The internet has changed a lot of things, generally for the better. I, at least, would not like to go back to a life without it, it is just too practical. But are we aware about how this is changing us? How our behaviour, our perception of the world has changed?
Credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=1674Credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=1674
Let's Start with Google...
Google is a fantastic tool, it could be seen as the Saint Graal of the internet. You don't understand how to do something? Google it! You need some info about something? Google it! You have some family problems and want to hear how others have managed it before you? Google it!
So what can be bad about it?
Well, I have to say, the easier it is to find out info, the less inclined you are to use your brain. Can't solve a puzzle? With google (or other search engines), you would simply look for a solution on the web after 5-10 minutes trying. Without, you would probably try again and again.
You can't figure out how to do something? Instead of trying things out, analysing the situation (how should it work, how could it work, what could be working?), you would simply google it. Maybe you would have found a better solution or at least a different, original way to do it.
Let's take a concrete example: when I first played with the rubik's cube, I could not figure out how to solve it. Google was not there so I played with it for months. I was forced to think by myself, to try things, to figure things out by myself. At the end, I did not manage it but I learned things through this process and, at least, I used my brain. If it was for today, I would probably use google to find a solution after 10-15 min playing with it.
The first websites about how to solve the cube made you think by yourself "solve the first layer, figure this out by yourself" or "perform this algorithm and find out what it is doing" and so on. Such sentences would seem arrogant today and most websites propose now easy-to-follow-no-need-to-think solutions.
Google (and search engines in general) has also made it boring to learn stuff you don't immediately know. Why learn something now if you can google it later, when/if you need it? Why even learn it at all if you can find it with google when you need it?
Facebook or How to Stay Connected with Your Friends...
Facebook is also something big on the Internet. Who has never heard about it? Never seen it? I would even say that fewer and fewer refuse to be on facebook (why not being on facebook, it is free and it allows you to stay in touch with your friends and share some stuff with them).
One problem I see with facebook is while you are connected to many of your friends, you don't really communicate with them. And by this, I don't mean the status change, the "what's on your mind" etc... Have you really talked to those people in the last few months? In real life? At least on the phone? Taking the time for each of them to listen to what they had to say? Being available to them with more than just an "ok", "I see", or "yeah"? I actually feel we have never been farther from our friends. Facebook has made it easy to be lazy, never taking news and content oneself with some link sharing, status changes and so on.
Another problem which is often talked about is the devaluation of the word "friend". What is a friend? Just someone you know? Just the guy you met at the party and that added you because you have a friend in common? That girl you went to primary school with and that suddenly found you on facebook but that you hardly remember (what was her name again?)? This other guy that seem to know you and that you may have known you in the past and heck, you did not want to be impolite so you added him? Is that what friends are? How many would be there for you if you have some problems, if you need to talk to someone? Losing a friend today is not a big deal. You have hundreds of them anyway on facebook...
Web surfing in general has made us worse and worse readers. A text is unclear? Let's find another website. The article you are reading is too long? No way you are going to read it entirely. No pictures of sexy girls, no funny/weird pictures? Not interested.
We have become more and more passive, more and more targetable by the ads. If Shakespeare was to write a blog today, he would not have many followers. Too complex. Too long.
We could even go further and say that even for short texts, we will content ourselves with the global meaning of it. If there is another meaning, more implicit, we won't notice it, we won't even look for it. Some people have devoted their lives to the analysis of some few poems. Today, we would spend less than 10 minutes on them.
Again, this article may seem negative, but I am not saying we should bury every computers and go back to our lives before this Internet era. I am simply pinpointing the negative changes it brought. Being aware of it, being careful about it is already important in my eyes. When I was young, my French teacher made me read a play called Rhinoceros, about people becoming Rhinoceros, simply to follow the mood. The narrator refuses to become a rhinoceros and the play describes how difficult it is not to follow everyone else, to stay yourself. I thought the play was stupid and meaningless. Today, I realise how accurate this play applies on modern society and its evolution because of the internet. Everyone uses facebook, why not me? Everyone tweets, why not me? And then, we become more and more slaves of the internet, spoon fed with easy-to-follow, easy-to-understand short texts without deep meaning, catchy images, funny videos, ... What about you? Will you be the next rhinoceros?