Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

In defense of the Internet

<ome fashionable these days to hate on the Internet. People over 50 tell us we’re obsessed with our phones. Articles warn us about the shortening of our attention spans. Sci-fi movies are pretty much required to have some kind of “technology is taking over” plotline cliché. In short, it seems like the human race is doomed to oblivion, and soon we’ll all forget written language as a whole and just use emojis instead.

Maybe it’s true that a lot of people now spend a considerable amount of time looking at their phones, but I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, and it most certainly is not going to lead to a hyper-technologized dystopia. The Internet is a powerful tool for informing oneself about the world and affecting social change, and as such should not be dismissed as a frivolity. Moreover, I think hating on the Internet can so often devolve into millennial-bashing – the older generation’s way of talking down to us millennials in an attempt to reassert their waning control over society.

Contrary to popular belief, most of what I (and many of my friends) use the Internet for is not mindless distraction, but serious consumption of news and politics. Sure, there are memes and gifs that pop up in my newsfeed, but there are also NPR and New York Times articles. Without the Internet, I most definitely would not be as informed about current events as I am now.

Additionally, I would not be connected to much of the amazing activism circulating online, and what the older generation often overlooks is how much the Internet supports activism. With mass popular movements such as the Arab Spring and Black Lives Matter now being organized primarily online, it’s clear that the Internet is an invaluable resource for facilitating the spread of democracy and social justice. Granted, the organizational space the Internet provides goes both ways as conservative groups also use the Web to organize, but I think here the benefits here outweigh the negatives. In fact, spaces for reactionary conservative discourse moving online may in fact help fight this rhetoric by exposing it to the public eye, instead of letting it simmer unheard.

This is why I find the derision of the Internet so bothersome. When people critique “millennials who are too obsessed with their phones,” what they are implicitly saying is that they don’t value, or possibly are even aware of, the progressiveness that comes from the Internet. Even seemingly dumb things like memes often serve as a way to express a lived experience shared by internet subgroups, and provide a space for oppressed people to establish a sense of solidarity.

The Internet, then, is a much more productive and socially important tool than it is often given credit for. I think it’s also important to note that, throughout recent history, there have always been new trends that older generations have derided. New ways of living have always been seen as damaging to society because they go against the established status quo, and this scares people for whom the status quo is what they’ve based their lives off of. Thus, contemporary critiques of the Internet as a useless timewaster are in essence reactionary, and shaming people for being on their phones too much is at best unproductive and at worst cruel. Ultimately, the Internet, with its many flaws and many benefits, is here to stay, and all we can do is make the best of it.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *