Discovery Fit & Health
Paul Schmitz Senior Technology Strategist, Intel Labs
The amount of information and the amount of communication that can be had using the Internet I still believe far outweighs the potential pitfalls of using it. You see people using the Internet to reunite families in other countries that have been lost for 20, 25 years. Myself, I connected with school buddies that I lost track of so I think that's incredible. I don't think I could bank without using the Internet. I'm a security guy and I still do banking - everything is done online. It's automated, but it takes certain steps to make sure that I'm keeping my data as safe as I can.
Before the Internet, a person who wanted to interact with the rest of society could always be judged for his or her appearance, position of power or actions. The Internet, however, provides anonymity and a fairly even playing field. In some ways, anonymity has proved to be a blessing, as many people find acceptance that they can't find in the real world. It's also proved to be a curse, as people on the Internet tend to say and do hurtful things they would never say or do in face-to-face conversation. The popularity of the Internet may also threaten real-life societies; the more time people spend on Facebook, the less time they have for activities like sports leagues. On the other hand, people yearning for a community of, say, baseball card collectors, are able to find one easily online, making the argument that the Internet has only widened the possibility of social connections.
It's undeniable that the Internet has created new and positive ways of interacting with the outside world. Massive online retailers and commerce communities such as eBay and Amazon.com have changed the way much of the world does business and generated an enormous amount of wealth. Likewise, social networking and Internet-based programs like Skype have allowed people to maintain relationships over long distances in ways that would have been difficult or impossible just decades ago.
That said, the Internet can certainly be bad for some people. Pathological computer use, or PCU, is a new disorder that has been proposed for addition to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. PCU can be described in common terms as an addiction to the Internet. This impulse control disorder can lead to depression, isolation, exhaustion and problems at home and school or work. As more people spend increasing amounts of time on the Internet, more also are complaining about the problems of pathological Internet use [source: Tech Target]. It is tempting to wonder whether people will ever become tired of social networking and constant electronic interaction. In May 2011, Facebook's seemingly unstoppable growth hit an interesting bump: For the first time, it lost a significant number of users in the United States -- specifically, about 6 million users abandoned ship [source: Eldon]. Whether this is a sign that social networking and other Internet-based systems could soon begin falling out of favor has yet to be seen.
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