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The Internet Paradox

Updated on March 7, 2012

Internet Ironies

Uncle Ben once said “With great power comes great responsibility”. This glorious quote pertains to Peter Parker who actually took this phrase to another extreme when he said “With great power comes great responsibility. This is my gift, my curse. Who am I? I'm Spider-man.” During the 2002 version of Spider-Man. Okay cool, Spider-Man… How does Uncle Ben and Peter relate to the title of this article anyway? Isn’t it supposed to be about the internet? Well, it is! Every person in the world is challenged with this very quote! The internet is one of the greatest powers ever known to mankind and with this power there must be great responsibility in order to control this power, right? We all know that the internet is extremely beneficial; important news and events spread rapidly, you can be aware of global disasters that you would have never known that happened otherwise, and an insane amount of internet collaboration can solve the greatest enigmas of life in the fields of science and math. However, this is merely half of the battle, these benefits I mentioned are considered highly of civic value, most internet users today are only concerned with the internet sources that are of communal value (a.k.a. Facebook, Youtube, etc.). This is where humankind goes wrong, these communal valued sources lead people to a life of distractions and laziness.

This idea of communal value is mentioned in Clay Shirky’s “How Cognitive Surplus Will Change the World”. Clay Shirky, a Yale Graduate and teacher on the social and economic effects of the internet, describes communal value as when internet groups band together for self-amusement: “You like Harry Potter, I like Harry Potter. Let’s make a Facebook group and see how many other people like Harry Potter!”.

Personally, I have gotten self-amusement out of communal sources, once I liked a group on Facebook that was called “It’s not a purse, it’s a satchel… Indiana Jones had one!” from a quote from the first Hangover movie. Okay, I still have to admit that it is very humorous, but in all reality I did not get anything “real” from joining this group except a little laugh and a big distraction. In fact, many times I find myself getting sucked into this vicious cycle of social media mayhem! For example, I have an essay to write that is due Thursday, October 13, 2011, and I don’t know what to write, so, I’ll just check my Facebook and see what my friends are up to. Okay, Kyle’s single again, what else is new, Jared is brushing his teeth and taking a shower, weird that he has his computer in the bathroom with him, sweet a video from Sam a.k.a. “Croz”! Alright, I’ll check it out! I click the hyperlink and it takes me to Youtube, a video labeled “Mr. Wooden Alligator” by Makemebad35. It was hilarious! So I start looking for Makemebad35’s other videos and I find another video called “The Magical Giraffe” and I watch it and then I find another one, a sequel to the first one called “Mr. Wooden Alligator Goes to College” and I click from page to page, video to video, then two hours later, I finally realize that I still have a paper due in a few days and I’m totally wasting valuable time! This is one of the greatest flaws of the internet, it is a huge distraction that deviates you away from essential work, as in this case, an English paper. I am very sure that I am not only person to find themselves get lost at sea while surfing the tides of the vast internet ocean.

How many times have you wanted to know something or you have a difficult question in your homework and someone tells you to “Just Google it”? According to Nick Carr, an American writer and finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction with his book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, Google is making people stupid because we can no longer read deeply into an article or book because other the lack of concentration that we are developing from surfing the internet. I agree with Carr but I think that he is stupid for using the word “stupid” in his thesis. Carr misuses that word "stupid", instead he should have replaced "stupid" with a more accurate term; "lazy". I don’t think that Google is necessarily making people stupid, but it is encouraging people to be less work-full. I hear my friends all the time saying “Why read the book to find the answers when you can just type the question you want answered in Google and get the answer?” I can agree that this is much more efficient and way easier than reading a big boring text book, but those were also the friends who would come up to me the day before a test and say “Teach me everything you know!” The irony! Again, we see this idea, “With great power comes great responsibility!” Google can simply give you the answer, but it is up to you to realize this material and know it! The moral of this story can be simply summed up the way the great philosopher, Plato said it nearly 2,000 years ago in his famous dialogue The Allegory of the Cave, “Education is not a process of putting knowledge into empty minds, but of making people realize that which they already know.” Even if you do use Google for everything, make sure that you realize why the answer is the way it is, otherwise you are only becoming a victim of this global pandemic of laziness.

Overall, the internet is much related to Uncle Ben’s famous phrase “With great power comes great responsibility”. The internet is so prevailing in today’s world as sources are influencing, informing, and educating mankind in ways that would be unimaginable one-hundred years ago. However, in order to continue to strive, we should use the internet the way it was intended, for civic value. Communal valuable sources are good for a few laughs and some self-amusement which is also beneficial, however, they should be regarded with care and responsibility because you may fall into a languid life of laziness and distractions. The internet is your gift, and it is your curse. I suggest that you use it wisely.

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