One of the biggest questions for academics is ‘has the internet made us dumber?’. There are lots of theories and detailed commentary that have been published about it. I started to think about this today following a tweet by Professor Cary Cooper that highlighted the issue.
Of course we have a lot of evidence about the negative elements of the internet including that it has greatly increased the access to pornography. It has allowed students to flagrantly plagiarise essays that they find online. There is more opportunity to spread rumour and speculation with a loss of facts. In fact, how can we now verify facts and who has the control of truth?
Social media has brought us many things including the opportunity to post pictures of our breakfast or latest baking triumph (yes, I did that today). There is the chance to smile and laugh at the cat related antics that are posted. We can also show our successes to school friends and past acquaintances.
Yes, the internet and digital has brought us all those things and could be seen as helping to dumb down modern life. But there are also so many good things that it has brought to us.
The internet has provided us with a way to access more education than ever before. I have written many times about the opportunity that we get from things like Coursera providing online short courses from reputable universities. It has allowed me to learn about social psychology, philosophy and management. There is the opportunity to become creative, develop your own business, and share this with many people. This has expanded our choices.
Social media has brought us much from sharing information with online communities of interest to opening up organisations. It has made the world a much smaller place and can assist our understanding of other cultures. We can collaborate across continents and with this comes the chance to move society further with new developments.
So, in short the internet and digital world is what we make it. We can use it to help us develop and move forwards or we can just keep laughing at cats doing funny things.