Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Power of the Internet

I am fortunate enough to have experienced the creation of one of the greatest inventions of all time: the Internet. Granted, there were a whole lot of events that had to transpire over several decades before it became accessible outside of military or academic circles, but when it did... it's hard to argue that it didn't have a major impact on society.

Image Courtesy Wikipedia

Much like anything else it didn't take long for the Internet to become commercialized. Rest assured (and if you read my last post this won't come as a surprise) if there's a newer/better/faster/easier way to sell you something then the people selling it are going take advantage.

Then something interesting happened. People started using the Internet for something that wasn't commerce. Of course, traditional media outlets began (and continue) to use the Internet as a cheap and easy way to get your attention, driving you to their paid services and racking up page views to satisfy deep-pocketed advertisers, but ordinary people also started to use it to share their message. They quickly realized that there was the potential to reach a tremendous audience and in less than a decade the Internet became the greatest resource the world has ever seen.

As with anything that's publicly available and unregulated you're going to get quite a wide collection of individuals involved. The Internet user community is, unsurprisingly, just a reflection of society as a whole. One quick peak and you'll find:

  • the innovators; 
  • the salespeople; 
  • the socially conscience; 
  • the clueless; 
  • the intellectual (and the intellectually deficient); 
  • the radicals; and of course, 
  • the liars and the cheats. 


If you need to put "fair & balanced" in your logo
I have news for you...

It's not just corporations like FOX News that are in on the game either. Sometimes our cravings for attention and the insatiable need for our 15 minutes of fame take control, and sometimes the less honourable see an opportunity to take advantage of the good nature of others. If you're on Facebook you have most certainly seen the posts. The ones where some tear-jerking picture is accompanied by some text that reads "If I get a million 'likes' then..." or "So and so or this and that needs your help!"

Some of these are undoubtedly true... and some most certainly are not. I choose to focus on the good. It takes a bit more energy but the end result is worth it (my favourite sources of truth are currently Snopes and Skeptophilia). With just a little bit of research and minimal digging the same Internet that brings you the lie also brings the lie and the people behind it to light. Just as easily, the Internet can be used to affect positive change, and as it turns out there are more people out there using their powers for good instead of evil.

I firmly believe in the power of the Internet and all of its social media sub-components. Aside from allowing everyday folks like myself to have a voice, it can bring people together and affect change like never before.

Just ask Egypt.

~ Andrew

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