The Internet is the most wonderful invention in the world, or evil incarnate andndash; depending on who you talk to.
At the same time that people are using the Internet to keep in touch with distant family members, check their stock portfolios or purchase hard to find items, others are using it to publish pornography, steal identities and scam people out their life savings.
The unsettling thing for me is the large number of people who are unaware of the pitfalls of the Internet. Every day I hear reports of someone getting ripped off or publically humiliated because of information they innocently placed into the Internet stream.
Just the other day, several parents were discussing a story of how teenagers are stealthily taking pictures of their peers in various forms of undress in the school locker rooms and posting the images online. Such images are often posted on hundreds, perhaps thousands of sites, within minutes, before the victim realizes it has happened.
Then there are people who set themselves up for abuse. I'm talking about the college students, and others, who post online photographs or video of themselves participating in inappropriate activity (getting drunk, doing something illegal) without realizing that parents, school officials and current and potential employers can easily see it. Dumb.
The Internet has become as ubiquitous as the television and cell phone andshy;andndash; and for a majority of people the Internet is no longer a hobby or pastime, but a necessity. It has not only changed the way we communicate with one another (e-mail, blog sites, Facebook, MySpace and so on), but the way in which we conduct daily activities such as paying our bills, getting weather reports, booking hotels, airfare and concert tickets.
However, the Internet is uncontrolled and uncensored, with a very real potential to damage not only peoples' computer equipment but their lives.
It amazes me how many people are unware of the importance of the Internet in our society, and the insidious dangers. Sometimes I think those who don't use the Internet are better off.
Case in point: A lesser known, more subtle danger of the Internet is the "timesucking" aspect.
With so many Web sites, blogs, Facebook and MySpace pages, and the endless stream of videos on YouTube, one could surf the Web 24 hours a day and never accomplish a darn thing.
It's an addiction. How often have you said, "I'm just going to take a few minutes to check the latest breaking news or forecast" only to find yourself still online hours later, browsing a blog sites such www.uglydogs.com or www.whatbobsaid.com.
In fact, news reports have recently surfaced that say the Internet has overtaken TV as the biggest time sucker.
According a 2010 technology report in the New York Times, "On average, Internet users spent 13.7 hours a week online and TV viewers spent 13.3 hours in front of the box. This compares with 12.5 hours a week online and 13.8 hours watching TV in 2006."
Think of all the gardening, painting, exercise, macrame, mediating, cooking and "Gasp!" one-on-one human communication that could happen with that 17 hours each week.
As Jimmy Buffet once sang, "Turn off the TV, turn off the crap. Kick off your high heels, climb up in my lap, and I'll play music, a song from me to you ..."
Words to live by.