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Is It the End of the Word As We Know It?

The internet has made us into faceless blog-hack drones. You all know that. We stopped reading books and proceeded to spend more time on our cellphones than we do talking to people at dinner. We don’t buy things that we can download. We catfish people and we hack into government websites. Has the internet ruined us? It took us from being functioning wholesome human beings to Facebook-obsessed trolls. However, the internet, dare I say it, is a natural and somewhat inevitable result of human beings’ continuous quest for connectivity.

The onset of the internet can be paralleled in many ways with the invention of the printing press. It may sound almost rudimentary to some, but the simple action of printing words on paper revolutionised communication. With print came the ability to spread knowledge to hundreds of people simultaneously, something that was previously only possible by physically gathering groups of people together. All of a sudden you could disseminate and preserve knowledge because it was published in newspapers. A miner in Wales could read about the reactionary anti-colonialist movements in India. Indeed, historians have even recognised the printing press as the cause of the Reformation, the Renaissance and the scientific revolution.

Printing fostered what has been dubbed ‘the republic of letters’. Reading and writing print connected people to ideas and led humans to think about who they are in relation to each other. For instance, the development of Māori as a collective identity seemingly only developed with the introduction of print into New Zealand under colonialism. Indeed, before this time, Māori identified themselves according to tribal relationships or their connection with the Earth. Before this, Māori didn’t have the word ‘Māori’, because they didn’t need one.

The internet, then, is the modern equivalent of the republic of letters. It facilitates accessibility and the democratisation of knowledge just like print did, except this time it’s evolving faster and faster everyday. The online world has expanded how we understand ourselves and whom we identify with. It’s crossed unthinkable boundaries. We can now follow a revolt in Syria via Twitter and chat online to a similar Liverpool FC fan on the other side of the world.

There are 48 hours of YouTube videos uploaded every minute. 4000 Instagram posts. 11,500 pieces of content are uploaded to Facebook every second. Unless you read preternaturally fast, there have been at least 1,000,000 new posts since you started reading this article. And yet, as far as I’m concerned, this remains the best use for the internet.

 

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