On The Internet: Information & Culture

We (as humans) owe a lot to the invention of the internet. To downplay its significance in this day and age is simple ignorance and nothing more. Truthfully, it doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, where you’re from, or how old you are… the internet exists above you and I – as a medium between otherwise disconnected persons.

What the Internet is not:

The internet is not some sort of craze, fad, or trend. The world wide web has no target audience, no hidden intentions, it isn’t a distraction (although it can most definitely serve as one) – and it absolutely cannot be described with words such as ‘good,’ or ‘evil.’

Grampa Simpson taking out his frustration on a harmless cloud.

Where did the internet hurt you?

Whether or not you agree with it…

The internet is here to stay – much to the detriment of restrictions and unfreedom. An ‘information superhighway,’ as it’s been termed, that’s too great to succumb to the endless suppression of government and society. Where all information: true and the untrue, ‘good and evil’, correct and incorrect – has a place to stay and be learned from.

As of 2018 there are about 4 billion people using the internet in the world. That means that nearly half of the earth’s population is online in some way. Along the same note, it also means that right now as you read this insignificant blog post – you are simultaneously connected to millions of people off the coast of California, to the African islands of Seychelles, and the far reaches of east Asia. It may come as a surprise to some of you that essentially every country in the world  has access to internet today.  Just often not the means to distribute it amongst its populace and in some cases not even the will to do so. (https://www.internetworldstats.com/

Internet Statistics

What is the internet?

As usual let’s start with two English dictionary definitions…

According the Merriam-Webster dictionary the internet is: an electronic communications network that connects computer networks and organizational computer facilities around the world.

Then according to dictionary.com the internet is: a vast computer network linking smaller computer networks worldwide.

While I would say that these are fantastic technical definitions of the internet. They don’t do much to show you what the internet is today.

The internet connects more than just computers… it connects people. All of our thoughts, ideas, philosophies, and know-how – they all have a place here. It doesn’t matter how right or wrong you are – your voice can and will be heard if you really want it to. The world wide web is the world’s first step towards actual unification. With freedom of information laid into its groundwork – the powers’ of the world have very little choice but to accept it or be labeled (properly so) as despotic. The internet is a place for everyone and everything. A place for you to learn, to influence, to write or read, have fun, or to conduct business. The possibilities of the internet become more limitless with each passing hour. With all that said, summarily, the world wide web is a place that you can do anything you want – where the only limits to its capability are the limits we place on ourselves. So what is there to possibly dislike about this wonderful, unimpeded second-world of information?

An endless battle of fact and opinion…

Put simply, one of the most important lessons we’ve learned from the existence of a ‘free and open’ internet is that many people do not have the ability to distinguish fact from opinion. Some even like to take it a step further and say that there is NO such system to do so – and then use it as an argument for censorship of the internet (a highly illogical argument, but an argument nonetheless). However, it is my own opinion that to blame anything besides basic human nature for this ‘problem,’ is just niaiserie… It’s up to an individual to determine whether something is true or untrue – it’s a basic function we’ve all been given and then refine through education. Misinformation occurs due to a wide array of reasoning, from legitimately held beliefs to malicious deception. When many people write – they write with a purpose. It’s up to them to choose their purpose, they write what they want for their purpose and then leave it at that. The responsibility of determining the validity of their writing or reasoning always falls upon the reader. Placing that responsibility on the internet itself is akin to saying a piece of paper should regulate the words that are written upon it.

Free Speech: Just not on the Internet

Introducing: Internet Culture Wars

In my early teens I became obsessed with the internet. Looking back now it’s easy to see why. As I’ve said before, it’s a place of acceptance: a place where you learn that you aren’t alone in your interests or your way of thinking. While that in itself is pretty exciting (especially to those with ‘obscure’ interests) even more exciting, for me, was the seemingly constant discord amongst these communities. As it turns out, it doesn’t matter what you do or say on the internet; someone is bound to disagree with you and often times vehemently.

What a nice guy.

The internet’s got your back.

This isn’t restricted to ANY specific community either. It’s a recurring theme endlessly repeating throughout the ripples of cyberspace (and yes, real life too). It can occur within a singular community – or even occur between multiple ‘competing’ communities. Apparently, some people can’t bear the thought of differing opinion even where opinion is necessitated.

Why was this exciting to me? Well, the question why is exactly why. It was a ‘big’ question, especially as someone who enjoyed debate: what compelled certain people to act the way they do when confronted with a differing opinion?

Is it insecurity? Is it because they’ve been deceived at some point in their lives? Perhaps they truly believe their opinion is fact? Were they just joking? Were they ‘trolling‘? Are they just being immature? If a claim is disputable: are they actually right?

These questions are often unanswerable. On the web, there’s a certain level of anonymity given to everyone that does not occur in the real world and thus there exists is a total lack of responsibility behind words. Just because you say something does not mean you have to back it up or even pretend you actually meant it in the first place. On top of that, you don’t even need to be worried about those same words being tied to your person.

 

Watch out they might cut you with their edge.

Can you tell who is serious?

This all makes ground for interesting discussion or absolute turmoil.  Discussions where you, as the third party not only have the option to analyze every argument, but often the ability to contribute towards it yourself – without the typical pressure that comes along with making dialogue.

Outro: My Favorite Websites

(That you should definitely be using)

While I personally don’t make claims to which websites are ‘better’ or ‘worse,’ there are only a handful which I visit on a daily basis. Are these recommendations? I’m not sure. Recommending some of these places is analogous to a smoker recommending you try cigarettes.

 

Reddit

"The Front page of the internet"

The forum to end all forums. A community of communities. It’s completely free to register, use, read, and post. Often mislabeled as a ‘liberal think-tank,’ you can actually find all sorts of human garbage nesting here (radical conservatives included).  Communities that don’t exist can be made by any user using a simple 3-step process. Want to discuss the latest in tech? Reddit’s gotcha. Want to see the latest trending videos? Gotcha again. Maybe you want to refine your hot sauce recipe? You guessed it, check out their ‘spicy’ community and you might learn something . Even more refined individuals, like those of us who staple bread to trees have a place to present and discuss our work on Reddit.

The rules of Reddit vary by community. Censorship, while not a recurring problem – is apparent on occasion. Subreddits are moderated by users themselves. Reddit is considered a social news aggregate – so most of it’s content is sourced from outside of Reddit in some manner – but discussions take place solely on Reddit itself.

 

YouTube

YouTube

400 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

That’s not a far-fetched stat – YouTube currently runs on a deficit. The last I heard, google was losing $100-200 million every year keeping it afloat. Much like you can ‘google’ nearly any question and find an answer, you can ‘YouTube’ nearly any process and find a step-by-step video on how to perform it. It’s likely there will never be another video platform to surpass YouTube – and there doesn’t really need to be. As of 2018 they even offer cable subscription packages. In conclusion: YouTube is THE media platform of today. Free to watch, free to register and upload – the content is endless. You’re bound to find a creator you’ll enjoy or a reason to use it eventually.

 

Google

The only search engine you'll ever need.

The importance of Google cannot be overstated. It’s even a word in the english dictionary. Less than a decade ago the search engine market was saturated with dozens of websites. Today, only one or two remain relevant – and this one is a permanent fixture of the market. 35 trillion websites are indexed with google or a measly 4% of the entire internet. With that 4% however comes the answer to nearly every answerable question and every proof behind every fact. It’s my favorite fact checker – because it doesn’t discriminate. It aggregates every possible result related to the topic at hand and displays it without any additional opinion. From encyclopedias to organizational web pages – it’s very easy to source information starting with a simple google search.

 

Thank you for reading,

Brandon