I’m a web addict, but chances are, you the reader are too. Is this necessarily a bad thing? I don’t think so, we are moving towards a world where many of us will be continuously connected to the web throughout the day. This could be at a traditional desk and computer or through some kind of mobile device—the web will always be at our finger tips. Some people might spell out doom and gloom scenarios, but I think they are short sighted and pessimistic. Why is the allure of the web so strong, and is it good?
More information than ever before
Never in our history has their ever been such a wealth of information available and sometimes it can feel a little overwhelming. At any given moment there is always interesting breaking news, a friend who has sent that hilarious cartoon we must read, or the top twitter posted link that is making its rounds. Now the real challenge is in optimization of this information into small bites that we can more easily consume. Every few months, someone steps up to the challenge with an innovative new way to communicate and access information on the web.
I remember life before the Internet, but it’s hard to imagine now, what did we do when we had a question? We were either lazy and just didn’t bother, asked someone else who might know, or went through volumes of books in a library searching. All that has changed.
The power of being social, everyone has a voice
The Internet has always been social, but never to the degree it is today; I think that’s part of the allure. We are social creatures and we love to learn and communicate. The web is a constant exchange and flow of ideas. The speed at which we can share and communicate data is increasing and we are are processing this information faster than ever. Sometimes when I read a traditional book I find myself wanting to search it’s pages via a search field to find that nugget of information I need. Other times if I am reading something more controversial I find myself wanting to share my thoughts with the writer or others who may read the book. This is why we love the web, because we can do this.
Blogs are not new, just improved
For me blogs have always existed since the early days of the web—we just didn’t have a cool buzzword for them. They were called personal web pages, home pages or sometimes even web logs which is where the term blog originated. In the early days many people had guest books. A guest book was a place for your visitors to write down what they had to say and tell you how much they liked or disliked your site.
Once blogging software and blog services like Blogger entered the scene things started to change. Pages were organized better and publishing on the web became accessible to non-geeks, but also—every article or post had its own guest book making each one have a life of its own. The blog also changed the immediacy of communication and interaction between the writer and reader. Couple that with vast amounts of widgets and add-ons available for popular blog software, the introduction social media sites that are linking us all together, and you have a vibrant world of communication buzzing down every fiber optic wire.
Good or bad?
Is all this a bad thing? I guess like anything it could be. If you are missing work, or obsessing over one site, that’s probably not a good thing. Diversity of information and moderation are key, but there is nothing wrong with always having that information available. I don’t believe being wired all the time is a bad thing for the majority of us out there. I think the Internet is bringing people closer together—breaking down communication barriers, allowing us to empathise with other cultures and ideas. With the Internet everyone has a voice, we all have the ability to shout across the web and be heard. The Internet is just an extension of our abilities to communicate.
Yes big media, particularly television news will dig up every dark corner of the web and sound all the alarm bells about the perilous evils of the Internet, but like real life, the Internet is not immune from bad or evil people. I think big media in the end just may be afraid of becoming less relevant in the future. Why do I want to hear what some talking head has to say about some issue overseas when I can go straight to the source and hear someone who lives there? A great example of this is Zeyad’s Healing Iraq blog, an Iraqi dentist who started a blog during the second Iraq war.
So I say be proud of your addiction, but also strive to give back to the community whether that is by sending links to friends, writing articles, sharing Open Source software or spreading the word about an issue you feel strongly about. The web is becoming a part of who we are and a part of our global society, embrace it.
I also recommend reading “Is Google Making Us Stupid?“, a fantastic article about how our brains are changing to access information on the web. Some of my inspiration for this article came from here. Another catalyst for this article was a comment from a good friend of mine. I told him I wanted an iPhone so I could be connected 24/7. He retorted by saying something along the lines of that sounds like an addiction.