The birth of the Internet has brought about a revolution in the way we live in our society, to the point that it is an almost indispensable instrument for a wide variety of tasks or even simply in our social life.
There is no doubt that we are dealing with an element of great power, but the truth is that its use is not without risk and it is possible to find both positive and negative aspects. What are the main advantages and disadvantages of the Internet? Let’s see..
Internet and networks
The uses of the Internet today are multiple, from the search for information to contact between people, through leisure, research or teaching.
From the English term for “Interconnected Networks”, this instrument arose in the late sixties in the United States with the purpose of allowing different universities and the Department of Defense to share information. As time went by, this invention was extended to the rest of the world and gradually incorporated functionalities as computing and computer programming advanced, until it became what it is today.
But like any technological innovation or like any instrument, its creation involves both opportunities and risks depending on the use that is decided to give it . In this sense we can determine the existence of both advantages and disadvantages, some of which we highlight below.
Main advantages of the Internet
The Internet is an instrument whose creation has allowed a great deal of innovation and change in our way of relating to each other and to the world , and even seems to have affected our way of perceiving things.
Its creation, expansion and popularity is due to the fact that using it gives us a series of advantages that make our lives easier. Among its many advantages we can find the following elements.
1. Access to information
One of the great advantages of the presence of the Internet in our lives is that thanks to it we can access a large amount of information from a very wide range of sources in a simple and almost immediate way.
Another of the main and best known advantages of the Internet is that allows us to get in touch with people from all over the world regardless of the distance they are, as long as they have access to the network.
This makes it easier for people who live in very remote places or who have to go and live or work abroad to maintain fairly frequent contact with their loved ones.
3. Breaking barriers and facilitating the approach of positions
The existence of the network of networks is an opportunity to learn and be able to observe different ways and perspectives of understanding, thinking and living life with respect to practically any possible subject.
In this sense also it allows to make our cultural barriers more flexible and to learn to accept different visions beyond one’s own or those of people with a similar context to one’s own. In other words, it allows us to bring positions closer together
4. Reduces the need for presence
The existence of the Internet has meant that it is no longer necessary to carry out formalities in person that would have previously required a large investment of time and the need to travel and stay in that place. This allows us to optimize our time and take advantage of it to do other things .
So, for example, it is no longer always necessary to meet to discuss a matter, stand in long queues to reserve a ticket, make a request or file a complaint.
In fact, it also allows work from home or distance learning with some comfort.
5. Freedom of expression
Although depending on the country and the policies in place, there will be more or less difficulties, the Internet is often a space where very different people are able to make themselves seen and express their position on a particular subject , at a practically anonymous level if one knows how. An example of this can be seen in cases of countries that live under dictatorships and totalitarian political regimes.
6. Allows collaboration between people
The Internet not only allows access to information or communication, but also provides a framework in which different people can collaborate to achieve a given objective.
For example, at the study level, it allows group work in which all those involved follow the state of the project at the time.
It is also applied at a labour level , so that it can be used to jointly build some kind of action or intervention. It also allows, for example, the creation and financing of projects for which you do not have resources, such as crowdfunding.
7. Increases options and pathways to learning
Beyond the mere search for information, networks have also allowed new ways or alternative methods for learning to be generated .
For example, watching a Youtube tutorial or some kind of more visual example of a task to be done can make it easier to learn something that through a reading or a purely verbal explanation can be complicated. This element is especially important for people with special educational needs.
8. Makes management and organization easier
The presence of the Internet and networks has, partly as a side effect of all the above elements, a better management and organization of our time and activities . Both planning and searching for information as well as carrying out procedures and formalities are accelerated.
9. Increase divided attention
The Internet and information and communication technologies have an effect even at the functional level. It has been seen that people who could be considered digital natives have a greater capacity for divided attention , that is, for paying attention to various types of stimulation at the same time.
Disadvantages and risks of its use
As we have seen, there are many advantages and opportunities offered by the Internet. However, this does not mean that this instrument does not have a dark side: there are great risks and disadvantages in using it.
1. Cybercrime and fraudulent use
One of the disadvantages of the Internet can be found in the fact that although it offers many opportunities to make our lives easier, it also allows other people to try to take advantage of this instrument in order to obtain benefit or gratification at the expense of others through this medium .
Some examples of this are cyberbullying, threats, harassment, identity theft, phishing, scams, theft of bank information and accounts or even grooming or attempts to approach minors for sexual purposes through deception.
2. Information overload
We have previously said that one of the great advantages of the Internet is that it allows access to a large amount of information.
However, this aspect has in turn a negative reading, which in turn becomes a disadvantage of the Internet: there is a huge amount of information that we can resort to, with sources that may be wrong and even offer contradictory data to each other .
Thus, finding really reliable information in the networks is a challenge and implies the need to train in the search for really valid and reliable information.
Likewise, this great amount of information can overwhelm us, not knowing what to resort to or what to do with it.
3. Threat to privacy
The Internet allows us to connect with each other and share a wealth of thoughts, data, photos and information with others. But while this may seem desirable at first, it can also become a window to outside eyes for the violation of our privacy .
Our data is also used by a large number of companies which use it, among other things, to offer us their products in the most attractive way possible or to find out our position on certain issues. Even at the work level, many companies look for information on the networks (including social networks) about candidates for their jobs.
Not to mention that interested and unknown third parties may know much more about us than we would allow in real life.
4. Remote, cold and impersonal contact
If as an advantage we commented that the Internet facilitates communication between people, the truth is that on the other hand this contact is usually much colder and more distant than the one that would be carried out face to face. This favours a much more superficial contact with others , something that can make the development of social skills in the real world more difficult.
5. Can serve as an avoidance method
One possible disadvantage of using the Internet is that it allows activities or contact with others immediately and from the supposed safety of our homes.
This comfort can mean that people with some kind of difficulty or problem, such as a social phobia, do not have to expose themselves directly to a feared situation , something that if maintained over time maintains the problem as it can become an avoidance mechanism, something that makes it difficult to overcome their fears.
6. Contact 24/7
Another disadvantage is that the Internet is available on more and more devices (computers, mobile phones, televisions… even watches and refrigerators) that we use constantly in our daily lives. Although it is not impossible, most of us are constantly connected to the net .
This means, especially in the case of social networks, that we can be called upon or contacted at any time and place, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In other words, unless they are expressly sought, there are very few opportunities to be “offline”.
7. Decreases frustration tolerance
Just as we have commented before that the Internet facilitates the creation of understanding between different perspectives and can increase the capacity to attend to several stimuli at the same time or to carry out more operations at the same time, it is also necessary to record that the immediacy of the Internet means that we have become accustomed to having everything here and now .
This implies that we are not used to waiting, which means that for example in the case of digital natives there is a tendency to have a diminished tolerance to frustration and delayed gratification compared to previous generations.
8. Depends on the status of the network
In addition to the above, a further disadvantage can be found in the fact that its use depends to a large extent on the state of the network, the connection, the upload or download speed of data or even the presence of electricity .
Any failure in any of these elements can make comfortable and effective use difficult or even impossible.
9. Addictive potential
An increasingly frequent problem of the period in which we find ourselves is the growing prevalence of dependence or addiction to new technologies, mostly based on the use of the web. In this sense, a pathological need may be created to use the networks (especially the social ones) to check if something has happened, if they have spoken to us or if we find some way to entertain ourselves, and that in case we cannot access them it may generate anxiety and withdrawal symptoms .
It is not that the Internet or its use is harmful or addictive in itself, but that the way we use it can encourage dependency on the network.
10. Decreases physical activity
Finally, another element that should be highlighted is that the predominance of the Internet in all areas of life and the fact that its use usually requires a rather sedentary posture means that the level of physical activity that we carry out has decreased to a great extent, something that can have numerous implications at the level of both physical and mental health.
- Badger, E. (2013). How the Internet Reinforces Inequality in the Real World. The Atlantic.
- Comer, D. (2006). The Internet book. Prentice Hall.