The Internet's repercussions on society
May 8, 2004 5:32 PM   Subscribe

I'm curious fellow Mefi's. What do you think are three most significant detriments of the Internet to society? Your perspective(s) could be from cultural values, business, education, media, technology, developing countries, privacy, etc. On the flip side, what would you consider the most significant benefits of the Internet to society? No right or wrong answer, just picking your brain...
posted by Macboy to Society & Culture (24 answers total)
When's the essay due?
posted by Gyan at 5:35 PM on May 8, 2004

Response by poster: ummmmmm no I've been out of school for the past decade. This was a actual discussion at a party I attended last night.
posted by Macboy at 5:41 PM on May 8, 2004

Folks will probably demand my head for this but to me it's easy: porn. The prevelance of porn on the internet, in my opinion, gives people, especially young people, a take on sex that is detrimental to healthy relationships. I suppose it's not just the quantity of porn but that quantity matched with the near lack of the tenants of a relationship that's on a track to something profound (romance, mystery, flirting, courtship, love, etc.).
posted by dobbs at 5:48 PM on May 8, 2004

porn , i dont think i need to explain this one.

on the other hand the internet is giving people back a sense of community that was lost with tv and movies.
posted by sgt.serenity at 6:17 PM on May 8, 2004

and general modern life type things.
posted by sgt.serenity at 6:18 PM on May 8, 2004

1) Not ever having to do anything outside of your computer. Everything now happens in one place, on your computer screen. You no longer need separate books, etc. You can therefore sit on your couch all day.

2) Sucking the money out of a bunch of different professions.
posted by inksyndicate at 7:20 PM on May 8, 2004

. porn
. email virus/worm/spam/etc crapola
. incorrect information/scams/lies/mistruths

. information, endless information
. no borders (well, few borders)
. communication/sharing/helping/etc.

Oh, and Matt, of course.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:21 PM on May 8, 2004

Hey, I put "porn" in the benefit category!
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:28 PM on May 8, 2004

1. The ability it gives corporations and businesses (especially banks) to become faceless automatons. For example, banks. In the olden days, bank managers had discretion and relationships - if you were skint for a short period, you could talk a manager who had known you for years into extending your overdraft when he really shouldn't have. Or he'd take a winger on your new business, or many things that would horrify statistics-reliant modern counters.

Now, you fill in a form, hit send, and the next day you get a letter saying "sorry, you didn't meet our credit requirements. We use credit scoring to reach this decision. For more information, write to blah blah blah". No appeal, no relationship.

This isn't a limitation of the technology per se - look how Amazon's personal recommendations have retained the relationship between a bookseller and a regular customer - it's a failure of the banks and big companies to resist the temptation to sacrifice everything to profit.

2. The community effect - it means that people I don't like can organise. People like neo-Fascists, neo-Conservatives and the like can find like-minded people and actually get things done, instead of keeping themselves to themselves.

3. I can't think of a 3. I like the net.
posted by bonaldi at 7:49 PM on May 8, 2004

What do you think are three most significant detriments of the Internet to society?

None, so far as I can tell. AskMe isn't for these subjective questions. If there's evidence for negative effects it should be requested, but these 'what's your opinion?' threads are really starting to overtake Askme.
posted by dgaicun at 8:10 PM on May 8, 2004

Response by poster: Wow Dgaicun, sooo sorry to offend. OK - I have a clogged U pipe under my sink. How can I go about fixing it?

Feel better?
posted by Macboy at 8:23 PM on May 8, 2004

>the most significant benefits of the Internet
I watch a lot less television.

Is this a poll of sorts? If so, put another check next to everything five fresh fish said.
posted by philfromhavelock at 8:35 PM on May 8, 2004

Detriment 1: The overwhelming prevalence of pornography on the Internet, and the deleterious effect the adult industry has had on the way (shady) business is carried out online. Porn companies were among the first to cruft Usenet, e-mail, and search engines (via keyword spamming, site cross-linking, and now comment/trackback spamming.) They were the Internet's Pandora.

Benefit 1: At the same time, the adult industry has also been in the vanguard of technological development on the Internet. Digital media distribution, teleconferencing, instant messaging, and improved search engine ranking algorithms all owe their advancement (at least in part) to carnal interest.

Detriment 2: AOL and hax0r speak, and the fact that an entire generation of people incapable of written communication now exists as a result. This problem will only worsen as the Internet continues to become more integral into the daily lives of Everyman.

Benefit 2: The latency inherent to postal mail, telephone calls, and even faxes have been largely invalidated by the advent of e-mail and instant messaging.

Detriment 3: Furries. Of all the basic identifiable groups of people one may find online (i.e. hackers, goths, candykids, livejournal users, etc.), furries are the only group whose extermination I would unwaveringly support.

Benefit 3: There is no positive counterpoint to Detriment 3.
posted by Danelope at 8:36 PM on May 8, 2004

I see porn as a subset of the predominant negative effect: the replacement of physical community with the virtual. The best thing about the internet is this same phenomenon.

A technology designed and pioneered by shy people who are most comfortable interacting from the safety of a keyboard is going to be very seductive but bandwidth analysis alone demonstrates that our online communities simply can't carry the richness, and consequently the evolutionarily demanded complexity, of FTF or RL relationships.

The Dean campaign's collapse is exhibit one in the failure of the internet to successfully substitute for the organic relationships on which industrial, democratic society is built.

Without a viable substitute for church, union, whatever, society is reduced to monads dependent upon the virtual replacements for these relationships, and easily misled or buffaloed into attitudes and policies that are not in the individual or the collective's best interests but which serve only the interests of the demagogues proposing them.

The very things that make me love the internet - I can stay hidden in my room and not have to deal with the bank or the bookstore or even meet any of you, dear friends, in person - are the problems it brings to the table.
posted by mwhybark at 9:12 PM on May 8, 2004

- Communications: email / st / file sharing / blogs
- Information access
- Instantaneous transactions

- Blur between real and virtual identities
- Less and less real contact between people
posted by xammerboy at 9:16 PM on May 8, 2004

Anonymity. Especially when regards to sexual expression. The 'net makes it far, far too easy to be on the down low.

Online prescription drug purchases. Too many geeks I know have given up street drugs for Valium and the like. It's not a change for the better, to be honest.

I used to think there were some benefits. Oh, yeah, I don't need HDTV to get HDTV. That last episode of 24 I watched practically reached out and put me in Jack Bauer's mouth.
posted by WolfDaddy at 9:49 PM on May 8, 2004

Danelope: Benefit 3: There is no positive counterpoint to Detriment 3.

sure there is. The parents of those eight children with that extremely rare disease are able to form a yahoo group to discuss their experiences, support each other & organize a walk-a-thon to increase awareness & raise money for research that would otherwise never happen.

And the hopless-feeling lonely gay kids in isolated religious communities.

And, you know, I get ideas for Atkins-legal side dishes to bring to a pot-luck.

But then I certainly don't consider furries the worst of online communities. How about the guys who trade true stories of their adventures groping girls on the subway. They horrify me. And the suicide-contemplators who trade info about how to best off oneself. And of course there is much worse.
posted by palegirl at 10:27 PM on May 8, 2004

I have a clogged U pipe under my sink. How can I go about fixing it?

Stop downloading so much pr0n, or else order a bigger pipe from your ISP.
posted by kindall at 10:38 PM on May 8, 2004

You can order anything while sitting on your ass.

You can order anything while sitting on your ass.

You don't have to deal with people you dislike or who disagree with you.

You don't have to deal with people you dislike or who disagree with you.

You can find all sorts of information instantly.

You can find all sorts of wrong information instantly.
posted by kindall at 10:42 PM on May 8, 2004

on the other hand the internet is giving people back a sense of community

And you could also argue that the internet has taken away a sense of real community and replaced it with 1s and 0s.
posted by justgary at 11:05 PM on May 8, 2004

I have a clogged U pipe under my sink. How can I go about fixing it?

posted by quonsar at 11:05 PM on May 8, 2004

is there any evidence that porn damages relationships? never struck me that it was a bad thing, particularly. outside of some weird obsessive behaviour from a minority, presumably - but then i've known obsessive weirdoes with stacks of porn in their cupboards from back before the net was a big deal.

i'm not sure that the argument that porn companies have introduced "shady dealings" or spam on the net is logically sound - shouldn't we be comparing how things are with not having the internet at all? seems to me that internet with some shady dealings is better than no internet at all. ditto with email - at least it exists.

i guess this depends on whether you think "detriment to society" includes detriments to internet use itself. i think the natural meaning is - what has the internet made worse than it was before (it existed)?

don't see any detriments really. it's not particularly polluting, unlike a lot of technologies. maybe it pushes the whole technology thing when we'd be better working out how to feed everyone, but that's too vague to prove.
posted by andrew cooke at 9:01 AM on May 9, 2004

As someone who works far far too hard as it is, I resent the fact that email has added another 2 hours to my working day.

What previously had been done entirely adequately with fax, phone, letter and face to face now gets done more quickly but at the expense of meaningful business relationships.

While I accept that for say, stockbrokers, there are huge advantages to being able to done transactions immediately, on an everyday basis for the majority of the professions this rapidity simply isn’t needed and presents false profitability grails such as ‘just in time’ ordering and zero inventory.
posted by dmt at 12:04 PM on May 9, 2004

And the suicide-contemplators who trade info about how to best off oneself.

Well, personally, I think this is a *good* thing. There are a lot of wrongheaded ideas out there about what methods are any good, and people can end up maimed/crippled for life all too easily. At least it will steer people clear of the *bad* methods, in other words.
posted by beth at 9:20 PM on May 17, 2004

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