understanding of people helped me create parts of this version of the Internet, can't I also use my powers for good?". I have some additional thoughts and opinions on the matter, but haven’t yet come to any firm conclusions.
Thus, this battle over the morality of the Internet, and my work within it, rages on. I find myself caught up in the crossfire; some days beaming with pride at the potential my ideas hold, some days hanging my head thinking how much attention they are set up to steal from fellow humans. The thoughts have me feeling adrift and marooned in my profession, and as if the life raft of answers may never come.
Then I remember, “Hey, I’m part of a larger community who may be dealing with the same thoughts and feelings. Maybe if we start discussing them more we’ll be more informed, empowered, and able to reach an actual consensus for the betterment of all.”
This collaborative path forward seems to me the best course of action, as fighting the battle alone isn’t getting me any further. Here’s hoping you agree.
So, now that I’ve shared my take on the matter, I’d like to know... how is this all working out for you?