Most of what we tend to be fed about the Internet these days tends to be awfully gloomy by nature. If you were to believe the MSM and certain "twitterati" the Internet is nothing but obscene pornography, exploding muslims, bullies, trolls, viruses which will steal your soul and debit card details, more trolls, more hatred, and more paedophiles than you shake a stick at. It's almost as if the Internet is being made out to be some kind of sentient monster intent on destroying our lives.

What's interesting is that all of this demonisation is actually aimed at something you can't see, smell, taste or touch. The Internet is nothing but a series of connections both physical and incorporeal. The physical connections don't particularly excite me much. I'm of no doubt there will be someone reading this article for whom the thought of the latest in rack mount server technology causes a neckbeard tremor only akin to being told "Hey, dude. Megan Fox is here, she's only wearing a bikini and wants to say hello". For me though, it's not exciting. For all I know it could be powered by fairy magic and elves dragging my words around the Internet in a small coach pulled by horses which run at the speed of light. In fact, I think I'd prefer that.

What fascinates me are the non-physical connections. The 'made of meat' element of the Internet, the people. The 'Net does little more than connect human beings. It connects them not only to information but also to each other in ways we have never encountered before in human history. The sum of man's knowledge, everything we know (apart from secret documents not yet leaked by Edward Snowden that is) is at the end of your fingertips. Whatever you need or desire to learn is nothing more than a search engine query away and you can source as many interpretations of this information as you like in order to form your own opinion on whatever the given topic might be.

We're so complacent with this technology that we take it for granted and forget so quickly how utterly amazing it actually is. Before the Internet you'd have to visit places called libraries. You can still do that if you wish and I heartily recommend it but you don't have to. No more do you head off to your small local library asking if they have a book detailing the development of the spoon only to be told "No, sorry. We've got the new Sidney Sheldon book though". You just Google it (or Duck Duck Go if you're not keen on Google's approach or perhaps just want to seem a bit cutting edge) and there you have it. Access to not only the information you're after but also many, many interpretations for you to digest.

Yes there's clutter, misinformation and disinformation to contend with but that's fine. Use your brain, don't follow your previous conditioning of believing everything you're told simply because some kind of authority figure tells you it's the last word in accuracy and find your own way. No more do you have to rely on a handful of outlets often editorialising information based on the political stance of the company, now you can read from people who are biased in all kinds of ways! Just have a look in the middle ground and you'll often find a rich vein of information to be plundered.

But it's not simply the fact the Internet is the largest and most democratic information repository mankind has ever encountered, although that's amazing enough. It's the human element, the communication element that really blows me away. Take a look at the people you regularly interact with online. Some might be people from your regular "real life" circle of acquaintances. Most often you'll interact with these people on Facebook, perhaps showing each other pictures of your dinner or taking yet another inane quiz which claims it will tell you what kind of bacteria you are. That's reasonably cool in itself but pales into insignificance (very quickly) when compared to the people you could regularly interact with who you would never otherwise have had the opportunity to know.

Our generation may have laid the foundations but we're still too mired in being typical humans determined to fight at the drop of a hat. Perhaps the next, or the one after, will truly realise that geographical location, religious beliefs, even ideologies opposed to their own are less an obstacle to interaction and possibly friendship and more simply aspects of their character. The world will only start truly growing smaller if we are at least willing to listen to how others think after all.

The Internet is the great leveler. No matter your location, your language, your education, your social standing you have the same access to information as the next man. The same access to human interaction. Even moving to a commercial plane you can build an idea for peanuts which could conquer the world while a massive company spends millions and achieves less. There is no more democratic environment than the one the Internet allows.

So, yes there are problems. People abuse their anonymity, people abuse the privilege afforded to them by spreading disinformation but every system is subject to abuse. Any system which could not possibly be abused is a system so draconian in its layout that you wouldn't want to use it anyway. When being bombarded with all that is bad online try to think more about what you love about it, the wonders it contains and the possibilities. If you do that a little more it puts the nasty things into perspective.

Now go post pictures of your cat doing something vaguely amusing, you've earned it.

 

 

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Hayden is the founder of Trigger Warning so it’s all his fault.

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