We’ve all heard our parents say we spend too much time on the internet. After all, people born before the technological boom have, arguably, lived a very different life than youngsters today, who can access the whole wide world literally at their fingertips.
While those in their early 40 and late 30s have seen the transformation, having experienced parts of both worlds, it is really those who are currently in their late 20s and early 30s who have truly witnessed the first-hand impact of the internet and what it means for society. From communication to education, business and technology, nothing has been left untouched by the internet.
Needless to say, the internet has become an integral part of modern life. It is difficult to imagine a world without it. It has revolutionised the way we access information, do business, advance our education, buy our clothes, and even shop for staple items.
The internet has provided a new platform for entertainment and social interaction as well, the likes of which have never existed before in the world.
Want to cook something extremely soul-satisfying and fancy, but you’re on a budget? No worries, because you can choose from a million such recipes online.
Are you getting bored at home and have nothing to do? Fret not, because the internet is a haven for modern entertainment, filled with hundreds of OTT platforms to keep you hooked all day long.
Do you need to transfer money to your family instantly? Just go ahead and use the different online banking facilities made available to the common man these days and take care of your loved ones — no matter where you or they are currently located.
Want to plan a foreign trip but don’t know how to plan your itinerary? Travel blogs and online travel partners can be your best friends.
Want to find a long-lost friend you knew from back in your schooldays? Don’t worry. You can easily find them online. They will definitely be there — somewhere!
However, as is the case with any technology, there are also certain downsides to look out for that don’t get talked about often.
But then, the fact remains that “if you aren’t online, you don’t exist”.
Now the question is: Is an online presence really paramount in today’s world?
Awful Lot Of Upsides To Online Life — Eh?
The internet has totally transformed the way we communicate with each other. You can directly talk to friends and loved ones via emails, chat/messaging apps, mobile (audio) calls, and video calls, and what have you. You can even leave a voice message on someone’s phone for that personal touch instead of a text message without disrupting whatever the person is doing by calling them up.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to get one-on-one personal with someone, and want everyone in your circle to know something, you can simply post updates about your life on your social media accounts — like it’s the fad with the young generation these days.
In either case, an online presence allows you to stay in touch with friends, family, and everyone you know or wish to know — no matter your geographical location, age, sex, racial or financial background, etc.
Social interaction has never been so easy and smooth.
Furthermore, all platforms — social media or professional communities — have made it easier to find what (or who) you are looking for, much simpler with customisation and personalisation. One can even form virtual communities online, like Reddit, Facebook groups, and WhatsApp groups, among others, for greater support and communication while also accessing additional information about topics at hand.
#2. Remote Working
There is greater flexibility in the global job market, especially in the wake of the pandemic. As such, you can apply for a host of jobs, be it part-time, full-time, or freelancing, via the internet.
In this aspect, we do concur that having an online presence is a must. In fact, without it, you’ll be lost — literally!
After all, being online provides you with the liberty of working from wherever you want, connecting with companies offering jobs with a simple click of a button, and even saving on the cost of commuting. Plus, you’re not going to have to shell out a lot of money to purchase appropriate formal wear or buy lunch at work.
Moreover, the internet has also made it easier for people to collaborate on projects and work remotely, which has increased productivity.
That’s not all. When you consider what the future of the workforce is going to be, it becomes very evident that a hybrid model might go on to become the norm. After all, as per this study, around 97% of people don’t want to go back to the office full-time.
Of course, the internet has also transformed the way we access information. It has enabled people to stay informed about current events with just a click of a button.
But when schools and colleges shifted online during COVID-19, we also saw how the internet revolutionised education.
This wasn’t just limited to the younger generations that were still completing their schooling. The increase in online degree courses, either by educational institutions or companies, also means that working professionals can head back to school to get a degree or learn new skills, all without jeopardising their careers.
Online education has given the adage “age is just a number” a whole new meaning.
An online presence has done wonders for many businesses, too, especially those that aren’t backed by multinational corporations. Online marketplaces and e-commerce sites have made it easier for people to shop for almost anything.
Just think about it yourself.
When you don’t want to cook at home, don’t you rely on delivery apps like Zomato and Swiggy? Aren’t platforms like Amazon or Nykaa what we rely on to buy beauty products and household items? We even shop for things like jewellery and clothes from online outlets like Myntra and Ajio because of how convenient the entire process is.
Do you want high-end products? You got it. You’ve got Mabel, Sephora, NNNOW, and Luxepolis, among others, to cater to your every need.
India’s e-commerce industry was valued at $22 billion in 2018. But it is estimated to reach even greater heights by 2030 – at $350 billion. Thanks to the internet, small businesses have a new platform to reach customers as well.
Moreover, it has become even easier for individuals to sell their own goods and services online quite easily, opening up new opportunities and arenas for entrepreneurship.
As for entertainment, the internet has opened up a world of experiences of every kind. It has made it easier for people to access and share media, including music, movies, and television shows.
Streaming platforms have made it possible to watch almost any TV show or movie on demand, while music streaming services have made it easier for people to discover new artists and listen to their favourite songs with merely a tap of a finger.
So much so, you can now view exactly the kind of ads you want; no more muting the ads or waiting for it to finish. You can also get your preferred choice of content you wish to view — no matter the medium — all curated for your convenience.
Social media has also become a mainstay feature of entertainment in a post-covid era. Not only do we rely on influencers for product recommendations and honest reviews, but many smaller creators also come up with unique and engaging content for their viewers that provide some food for thought as well.
We also use social media to stay up to date with the celebrities and idols we look up to. We love watching short videos of people goofing around or talking about new and innovative propositions.
In other words, being online means that you’re always in the loop — with what’s happening, what’s trending, and what’s HOT!
Aw Crap! Quite A Few Downsides To Having An Online Presence, Huh?
#1. Lack Of Privacy
One of the major downsides of life online is the potential for security and privacy breaches.
Personal information that is shared online can be easily accessed by anyone — hackers, scammers, stalkers, and even sexual predators. And you can imagine what nefarious purposes they would be used for! We don’t need to tell you how many times data breaches have dominated the headlines in recent times.
From financial fraud to online stalking leading to sexual crimes, cyber crimes have seen a massive surge in recent times.
So, if you do prefer to have an online presence, it is important to be cautious about what and how much information you share about yourself online.
Note: Don’t forget to use strong passwords and security measures to protect your personal data. Pace your conversations to make sure you don’t fall prey to the different kinds of predators out there. Do not divulge personal information that can potentially hurt your financial, physical, or mental well-being.
#2. Poor Mental Health
Ah! Being hooked is a term often used by people these days. And when it comes to the internet, nothing hooks the young generation more than what people think of them or say about them on social media.
Then there is the compulsive urge to always remain updated on everything that is happening around the world.
All these things can take a massive toll on an individual’s mental health. In fact, studies have found a link between excessive use of the internet and mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
Spending hours online can increase feelings of loneliness and social isolation. It can also reduce face-to-face communication and increase reliance on screens for social interaction. Such vulnerable people, especially teens in this category, are often more prone to suggestions and cyber bullying, especially like the ones the world witnessed with the “Blue Whale” tragedies.
Plus, there’s the constant comparison with other people, even though we all know people mostly post happy events from their life online. All of this can make an individual feel as though they aren’t “doing enough” with their lives and induce a sense of existential dread, too.
#3. Negative Effects On Physical Health
There are several ways in which excessive internet use could potentially have negative effects on physical health.
Firstly, spending a lot of time sitting and using the internet can lead to a sedentary lifestyle, which can increase the risk of obesity, heart disease, and other health problems.
Then, there’s the fact that the blue light emitted by screens can interfere with the body's natural sleep-wake cycle, leading to poor sleep quality and an increased risk of sleep disorders. That is, not to mention the damage that the blue light causes to your eyes! Prolonged use of screens can often lead to eye strain, dryness of the eyes, soreness and redness, and even vision issues.
You might dismiss this point quite casually at first. But research has shown that internet addiction is not just another so-called first-world problem.
Around 6% of the world’s population — or 420 million people — are addicted to the internet. It can impact one’s life in many negative ways, including cognitive dysfunctions, mental health disorders, social dysfunction, etc.
Let’s face it: Any addiction is bad. And internet addiction is a real problem, especially among those born in the 90 and 2000s.
Wrapping It Up
In many ways, having an online presence in today’s world has become essential for individuals and businesses alike. After all, it allows people to connect with one another, access information, and share ideas on a global scale.
Let’s ask this simple question: Will you trust someone who doesn’t have an online presence? Whether that person is your next-door neighbour who has just moved in, a classmate or colleague you just met, or someone you wish to do business with in the future — you want to know more about their past, present and future; you want to know about their professional and personal life, and how much of their online profiles is real.
But you certainly can’t ignore the downsides of being constantly connected online, either. Some people often feel overwhelmed by the amount of information and stimulation they encounter on the internet. Others even struggle to disconnect and find balance in their lives.
Unfortunately, the internet can also be a breeding ground for misinformation, fake news, and shady people. Sounds seriously scary, right? But if you don’t know the risks, there could be some serious consequences. It all boils down to the question of trust.
And that’s quite the irony, isn’t it? You can’t trust someone who isn’t online, but neither can you trust someone entirely from what you see or read online about them or by them.
But we must admit that the internet has had a profound impact on how we live our lives — and it will continue to shape the way we interact with others and perceive the world around us for generations to come.