The public adoption of the Internet was provoked by the need for quick, efficient information exchange. In the early 90s, the Net was exactly what we needed, and it flourished. As of June 2005, approximately 223 out of 328 million of all North American residents – nearly 70 % – were qualified as being Internet users, according to internetworldstats.com.
A very common use of the Internet by people today is what is called a chat client or instant messaging service. These programs allow users to talk with contacts they have added to their contact list instantly. The experience is the text-equivalent to a phone conversation (though those can be emulated as well). One of the most popular clients is Windows/MSN Messenger Service, which is now exceeding 155 million users. But with all of this computer-based communication, what’s lacking?
“You have to consider that mannerisms and body language are vital indicators that in-person conversations hold over online conversations. And written language is a vastly different experience than spoken language,” said Megan Lee, a Literature student at
With such a large selection of instant messaging programs (i.e. Google Talk, AIM, Yahoo Messenger, and many others) available, and with no cost attached, they are serving as a substitute for a lot of people for personal interaction. One has to wonder, is there any cost to our social selves?
“I think social skills are developed in one sense. I personally use MSN, as well as message boards with my friends to make plans for a given evening,” says Stephanie Tuma, who holds a B.A. in Sociology and English,
“It’s a kind of two-dimensional image,” elaborates Lee. “I mean this probably only applies to individuals who were anti-social to begin with, so for the rest of us, I don’t think it detracts from our desire to interact with others in person.”
The Internet is undeniably a technological evolution, one that has produced a vast culmination of shared knowledge, readily available to just about everyone. As a result, society has become a more informed and tightly unified mass of people.
Activism has certainly benefited from the conveniences of the Web in recent years. While things like e-mail petitions are often considered expendable trash to many recipients, the word is undeniably being spread quickly in other ways, and people are banding together.
“It helps bring organizers together for activist-driven events. Cellular phones with wireless Internet might be used by people to plan the next rally for example,” said Roger Carter, political science instructor at Newfoundland’s College of the
So, there are activists connecting with one another, but how does the information online serve to benefit their causes?
"Obviously, the Internet has made it much easier for activists to swap information. This is a good thing: it helps ideas spread and holds politicians more accountable," said journalist Robert Guest, of the Economist. "Like all revolutions, it has limts: some authoritarian regimes such as China’s have been quite successful in censoring what their people see online. And there are downsides to the Internet. It helps bad ideas spread and allows terrorists to swap bomb-making tips. You can’t have everything."
Activists are not the only ones who can help expose the truth. ‘Blogs’ – abbreviated from the term ‘Weblogs’, are webspaces where users can post their thoughts, ideas, and knowledge.
"It allows a multiplicity of voices," said Guest. "We can hear not only what professional journalists tell us is going on in Baghdad or New Orleans, but also what local bloggers say. So, many bloggers act like watchdogs on the mainstream media, which keeps people like me on their toes."
A recent event on CBS showed journalist Dan Rather displaying scandalous documents to viewers regarding George Bush’s time in the National Guard. It took the blogging network mere hours to prove the items were fake, Guest pointed out.
"Before the Internet, the smear would probably never have been corrected. It undoubtedly serves the cause of truth."