In this guest post, Kyle Zenchyson (pictured below), content strategist at SEO agency DEJAN, explores just how better off we are since the internet came into existence.
There have been many positive changes to our lives ever since we started using our phone lines to ‘dial up’ an internet connection.
A lot of of bad things have also occurred as a result of enabling a globalised audience to connect with one another in real time.
It’s safe to say nothing good has come from ‘The Dark Web’, with its questionable users and sinister, immoral content. Then there’s privacy concerns a number of people have with exposing our personal information and preferences over social media.
How better off are we as a human race since we first opened a browser in 1992?
How the Internet has influenced art
Artists from all kinds of disciplines have been discovered across social media channels. Painters and illustrators can show off their work on Instagram while many indie bands can build a following on YouTube, Facebook or BandCamp.
They also have a higher chance of generating revenue from their art through e-commerce platforms if they wanted to. Musicians no longer have to ‘sell out’ to a big label to put food on the table – they can create their own.
There’s almost no limit to the kind of influence an artist can gain inspiration from through discovering a huge amount of free content online. Music, films and pieces of art originating from exotic locations used to only be accessible for those who could afford to learn in a college or formal institution. More than three billion people with internet access worldwide can now be students.
Sadly, pirated movies, music and other art forms are more widely distributed than ever before. It’s important to note that we in Australia punch above our weight when it comes to downloading illegal files as well.
Streaming platforms help for musicians but they still get a very marginal share of the profit from the companies playing their tracks.
An appreciation of the work behind the art is perhaps lost as result of the sheer quantity of content out there too.
What the Internet has done for business
Merchants can now sell virtually anything, anywhere. retail e-commerce sales alone are worth US$2.29 trillion. The internet has also opened the world up to a more free market approach to making money, barring some countries with tight taxation law.
Small businesses and start-ups can get off the ground a lot easier now as well. According to serial start-up founder Alex Whiteside, one in 20 Australian businesses handle their company registration through his website. With a few clicks and some funding to support your venture, you can start a business on Monday and start trading by Friday.
As a result of the huge number of businesses that have an online presence, it can be very tough to compete. Business owners who may have been very successful without doing much online could suddenly suffer a loss or lose out to their competitors, especially if they’re not that knowledgeable of digital marketing.
E-commerce has also started to cull the classic bricks-and-mortar store. Why open an expansive multi-story bookshop for people off the street to hang out and browse the goods in when you can build a website for a fraction of the cost? There’s a good chance the conversion rate will be higher and you don’t have to pay rent, staff or other overheads.
What we lose, however, is the intimate experience of walking into a bespoke setting and chatting with someone face-to-face. There are a few kinds of products and services that still rely on having a physical location. Let’s pray they keep going.
Why our health outcomes have changed since coming online
Being able to provide healthcare to those living in remote communities is a big positive for the internet. Spokesperson for the Royal Australia & New Zealand College of Gynaecologists Obstetrics, Dr Joseph Sgroi said he believed advances in online clinical communication platforms and social media “paves the foundation to connect with patients” and “improve overall health outcomes at all levels”.
“Not only does it benefit the patient outcome but also provides healthcare professionals’ access to online databases, and decision support tools,” he said.
“Delivering online health services especially to those in remote communities possesses benefits such as reducing the need for travel; providing timely access to services and specialists, improving the ability to identify developing conditions; and help educate, train and support remote healthcare workers based on location.”
Having all that information and advice out there can also be a bad thing without the understanding and ability to analyse how trustworthy the source is.
Dr Sgroi added that it was important to consult with a doctor before taking any medical advice seen online.
“Googling or ‘Dr. Google’ doesn’t necessarily improve a patient outcome as the information provided may not be accurate or from an Australian medically endorsed source,” he said.
I guess no search engine can really substitute an opinion or treatment from a qualified medical professional.
There’s also the fact that consuming a lot of content online tends to chew up time we may spend exercising; contributing to a big chunk of the population being overweight.
The Internet and our time off
As mentioned above, what the internet can offer for entertainment and recreation can be inherently counterproductive for our health. Streaming Netflix while on a cosy, sedentary spot on the couch isn’t great for staying active and healthy.
But it does mean we don’t have to wait an eternity before a TV series or movie we’ve seen advertised overseas comes to our shores.
We’ve also got limitless options for gaming and other forms of entertainment. Social events that occur offline can be shared on Facebook and if you can’t make it to a concert or sporting event, you could probably watch it on a live stream.
Even though we can spend our leisure time with other people online, it tends to be less social than when we used to play board games or watch TV as a collective household. Could there be long term consequences of isolating ourselves in front of a screen?
Much of the content we consume also tends to be aligned with our selected interests. For the average internet user who gets their news, GIFs and memes from social media, there’s a strong likelihood they’re not exposed to a diverse array of content that helps form a balanced opinion.
Consuming a lot of media online can lead to other health problems besides obesity.
There have been some claims that overuse of tablets and other electronic devices can lead to eye problems, particularly for children.
It’s fair to say the internet has had a huge impact on art, business, health and entertainment.
It has affected the way we spend time as a family and has opened up some economies to the global market like never before.
Despite piracy, the negative impacts on our health and the slow death of small business shopfronts, there is still some hope.
For all the bad things the internet has given us, it offers us enough potential to overcome them. As a human race, we’re still in the infancy of understanding how to most effectively consume and use the internet.
Just like your friendly neighbourhood Spiderman once said, “With great power comes great responsibility”. And that applies to all of us, whether we’re liking, viewing, writing or sharing.
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