Technology and computers have always fascinated society. The phone, T.V., and computer, while now taken for granted, were considered miracles when introduced. The Internet, when introduced, was met with roars of approval. People have put great effort into making and improving the Internet, and some, whether inadvertently or not have made it an unforgiving storm of chaos. There are informational sites, to personal pages, to social networking sites, to chat rooms, to porn sites. People have even become addicted to the internet. Their life online has become their entire social life. Some are talking about censoring the Internet, controlling it. The Internet is not too bad, though, and steps can be taken to prevent licentious sites from appearing. The Internet should be free to run wherever it wants, and it would be futile to try to control it, especially since more people, especially teenagers are using it. The Internet does not need fixing, but the people who use it do.
Though nearly everyone knows of the Internet, not everyone knows of its not-so-humble beginnings. The Cold War, the Department of Defense, ARPA, and other triggers created the Internet. During the Cold War, the USA Department of Defense (DOD) began to experiment in what they called ‘command and control’, which was about the connection of multiple computers. Their intention was to establish a conglomerated system of communication that would give them an edge in the battlefield. Therefore, the DOD, wanting to find the technologies that would give them an advantage against the Soviets, spurred the creation of the Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA or ARPA).
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Their first creation was the Arpanet, but with the help of a man called Vint Cerf, ARPA pulled through. Thus, the Internet was created, and as a military technology. The DOD’s plan worked.
Vinton Gray Cerf was one of the key factors in making the Internet. His opinions are still valued today in interviews about the Internet. Vint Cerf, the ‘Father of the Internet’ had tenure with ARPA for 6 years, from 1976 to 1982. He currently works for Google. He is a strong proponent of the use of the Internet at home and advocates the achievement of ‘interplanetary Internet’, connecting the Internet between two or more planets (ironically, Mars will get Internet service before some developing countries on Earth).
Mr. Cerf openly rejects all claims saying that the Internet has been exhausted and does not believe in censoring the Internet. “The Internet is like a mirror,” he says “If you don’t like what you see, fix the person, not the mirror.” People will continue to value his words, even with the immense progress the Internet has made.
Neither Mr. Cerf, nor anyone else had guessed that the Internet would be such a phenomenon that it was almost a societal infrastructure. It has forever changed research, health, law, travel, communications, business and education, with some people using it for inordinate amounts of time a day. In fact, it took 75 years for the telephone to acquire 50 million users; the T.V. took 13 years, and the Internet, 5 years. Adolescents are especially affected. Instant messaging and social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook have replaced phones. Teenagers’ general computer knowledge far outstrips that of their parents’ and teachers’. Eighty-seven percent of teens regularly use the Internet, from 60% in 12-year olds, jumping to 82% in 13-year olds, to 94% in 16 and 17-year olds. To top it all off, teens are on the Internet an average of 120 hours (5 days) a week. Teens are used to the Internet and can be online for hours on end, some going online at every chance. The vast impact of the Internet is definitely apparent.
Society has changed so much with the colossal impact of the Internet in both good and bad ways. People cannot get enough of the Internet, especially teens, some even getting addicted. They have a new, hi-tech social life. Nevertheless, 61-62% of teens think that the Internet keeps them from doing things that are more important and spending time with friends. In the extreme cases of people’s love of the Internet, people can get Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD), a mental condition relating to excessive Internet use, caused by addiction. A Canadian psychiatrist recently treated 20 children for IAD, and one spent 12 hours a day on the Internet; another chatted online until 3 or 4 o’clock a.m. Some sign of IAD are denial, lying about Internet time, fatigue, academic problems, lack of interest outdoors, change in eating habits, moodiness, irritability, hostility, constant refrain of ‘just a minute’, and/or rushing to check e-mail/IM at every chance. If anyone shows even 3 of these signs, they may have IAD. Some people are resistant to the Internet’s pull, but sometimes, the Internet devours people, making them addicted. Its allure is almost incomprehensible- or is it?
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Though the Internet has spellbound many people, what makes it so seductive? A key factor is that it bestows the user with control over almost everything; some secondary ones are the anonymity, the convenience, and the ‘belonging feeling’. The main factor is the much of the Internet, is ‘active’, meaning it gives the user much control, unlike T.V., which is ‘passive’, and does not give the watcher much control, apart from changing channels. Online gaming, net surfing, and e-mail/IM, to name a few, all provide the user with continual control. The theory is that each action initiates a positive response, encouraging more and similar actions, thus making the user feel powerful. Therefore, the difference between a couch potato and an Internet addict is the difference between a passive observer and an active controller. Other factors also make the Internet entrancing. The Internet is obviously very convenient, with everything either the touch of a button or a click of the mouse away. In addition, the anonymity of the Internet makes it possible to do virtually anything with no or little consequence. Finally, what makes the Internet so absorbing is a familiarity, an intimacy, in which almost everyone has someone to talk to, a place to belong. People can make friends in hours, if not minutes. Even time online is distorted, as ‘just a minute’ becomes several. The control, convenience, intimacy and anonymity of the Internet produce a formidable combination that makes the Internet incredibly challenging to resist.
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One of the most appealing websites for teens to younger adults is the infamous MySpace. The statistics relating to MySpace are quite startling, and many people feel like they can rely on it as an alternate reality. Eighty percent of 12-17-year olds use it, the majority being 14+. In fact, there are over 185 million registered users, and 350 000 new registrations a day. In addition, at any one time, there are over 4.5 million people on MySpace. As well, there are 150 000 new ‘friend’ requests per second, and in a survey of 2500, the average ‘MySpacer’ had about 168 ‘friends’. With hundreds of terabytes of space, there are 1 billion images, with millions of new ones everyday, and 25 million songs. However, there is much more to MySpace than meets the eye. People have begun to rely on MySpace. Seventy-eight percent of MySpacers felt it easier to be honest with their virtual friends than their real ones, and 37% have used the Internet to say something they would not have said in person. Blogs on MySpace are big ways to express emotion, in fact, 1 of 3 bloggers say that when they need psychological help, they write in their blog, or look at the blogs of others who have similar problems. 16-year old Janice wrote in her blog about her distress about school. Some of her responses were very sympathetic, like ‘perhaps it won’t be as bad as you think,” and “I remember other times when you thought you had failed that you actually passed.”. My Space’s statistics reflects its popularity, as a mark of people’s reliance, trust, and feeling of safety on it, especially with many people being more honest on MySpace than face-to-face. With hundreds of terabytes of space, 185 million registered users, 350 000 new registrations a day, and 150 000 friend requests a second, MySpace has become one of the most distinctive sites in the Internet.
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One of the most widely discussed topics related to the Internet is whether it should be controlled or censored, or not. Many well-known people, especially those in connection to its creation, such as Vint Cerf, Leonard Kleinrock, Robert Kahn, and Robert Taylor have given their views on it. Their consensus is no. Vint Cerf says that the Internet is ‘beyond political control’, and trying to censor it is impractical, inappropriate, and unfeasible. His is not the only rejecting voice. Bob Kahn says that there is ‘nothing in it to control.’ Leonard Kleinrock, a man who worked with Mr. Cerf during the creation of the Internet, says, “Who controls the flow of the ocean? Nobody controls it, and it works just fine. There are some things that can’t be controlled.” Finally, Robert Taylor, director of ARPA during the creation of the Internet, says that ‘Internet control’ is an oxymoron. People should try to choose what they are doing more carefully so they do not come across sites that are not for their eyes, but the idea of controlling the Internet is futile. The Internet has indeed grown to an unfathomable size and has become as irrepressible as the ocean, and these men and many others have proved it.
The Internet, like the ocean, cannot be held back, and like the ocean, is only polluted if people put the pollution in it. The Internet should be unrestricted and uncensored; its users should choose what they are doing carefully. People have adhered to the Internet extremely fast, and while everyday, people are changing and altering the Internet, the Internet is doing the same to people and society. As said, the control the Internet gives is part of its popularity, as well as the feeling of belonging that MySpace gives. The changes in research, to business, to health, to communications, to education have been phenomenal. Creating this was probably not ARPA and Vint Cerf’s objective, but the Internet has too much potential. Many new worlds, opened up by the Internet.