We commonly think of the internet as a medium that has given us an unparalleled amount of freedom? We can access products and services originating virtually anywhere in the world. There is a selection of millions of book titles any of which can be downloaded in less than a minute. Movies, podcasts, and blogs on every topic imaginable are readily available with several clicks of a mouse. So what could possibly be wrong with all this liberty?
A 2009 study suggested that structural brain changes were present in those classified by the researchers as Internet addicted, similar to those regarded as chemically addicted. The study by Y. Zhou in the European Journal of Radiology found that there were grey matter abnormalities in the brain of addicted individuals.
In Australia, a Nielsen survey found that 82 percent of people spend 23.3 hours online per week. There are sub-groups of internet addiction such as pornography and gambling. Long hours devoted to such sites inevitably leads to a disruption of people’s lives and their relationships.
Whether you are addicted to drugs, booze or the internet, you become enslaved to that product. In effect, you are not free. The same chemical processes that hook you into other addictive behaviours occur in the online world. We spoke some time ago about a young Chinese man who wore a diaper so he wouldn’t have to leave his computer to urinate. That is how extreme internet addiction can become.
In the name of freedom, the big conglomerates such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter demand that governments stay clear of any significant regulation of how they operate. The result is that we see extremist groups preaching radicalism and hatred of every kind, often inciting violence. So are we really free?
The hate mongers threaten us, want to destroy our way of life, and we add fuel to the fire by not doing anything about them. The anonymity of the internet allows a high degree of bullying to take place. The result is that we have lost our freedoms because society inevitably restricts our lifestyle in other areas. Just look at the time spent at some of our airports going through security. The terrorists have won because they have altered how we live.
It’s time for the authorities to put restrictions on the internet in the same way that we put restrictions on driving licenses. If you break the law, you can lose your license. Right now there is no compulsion for the social media sites to police themselves. Therefore changes will come in the future to address this problem.
Loss Of Autonomy In Other Areas
It’s been said that the more time that we spend on a computer, tablet or smartphone, the more we become a prisoner of that device. The result can be that we don’t exercise or spend less quality time with family or friends. We may also lose skills in other areas of our lives whether social or work related.
People who are in prison have the security of being behind bars, but they don’t have the freedom to go where they please or to experience the many delights that life has to offer. Because there are only so many hours in a day, spending many of those online means that other things in life become secondary. The exception is if we are spending time online related to our work––if we are still employed in some capacity.
The question to ask yourself is, “Could I do without the internet if I had to?” Perhaps many of us would answer, “No!” If you feel that you are hooked to the online world, try taking one a day a week staying offline; don’t turn on your phone, tablet, and computer, and see how you feel.
I suspect that many people would find that if they had some internet-free days, they would start to feel more liberated, and they would enjoy their new-found freedom.