The Internet: Good, bad or an alien life form?

4th February 2021

Earlier this week a friend shared this footage from 1999 of the late, great David Bowie being interviewed by Jeremy Paxman.

In it he says: “The potential of what the internet is going to do to society, both good and bad, is unimaginable. We are actually on the cusp of something exhilarating and terrifying” 

He goes on to jokingly compare the internet with an alien life form.

Twenty-one years later it got me thinking about the positives and negatives of the internet’s impact. Here are my top five for starters …

Access to information

  • Virtually anything you want at your fingertips. I had a friend staying with me recently and one of our regular phrases became “Let’s ask Google”. Who sang this song? What was that actor in? What can we make for tea with a glut of tomatoes? Let’s ask Google! Of course, it’s great for more serious research projects and studying too.
  • Misinformation, deliberate or otherwise. How often do you see wrong information being shared as though it was fact? Anyone can set themselves up as an ‘expert’ and too many people assume sites like Wikipedia are a reliable source. Rest assured at Active PR we fact-check our copy via several different sources.

Social media

  • Great for keeping in touch, sharing our favourite photos, making friends and influencing people, or reuniting people with their lost property or pets. 
  • That feeling of isolation or rejection when no one likes your posts, trolling and cyber-bullying; chain messages, pointless quizzes and political engineering.  

Instant news

  • Remember when you had to buy a newspaper to find out what happened yesterday or wait until the six o’clock TV news to watch the day’s events? Now you can get your news whenever and wherever you want it from a myriad of different news websites; or download a podcast to listen to while you’re on the move.
  • As the quantity of news has gone up, the quality has arguably diminished. Many media websites rely on click-bait stories to keep their readership up, and even institutions like the BBC have been accused of dumbing down. The UK Press Gazette reported in August that 33 local newspapers have closed down since the start of 2019. We’re always pleased when we see journalists fighting back and setting up their own news outlets like LBN Daily in Merseyside and the unusually named Stray Ferret in Harrogate! It’s one of our jobs to keep abreast of emerging news outlets.

Online shopping

  • Pizza, groceries, books, clothes, furniture …. virtually anything you want delivered to your front door, sometimes on the same day.
  • The decline in our high streets and loss of independent retailers. Let’s hope ‘Shop Local’ campaigns can gather momentum post-lockdown.

Working from home

  • Super-fast broadband, cloud computing, VOIP telephony, apps like Zoom and MSTeams, all make it easy for many of us to do our jobs without ever leaving our homes; saving money, time and the environment by not commuting.
  • Increased isolation, lack of connection with colleagues, no one to bounce ideas off, eyestrain and stiff necks from staring at a screen, risk of overworking as it’s more difficult to switch off – or, for others, too many homelife distractions so impossible to get the job done. At Active PR we’ve practised remote working since long before Covid-19 so, happily, have found ways to overcome all of these issues.  So, the internet: a force for good or a necessary evil – what do you think? I’m certain of one thing, Bowie was a man ahead of his time!

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