We have come a long way since the internet first appeared many years ago. Thanks to search engines like Google and Yahoo! Search, we can now easily find information about almost anything and everything, from answers to ‘How to’ questions to deep philosophical questions and debates. It can probably be a substitute to a human teacher!
Social Networking Sites (SNS) have also revolutionized the way in which people, predominantly youngsters up to the age of 35, connect to each other. Such sites are used to send messages via ‘comments’ and through private messaging, which are (in most sites) free of charge. Visits to these sites dominate a youngster’s net-surfing time (see Tancer, 2008). Since most social networking sites allow their users to update their profile pages, users spend a lot of time changing their pictures, status, profile backgrounds, layouts and music. By doing so, they can either be the person they are, or the person they want to be. In effect, SNS give individuals freedom to express themselves and present themselves in ways that only they have control on. SNS also allow people to find long lost friends and create new acquaintances.
Online dating services are also available. These sites provide people the chance to meet potential partners by browsing user profiles. People with social phobias may find these services useful as they don’t have to meet someone unless they are satisfied with that person’s profile. Chatting to potential partners online can save them a lot of money that could have been spent on a potentially horrible first date (which can obviously still happen). Given that there is a well-known risk that criminals could be hunting for their next victim via dating sites and SNS, one can still find these services useful, provided that they use them with caution.
The internet can also give someone respite from personal problems. Websites such as PostSecret.blogspot.com and experienceproject.com give anyone the chance to anonymously write life stories, even personal issues and problems. The internet, being a non-judgemental ‘listener’, become a ‘friend’ or a ‘safe haven’ for people who have issues.Some websites allow strangers to comment and/or give advice to a person’s problem. Also, by using search engines, one can find information about issues concerning their private lives that can be too shameful to discuss with friends and family.
Even though there are a lot of potential setbacks for using the internet, by looking through the list above, we can see that the internet can be a big help for those who use it properly and with caution.