Title shamelessly ripped off a LOLcat picture. No, I haven’t turned jejemon. Heaven forbid.
The fact that this writing can be read online instead on a piece of paper somewhere just proves the pervasive power of the Internet. Years ago schoolwork like this would be found handwritten or printed, but definitely not in a blog. Indeed, the Internet is now integrated to the needs and lifestyle of this generation. From news, entertainment, time-wasters, information – if you thought about it, Google it and chances are, there’s a page somewhere in the vastness of the Internet devoted to that idea of yours. And if it doesn’t? Nowadays it’s very easy to create your own little niche in the online world, so no problem there.
This particular wonder called the Internet has made the world smaller and communication easier. Life has become more comfortable. The Internet brought us closer to our friends and loved ones, but it also made you rub shoulders (so to speak) with strangers. And the fact is, we’re rubbing shoulders with many, many strangers. The idea of 100 or even 1000 miles has become less daunting thanks to the fact that all it takes is Yahoo messenger, Facebook or Skype to bridge that gap, not an airplane, ship or a car trip. Our overseas friends are now a click away. So are troublemakers, hackers, trolls and other people we wouldn’t want knowing our passwords. And why would we have so many passwords to many sites and services in the first place? It’s because we have come to depend on the Internet for various comforts. Now, it’s not something to be strictly categorized as a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ thing, but it does expose us and our personal information to the online predators. On the flip side, the Internet has allowed us to enjoy some guilty pleasures, like piracy. Let’s face it, we like free things. I believe this is the biggest reason why piracy has the tenacity of a cockroach. The anonymous geniuses of cyberspace hand out free games and applications, which people download with a smile and the occasional ‘thank you’ comment (hey, politeness does exist online).
Okay, I know it looks like we’re standing on the edge of the downhill slide to pessimism now.
Mr. Gates nicely pointed out the Internet isn’t always rainbows and roses. True enough and I agree with that. And to disagree with Mr. Gates, I believe that the Internet’s ‘Wild West’ reputation isn’t completely unjustified, not when it’s free for anyone who has the means to use it. Moreover, people have a million different reasons to be online, and it doesn’t matter if people are online for kicks or for crime – no one can stop them from joining the cyber crowd. This freedom made the Internet flourish, but it also allowed for people of all stripes and hides to proliferate online. While there are talks of ‘Internet security’ and restrictions, trying to keep up with the unchecked growth and number of people already present online – which is a place of no formal authority – is a colossal task. If they ever come up with these rules, I think the online community would not take these ‘safety harnesses’ kindly.
And no, despite the apparent pessimism of my words, I don’t believe that the Internet is the herald of the end of the world, or anything less dramatic but still evil. Exaggerations aside, my belief is that as the Internet grows, so are its benefits and its headaches. It’s just that the Internet is a tool for everyone regardless of intent. Being optimistic is fine and dandy, but it would be a long time before our cyber-utopia happens.

(Bill Gates’ essay can be found here.)

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