How Dangerous is the Internet Really?

Tom Matsuda

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We all have our Internet vices. Whether it is Netflix, Facebook or maybe even Pornhub, there is always one site that keeps us up at night.

My Internet vice, ashamedly, is Wikipedia.

Too many times have I logged myself on to Wikipedia to research for a coursework essay and ended up still plugged in at 2am, my essay abandoned in favour of playing the Six Degrees of Wikipedia Separation. You may be surprised to know that it only takes 3 clicks to get from Paris Hilton’s wiki to Mother Theresa’s.

I also have to thank my Wikipedia-induced insomnia for my knowledge of random and often unused titbits of information. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a pub quiz where my encyclopaedic knowledge of reality TV stars’ forays into music can be put into good use.

However, when Wikipedia first came into being in cyberspace, I somehow doubt that the founder of the site anticipated the effect it would have. A quick Google search brings up a variety of results proving that I’m not the only with this guilty pleasure. There is a 26-year-old inquiring on Quora about how to battle his Wikipedia addiction and funnily enough a Wikihow page on how to avoid getting addicted to Wikipedia. Even more ironically, there is a Wikipedia page dedicated to Wikipediholism with a link to a self-diagnosing test.

Although these pages are watermarked with a warning to not take them seriously, in this day and age could Internet addiction actually be a serious problem? Whilst it’s unlikely to result in you ending up on the street looking for your next web-based fix, all you need to do to see internet addiction in action is step outside. For my generation, no situation or place is an iPhone-free zone and it’s commonplace to start and end our day by checking our Facebook newsfeeds or our Instagram stories. Smartphones have allowed us to check up on our countless number of social networks and our favourite sites on the move, even if we’re meant to be studying or socialising.

Studies have been done which suggest that our reliance on our phones and the internet has fostered an addiction similar to ‘drug cravings’ resulting in ‘a majority of almost 1000 university students’ surveyed being unable to go voluntarily without the internet for a day. As a student myself, I can attest to the validity of this research. It’s also been concluded that social media may increase feelings of loneliness, heighten suicide risk and be conducive to memory problems.

However, it remains to be seen what effect this century’s greatest invention will have on us in the long term. Perhaps, we will become social media zombies with our entire existence devoted to the amount of likes we get on our latest profile pictures. Some could say that this has already happened.

Maybe, it’ll give us an edge over previous generations, supercharging our brains until they’re buzzing with information overload. Or quite possibly, it’ll only be good for helping budding journalists write above average articles for Medium publications. One thing that you cannot deny is that it has influenced everything from the arts to science whilst proving its worth as an endless source of entertainment. For better or for worse, the Internet is what defines our generation.

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British-Japanese writer from London. Words in OneZero, Human Parts.

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