Does the World Revolve Around the Internet?

Well, does it?

This is something I’ve been thinking about recently, and more so since reading Alex’s post ‘Welcome to the Future’ earlier this week. Huge advances in technology have made us become more and more reliant on the internet. We’re constantly glued to it, thanks to mobile devices and the like. News, opinions, shopping, socialising, work, ways to simply pass the time; we use the internet for pretty much everything! If the internet could tie our shoelaces for us, we’d make sure it did it every time we left the house – after all, everything is better with the internet right? Hmm, I’m not so sure.

Like Alex was saying in his post, communication has suffered greatly as a result of ‘text speak’; one of technology’s least loving gifts in my eyes. It seems like simple sentences are just too much effort these days, and everything has to be shortened – even the links we click on to reach a new internet destination (thanks Twitter…).

Remember the days when people used to ask their friends and family for help or advice? Those days are starting to disappear as people now turn to the internet for answers. Your friend no longer trusts your advice, and instead better trusts that of a stranger’s ‘best answer’ on ‘Yahoo! Answers’. Nice, isn’t it? I really feel for teachers who have to put up with the youth of our generation. Imagine having to teach a bunch of kids about history when they can just google what happened in, say, the battle of Hastings in 1066? And the kids of this generation are so fixated on the internet that they’d probably much rather read a Wikipedia summary than actually learn something valuable (that’s not a dig at Wikipedia), or develop their communication skills by having a face-to-face discussion about it with their peers.

I realise I’m getting a bit ranty (probably not a word) now, so I’ll bring it back to the point I’m trying to make. The internet is a fantastic tool, and I love it for its ability to make information so easily accessible, for the entertainment it provides, and for the way it allows me to share my thoughts with listening ears (or eyes?) on the other side of the world. Hell I work in SEO; if people didn’t rely on the internet, and google everything that pops into their head my career would be over! But there comes a time when you need to distance yourself from it and realise what’s really important in life. And I think the line here needs to be drawn when socialising online becomes more appealing than socialising in person. Times when the sound of laughter is replaced by the letters “LOL”, behind a straight face.

I genuinely panicked today when I saw that my number of Twitter followers had gone down from 79 to 76. It took a few moments of me scrolling through my followers, wondering “why don’t those 3 people like me anymore?” before I realised that I would have no idea which 3 followers were missing, and that the relationships I had with them were fairly meaningless. Yes at one stage they may have liked one or two of my tweets, but did my happiness really depend on whether or not they clicked the ‘unfollow’ button next to my name? How much does our Twitter follower or Facebook friend counts actually enrich our lives? Allowing our lives to be ruled by the metrics of the internet has turned us into vain beings with deluded priorities and objectives. Yes I would love to hit triple figures on Twitter followers, much like I’d love the blogs I write to gain views, but at the end of the day how much does it affect my life? Is my self-esteem really that shot?

One thing’s for sure, I’d much rather someone stopped me in the street to compliment me on something I said, than for someone to just click a ‘like’ button. But I guess the times have changed the way we operate, so I guess digital compliments are the best we can hope for now.

Because of everything the internet offers, your life can quickly start revolving around it. But I guess the thing we need to remember, and pass on to the next generation, is that the internet is a tool best used to supplement the physical world around us, not replace it. Appreciate the value of a Twitter follower, or of a virtual thumbs up to the work you’ve created, but don’t forget the importance of real life interaction.

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