The “WorldWideWeb” project, beginning in 1960, was the birth of a completely new era. Gone are the days of dictionaries, CDs and letters. Instead, a vast increase in information availability ushered in e-mail, Netflix and search engines. As estimated by Google, the internet is said to contain roughly five million terabytes of data. This is enough to fill more than one billion DVDs. With such a large amount of information transmitted daily, we must consider the consequences: namely, is further integration of the internet into today’s society leading to a hindrance in the productivity, learning, and development of the world’s youth?
On average, teenagers spend about four hours per week doing homework. Comparatively, they spend thirty one hours online. Youtube, StumbleUpon, AddictingGames, and other such websites are tempting distractions for students and young adults. Between Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and many others, social networking sites have dominated teen internet activity. Seventy three percent of teens and young adults are members of at least one of these websites, with Facebook alone claiming over four hundred million people and ninety three percent of all college students as active users. While multitasking by doing both homework and surfing the web is extremely common, it is neither productive nor helpful. Studies have shown that the average human attention span has decreased from a range of ten to twenty minutes to a range of five to ten minutes in the last thirty years. The close correlation between the increase in internet usage and availability and the decrease in the average human attention span is unfortunate, yet predictable.
The Washington Post recently published a survey about internet addictions and the affect that they have on people. It showed that fourteen percent of people found it “hard to stay away from the internet for several days at a time” and eight percent said that they “often relied on the Internet as a way to escape their problems.” While true internet addictions are infrequent, they have very serious consequences. Six percent of people surveyed said that their relationships had suffered because of “excessive internet use.” Besides problems in one’s personal life, internet and online gaming addictions can affect one’s job and well being.“[The games] completely engross the player,” says Nottingham Trent University psychologist Mark Griffiths. “They are not games that you can play for 20 minutes and stop.” In this particular instance he was referring to a young man who suffered heart failure after playing games for fifty hours straight with only short restroom breaks. Before his death, the man had been fired from his job because of the addiction. While the internet as a whole is invaluable, further integration of the internet into today’s society can lead to an increase in internet addictions. Dr. Kimberly Young, Director of the Center for Internet Addiction Recovery, says “It’s like an eating disorder. You can’t eliminate food. You just have to make better choices about what you eatů and what you do online.”
The importance and usefulness of the internet is often debated in regards to learning, society, and its impact on the world as a whole. According to my grandfather, a mouse is to be “found in the attic and killed,” not used to move a cursor around on a monitor. Many will argue that the internet can lead to laziness, piracy, and conspiracies; however, the free flow of information is not the problem. The World Wide Web has already been proven as a development that is essential to society. The problem is that the integration of the internet into everyday life may be too much of a good thing.