Internet – the good, the bad and the ugly

Internet – the good, the bad and the ugly

A society is a dynamic institution created by mankind to pursue common social goals. While an individual seeks to maximize his or her own welfare as the primary goal, collective efforts are often needed to achieve individual goals. Many things have shaped modern societies and the emergence of information technology has impacted upon the way members of society interact with each other in their daily lives. The internet has become an instrument of mass communication intruding into the public sphere. This is why it is said that ‘prior to the development of the internet most of us were largely invisible to most other people in the world’.

Internet is closely connected with the wider application of human knowledge to transform economic, social and cultural organizations of mankind. Improved communication through the internet has expanded across time and space and has facilitated instant and quick interaction between the sender and the receiver. It is as if we have achieved a
time-space convergence as far as the creation, storage, retrieval and use of information and knowledge are concerned.

While internet is seen as a technological revolution, it is rapidly making inroads into cultural transformation of societies in modern era. This cultural transformation creates new forms of human action and reaction to events in our immediate vicinity as well as far beyond our own familiar environment.

Organisational culture has been tremendously influenced by different forms of information technology in general and the internet in particular. This has impacted upon transparency and accountability in terms of decisions and actions by members of a modern organization. Organizations use internet technology mainly to improve efficiency and productivity of what they do. The power and control systems of the organization have responded to different methods of communication technology where old barriers of communication have been dismantled to varying degrees.

The multipurpose use of the internet is well recognized by the actors of societies. At issue are the positive and negative aspects of this mass medium of communication. Among other things, distance education has been largely facilitated by the use of the internet between the educators and the learners. Commercial use of the internet is by now well established by those seeking to increase opportunities for profit. Globalization of economic activities is linked with the internet, no doubt. While the positive aspect of this is now established, some people argue that it has also created adverse consequences in terms of social and economic inequality.

Information explosion through the internet has created tension and anxiety among some sections of the society who are concerned about the negative impact the information flow may have generated. This tension and anxiety points to uncertainties, risks and vulnerability surrounding the use of the internet by certain sections of the society, including the children. Internet contents and internet chat between teen-agers are cases in point in this regard. The consequences of access to the internet by some vulnerable sections of the society sometimes lead to intense debates about the pros and cons of this revolutionary medium of communication from an ethical point of view.

Perhaps there is a fine line between the bad and the ugly. If unintended consequences of any action are considered as ‘bad’, the conscious, deliberate and ill-motivated action to mislead, misguide and cheat others can be treated as ‘ugly’. Thus some people may take advantage of the internet to deliberately cause harm to other people – an example could be the creation and transmission of internet virus aiming to do mischief to other people or organizations that use the internet. There are other dimensions to this ‘ugliness’, for sure.

Each society consists of people whose values, norms of behaviour and belief systems may differ from one another that may shape different ways in which the internet is perceived. This may lead to some sort of a conflict between the tradition and modernity concerning the reorganization of society and its aspirations influenced by the use of the internet.

Every country in the world is facing many challenges to realise is national goals and aspirations. Changes in social, economic and cultural institutions are needed to meet these challenges. Society is not a static institution rather a dynamic entity which has to effectively respond to changing technologies of varying nature. The internet as a modern technology is no exception to this. The internet is not to blame for many perverse consequences associated with its use. Rather it is us who can make the internet the good, the bad or the ugly.

Abdul Quader writes from Canberra

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