Feb 9, 2009, 6:22 AM
In about half a century, the world has gone through different phases to where we are currently at right now, in the reigning age of technology, globalization and consistent uprisings in the name of different things. Some of the things that are part of basic life were relatively unheard of back in the day.
I was multi-tasking the other day, working on a document on my computer and trying to catch the main parts of a movie on cable TV. In a particular scene, an author was typing his manuscript on a typewriter. I remember pausing a moment before trying to stifle a giggle. It was so slow according to today’s standards and once he got to the end of the line, he had to pull the line back and begin the process over again. I couldn't imagine having to go through that.
But long before the era of type writers, people did their written correspondences via pen and paper or scroll and quill. It took mail ages to reach it destination because of the slowness of the process and most folk walked to run their errands. All relevant news and reports were either received via radio, word of mouth or print media such as newspapers. Fast forward to now and we have reached heights which were unimaginable or dreamed of by our ancestors. The world has seen the design and manufacture of fast and fancy cars, hordes of aircrafts, hi-definition televisions and other electrical gadgets such as hoovers, blenders, microwaves etc..., mobile means of telecommunication and the internet, which is probable the greatest of all such advancements.
The internet is 'a global system of inter-connected computers which serve billions of users worldwide. It is a network of networks that consists of millions of private, public, academic, business and government networks of local to global scope that are linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless and optical networks and it carries a vast range of information and services' (Wikipedia definition). It is often used with the World Wide Web without any distinction in everyday life. However, they are not one and the same. The former is a combination of hardware and software infrastructure that provides connectivity whilst the latter is just one of the services offered by the Internet.
The information and services on the world net is diverse and plenty. With different websites containing varying data or products and online blogs, instant messaging, online opinion forums, search engines such as Yahoo and Google which provide relevant information and practically every single topic and the very significant and quite popular social networking which has been quite a rage over the past decade or so. Sites such as Hi-5, UTube, MySpace, Facebook, Skype and recently Twitter have taken the technological world by storm. These sites have given a whole new meaning to communication and socialization.
To gage just how influential and powerful the internet and subsequently Social networking sites are, one just has to take a look at the uprising in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen and a few other nation that are currently experiencing unrest. Meets and strikes are organised, with on the ground scenes reported via these sites. Videos and pictures are uploaded and shared with multiple eye un-doctored reports being shared. It has taken journalism to a different level all together with locals reaching and reporting areas and issues that Journalist can’t reach or do.
The virtual market is also blooming and the global economy growing, with sales of products and services being done online where the buyer can view the product catalogue on the entity’s website, chose and pay for with an electronic payment card such as Visa, MasterCard or PayPal (to mention a few) and have it shipped or delivered to their address. Also, books can be purchased in soft copy and read online or saved to a desk top. Amazon and eBay are two of said online shopping venues that have gained wide repute and success.
The Internet has no centralized governance in either technological implementation or policies for access or usage with each constituent network setting its own standards. However, all technical and policy issues in relation to the core infrastructure and principal name space are administered by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
As with any major development, it is expected that it won’t be all smooth sailing. The internet being as global is also available to individuals who have less than pure and stellar intention in mind. It is being used to promote pornography, immorality, make arrangements for migrant forced and sex slavery and most disturbing the illegal child labour industry furtherance with email addresses being used for correspondences.
Another thing that has grown and gotten attention since the social networking boom is cyber bullying. Most people assume that the only harmful aspect of bullying is the physical. This however is not the case. The psychological effects are usually longer lasting. Cyber bullying is very dangerous with reported attempted and fatal suicides by its victims just as in the case of its non virtual part. Bullying is bullying and it is wrong.
"That's what I am" a movie recently released by the World Wrestling Entertainment Productions and starring famed actor and Hollywood icon Ed Harris and successful and phenomenal pro-wrestler Randy Orton is an epic. It is a movie that decries bullying and pronounces the effects it has on its victims. It also focuses not only on the bullied but also on the bullies.
Without the internet, accessibility to a lot of things we take for granted today wouldn’t be possible. As with everything though, it comes with duties and responsibilities attached and in this case, this powerful medium should be used for the further development of the human race. As always, it’s a matter of discipline on the part of the user. "The willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life (and decisions) is the source from which self-respect springs." (Joan Didion). Pearl Buck said it best in the quote "We need to restore the meaning of that old word duty. It is the other side of rights."