The internet has changed how we communicate. There are downsides and upsides. Here are some of the downsides.
Children and teenagers text each other while sitting next to each other in the car or in the classroom. Teachers and parents have to tell young people to turn off their phones and talk.
Email is starting to disrupt work to the point where employers are telling workers to read email once or twice a day and that’s it, to avoid as much as possible sending out group emails that clog inboxes, and to stop sending so many lame jokes. Employers who do this find that productivity and creativity go up.
Pornographers find the internet to be a great place to sell their material. Child sexual abusers have internet support groups and referrals systems where they can find children to molest. Child sexual abusers also troll the internet for potential victims.
Children can find their way to pornography sites. This can be upsetting and expose them to material that they are unprepared for.
Email inboxes throughout the world are crammed with ads and fraudulent schemes.
As the study on reading shows, people are now reading fewer books and newspapers than they used to, but I think we are exposed to more information than ever in many other formats, such as the internet. The multiple sources of information is an upside to the changes that the internet is bringing about. One more point: Some people don’t learn much from reading, but learn through DVDs, talking to other people, through hands-on experience, and through the internet.
Here are more upsides of internet communication.
Families can send group emails to organize family events or share important family news. This was clear to me when my mother had a stroke and family members are scattered throughout the U.S.
We can stay in touch with family members and friends more easily. My niece lives in Georgia, for example, and I’m in Minnesota. So we can communicate with each other over the internet.
Information is easily obtainable, from how to spell a word, to medical information, or directions to grandma’s new downtown condo. I’m a professor. I use the internet to find articles I need for teaching or for papers I’m writing. It used to take me hours to find these articles in libraries.
Information is much easier to share. Several times a week I email people papers, articles, citations for books to students and people I work with, both in the US and internationally. It has never been as convenient as it is now to share information.
Through websites, people can share their lives and let people know what services they have to offer or goods they are selling. People order movies, books, and newspapers through the internet. I just found a great plumber through an internet service provider.
There are many terrific support groups on the internet for writers, for recovering alcoholics, for survivors of abuse, for readers of books. The list goes on.
These are just some of the upsides to internet communication. There are downsides, for sure. Attention must be paid to the downsides, but I wouldn’t change a thing about the upsides.