For always many more activities we spend more time on the web : socialization, networks, fun, communication, discussions, researches, job search, announces, markets, etc.
But what does the web really bring us ? what are its advantages and its risks ? what are its effects on our habits and on our representations (view/sight on the world) ?
For beginning the discussion I start with a message from someone else (this discussion ; (message #6) ; I also translate into english) on the forum Futura Sciences :
I've done scientifical studies and I discovered internet 1994. There was not much on the web : environment Unix, no website (but ftp files-transfer), no really browser (xmosaic), emails (eudora) and few people whom to write to. In summary, my main use was the chat by IRC.
Nowadays I use internet for most of my activities and I cannot imagine how I could live without it. Nevertheless I may be different of the type-user because I download nothing (is it due of my fear of virus, fear which is born with my long years in informatic rooms ot the university ?).
Globally I think that Internet is a incredibly powerful tool if we know how to use it. The problem comes from the fact that technological evolution has been too fast for most people.
That's why I am not as optimistic as Cyrille999 :
- You say that we have easy access to knowledge and informations. But are these really knowledge and true informations ? Many websites diffuse false or falsifiated informations, do propaganda, lobbying, etc. Only educated people can see the difference between a real informations site and a site with many Hoax(es).
- You say that internet opens a field of real democracy (which has been killed in the tv world). But... Internet is also used for propaganda, lobbying or any form of totalitarism of the information, not only for a democratization of the information. It's very easy to manipulate and influence the mass people with internet : by diffusing falsifiated/troncated informations, photos, videos, by creating and diffusing rumors, etc. Only educated people can foil the traps.
- You say that we can acceed to experts and specialists free (no money to pay). Idem : any person can say "I am expert." on the web. Nobody will verify. I can add personal chapters with personal ideas on an article of wikipedia, and the errors can stay an enough long time, and in this time many students will be naive, gullible. [Trust in the reference/expert/source.]
My generation have lived the time before internet outcoming and after internet outcoming and is probably lucid about advantages and disadvantages of internet. I am not sure that the youngest people (those who haven't known the world without internet) figure out the dangers and risks of it.
My opinion about consequences on humanity ? I am dubitative. According to me Internet has revolutionized nothing because internet has created nothing that already existed before. It's an incredibly powerful tool but only a tool. It makes many activities quicklier than before, it favorize the creation of users communities, exchanges, etc. Before internet, the forums (like Futura Sciences, EnglishClub, etc.) did not exist but it didn't prevent scientific to discuss about the world at a table (with coffee or wine).... and the (legal or not) downloading possibility has been only replacing physical supports like the CD, which itself had taken place of the audio cassette, which had taken place of vynil...
Let me summary my thougts : even if internet can appear as a revolution of technologies and thinking ways, I don't see any relevant difference between my life before internet's existenz and today. I still do the same activities, but differently. I am really not sure that it ameliorates/improves my cumfort or my life quality, even if I adapted myself. I use less paper, spend more time on a keybord or face to a screen. Globally I think that I am more sedentary than before but this is probably more because of my family life than because of internet.
A quote says that wedding is solving together (by two) problems that we wouldn't have got if we had stayed each alone. I sometimes tell myself that it's same thing for internet : Internet gives us possibility to solve problems that ww had not before (before internet)...
I keep the discussion, saying that I agree with jgiovan : internet is a tool like any other tool else, neither more nore less, with its own advantages and risks.
I also think that internet is a wonderful invention, which has made possible many new things, new services, that we could live nowaday without : get informed about a country before visiting this, search the schedule, googlemap, exchange files all over the world, etc.
When we talk about gain of speed, yes. But requirements to citizens have increased, too, so much that we spend time as much on the web as in libraries when web didn't exist. Of course, we learn many informations, that we can - moreover ! - choose freely. But we have to see that we spend much time on internet. Is it really what we want/wish ? a part of time spent on internet could have been spent for running, for another activity.
A significant inconvenient of the web, I add, is the lack of "face-to-face" discussion. In the face-to-face, there is an interactivity what we'll never find throught the web, even with micro and webcam. So... it seems to me necessary to develop a cooperation between the web and the other communication ways (mouth-to-ear, postal letter, hand-to-hand paper, SMS, etc.).
We can extend the question to the virtual netwoks : FaceBook, MySpace and Twitter, but also Naymz, Linkedin, SlideShare, etc.