Has the internet changed the world?

Like many people recently, I have been watching the current events that have been taking place across the Middle East and North Africa with both interest and concern. Having just completed a jaunt around parts of Eastern Europe recently, and learning a little bit about it’s history, there seems to be so many parallels between the story there just a  number of decades ago, to what is happening right now in parts of the Middle East. In particular, this domino effect. In Eastern Europe, Hungary was the first country to open it’s borders to the people, and call for some sort of democracy. This was followed by other countries soon after, most notably East Germany, and the fall of the Berlin Wall – which became a symbol of the breakdown of the Iron Curtain, and a nation of people coming together and searching for freedom. It’s like as soon as one iron grip breaks down, the rest begin to follow, and although the Middle East and North Africa are two very different places from Eastern Europe, it’s not hard to see the parallels and take hope from it.

The main different between this story however, and that of Eastern Europe, is in this case we have the internet. The internet it seems is proving a key tool in spreading the word, and forcing the breakdown of these un-democratic nations. As someone who’s profession would not even exist without the internet, I wanted to look into how the internet has changed things around the world, for both the good and the bad.

News can spread like wildfire

Taking these recent conflicts as an example, as soon as word spread about Tunisia, it didn’t take long for the people of Egypt to hear, and it seems be inspired to do something similar with their own country. These days, as soon as a major conflict happens there will be a video on YouTube, or a stream of minute by minute comments on Twitter from people witnessing and experiencing the events first hand right at the scene. At the click of a button anyone who views that video, sees that photograph, or read a report that they can share immediately with all their  friends and followers, who in turn can do the same with theirs.

Corrupt governments have no where to hide anymore when they are persecuting their people, because even with a basic camera on our phones we can upload something to YouTube within only a matter of seconds, and the word is out there. It is nion impossible to stop anyone from reporting on events that are happening in their country. Unlike before when we relied purely on international reporters, unless you prevent all internet access, phone lines, transport, and prevent people from purchasing camera’s, phones, and computers, you have no way to stop it because the local people can report now. Someone will find a way to get the word out there, and the remaining people of our global society will find out. Even just one comment on Twitter or Facebook can be enough! Yet, even when countries do manage to halt most information getting out – like in Libya just now with reports of hundreds of people being murdered in the streets, but with the government closing down all internet access, and halting all foreign correspondents from entering the country, people are still getting the message out in little snippets. All you need is one piece to reach the web, and it’s going to get to people.

The speed of how fast something can travel on the internet is so much that it can make real change. I am excited to see how this plays out in the future.

No secrets

With video content in particular being able to spread so viral, there is no hiding. Whereas a news report may put a spin on something, when you’ve got multiple videos from several different people, all filmed first hand on the scene, you can see quite clearly what is going on with no slant one way or another. Even when there is a block of media coverage and internet, this sometimes tells more of a story than less. Taking the Libyan government again as an example – if they had nothing to hide, then they all it would take would be one news report or one guy with a camera to show you that’s it’s all hunky dorey… but they haven’t done that. They are trying to prevent the spread of info from their local people from spreading, as they know it will only lead to their eventual downfall.

People can edit videos. They can also photoshop pictures, and put slant on a report. However, when you have hundreds of different people from different walks of life spreading their own videos, giving their own minute by minute Twitter updates of a situation, and all done with the most basic of camera’s, software, and internet connection, then for me that is verification enough. That is why I’ll always go to places like YouTube or Twitter to find out what’s actually happening in the news, before I will go to a big budget news report.

Direct connection with your target audience

There are huge positives and negatives with this one in my opinion. On one hand, any person in the media can have a direct contact with their followers online through their social networks and/or website. Even something as simple as a celebrity confirming or denying a rumour. Rather than having to go through media outlets, or a number of different sources, they can just nip something in the bud as soon as it starts by going online and giving the score. Equally, when it comes to connecting with people on a more personal level you can do this so easily through social networks. It’s allows people to get in touch with a person, brand, or company directly if they have a problem, or query, and they can get an instant and direct response back within minutes.

Where this may become uncomfortable  is with people or organisations who are spreading a bad message. This can be quite a tricky situation, as the meaning of the word bad is down to perception. What one person may think of as a bad message to spread, another person may think as a good or sometimes vital message to get across. This is why freedom of speech must be available to everyone. Everyone is entitled to get their message across, regardless of what you think of it, because it’s merely down to perception. That being said, there are sites on the web about suicide, about making bombs, and other things which most people in their right mind wouldn’t want to be available on the internet! I will never understand the types people publishing these types of sites on the web, but how can you censor those sites or twitter feeds etc, without infringing on someones freedom of speech? These people have a direct connection to their audience now with the internet. Unlike before, where someone looking to spread this type of information would find it hard to reach their audience, and have little chance of spreading it through a news organisation or something similar, now they have the internet and a way to talk directly with vulnerable people. It’s something I’ve not yet been able to find an answer to, and I am resolute in the fact that the good is so much more than the bad out there, that we just have to put up with it I guess.

The internet has changed people’s lives all around the world. It’s changed the way we work, the way we spend out leisure time, the way we communicate with friends & family, and the way we find out information, learn, and discover. I was around 10 years old when we got our first computer. I was around 11 when got a dial up internet connection, and about 12 when we got broadband. I’ve basically grown up with the internet. It’s a huge part of my life, and now my work as a full-time blogger.  For every one like me, there are a million other the same. From both a traveller and a bloggers perspective, what I do now would just not be possible without the internet, or it would certainly be a lot harder… I am excited to see how the internet shapes the next 10 – 15 years of our lives. People forget, that although things move fast online, the internet is still in it’s infancy. It’s changed travel, it’s changed the world, and I have no doubt it will continue to change our lives further.

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