What were you doing before the internet?

An intriguing question, isn’t it? Many of us would rather not even think about those “dark ages” anymore.
I have painful recollections of spending long hours in the school library looking for decent material about Levi Celerio before the internet existed. It makes sense; a lot of readers may not even know who he is.
I remember wishing our 20-volume encyclopedia would condense in the size of a pocketbook, conveniently accessible anywhere I am, so I can claim I’m the smartest kid in class. It was also difficult catching up with my relatives abroad back then because the expensive IDD calls were the only means of communication we have.
Of course, that’s not the way things are now—because of the internet. The internet is not just an entity; it is a phenomenon. Now, we are able to enjoy the advantage that Google has answers for everything. We are getting closer and closer to the time when the metaphor “walking encyclopedia” will be changed into the alliteration “walking Wikipedia”. There is also no need to talk to relatives abroad to know what they have been up to; just pay a quick visit to their Facebook profiles.
Yes, the Facebook fad that we cannot put aside. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of this social networking frenzy, is Silicon Valley’s new rich kid in the block. It is ironic how he is now put in the realm of the likes of Steve Jobs of Apple and Gordon Moore of Intel—guys who served as key figures in the drastic increase of productivity of people’s working conditions. Apple and Intel still continue to help make every minute of a professional more and more profitable; Facebook robs more than 15 hours of an adult’s time every week.
This is not a light matter. While it took the internet four years to gain 50 million users, it only took nine months for Facebook to add 100 million users. (I got all Facebook statistics used in this article from Google results of social media revolution that linked to YouTube. See, Google has answers for everything.)
Facebook indeed changed the face of social networking. On the upside, it helped you get in touch with your grade school best friend and remember your cousin’s 20th birthday. Nevertheless, there is more to Facebook abuses than staying overtime in FarmVille.
In the absence of the Privacy Policy among all social networking sites, Facebook will probably be the friendliest for stalkers. It has effectively aggregated the functions of Multiply, Yahoo! Messenger, MySpace, Friendster and LiveJournal, among others, in a convenient interface. This makes information from Facebook easily accessible to a user’s “friends”; stalking can easily take place. In fact, there is even a Wikipedia entry for Facebook stalking. It says “Anyone can find information about someone on Facebook that would take months to find out in person.”
While stalking can be sometimes harmless and is only done for fun, when done in frequency and in length, it can still sum up to a good amount of time and energy that could have been spent on an effort to learn. That’s one of the reasons there is Google and the like. The country could use smarter people these days.
Furthermore, it cannot also be neglected that there is a growing issue of ethics in Facebook users. Every day, over 1.5 million pieces of content appear on the social networking site. Posts range from photos, notes, videos, status and comments. With a false perception of freedom of speech, many careless users may think they are free to post whatever entries they want, even if it is offending another party.
One way or another, an average Facebook user has come across an entry that has offended him or her or any institution he or she is affiliated with. While it may seem courageous, nonetheless stupid, to counteract the post with a negative response online, the prudent and wise will still see it fit to back away and let the offender rot in misery.
Even if Facebook gets filled with libelous entries, legal actions will still be hard to pursue. Lawsuit cases will cost a fortune that only assemblies like the US government would bother to file them. Nevertheless, unless a healthy discourse takes place (and we do not count comments that say “That is so true!” and “Yeah!”), the offender is still at the losing end. Hate posts are usually negative reflections on character, sometimes sanity and time table.
Abuses in cyberspace go way beyond Facebook, though. While the internet has made research very convenient, it has also been instrumental in the increase of plagiarism cases. It is now far easier to copy exact wordings from sources since the internet has become the literal hub of copy-paste.
The copy-paste craze has taken research into a whole new different level—a lower level. Instead of promoting academic excellence, it has opened opportunities for academic fraud. Journalism and the arts are also endangered in the violation of intellectual property rights.
The internet was meant to serve society well. Research, communication and even entertainment have entered a revolution that was unimaginable many years ago. Not many people from this generation remember or would like to remember what they did before the internet.
Now that we have come to accept and embrace this revolution, we might as well put it into good use. The 1992 Computer Ethics Institute established the Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics. Like everything else, you can find it in Google.
At least you can have a good answer once somebody asks, “What do you do with the internet?”

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