The Internet brings out the best and the worst in people.
I don’t think I can measure or attempt to measure if the Internet has made us better as a species or not. For every story I hear about a kindness people have on the internet, I also read stories of ignorance and fear.
The point of this article is that the Internet brings to the forefront what was always underground before. For example, a recent ruling made sites like Craigslist/Backpage not able to show personal ads that were a thin disguise for sex workers. If this is helpful or unhelpful for society I cannot say. What I can say is that countries that have legalized sex work show healthier outcomes for both sex workers and their customers. So that data and research points that pushing sex workers underground ultimately causes more problems.
You might have heard of a famous deep web site called “The Silk Road”. On that site, you could get illegal drugs and other things. That was shut down, but others have taken its place. Does the availability of illegal drugs help or hurt society? According to research there are millions of US citizens who don’t have health insurance, and so don’t have drug insurance either. The prices of many drugs are unaffordable to non rich people. As a society would we say that relief from pain or your quality of life should be dependent on if you are rich or not? I hope not. The answers to societies problems are no so clear cut.
There are those who think that taking a hard line against sex workers and drugs makes the problem go away. The war on drugs has been fought for decades and we are no better off than we were before. In fact, the money gone to cartels has made life unbearable for our Mexican/Hispanic countries and friends.
The Internet didn’t make the problems of sex workers or drugs, but it does show how they are playing out. I like the fact that while the Internet may cause some problems, it also fixes some problems. People have support groups in places that were not available before. Even though the US citizens continue to gain weight, they are decreasing their use of alcohol and cigarettes. Teens for example are drinking less, and drinking seems to increase with economic problems and reduce when the economy is good.
At first I wanted to write this article about the hostility/emotional problems that people have on the Internet, but I realized that would be unfair. The majority of the sites that I go to like forums are filled with wonderful and helpful people. It is easy to remember the jerks because of them being crazy, but its not a representative sample. I personally have grown and been able to do my job because of the wonderful resources of the Internet.
For me the Internet has been 99% helpful. The 1% I didn’t gain any benefit from but thats ok. In life sometimes you have to take the unhelpful with the helpful.