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Striving for an Internet of Responsibility

It has long been said that knowledge is power, and that is especially true on the Internet. The worldwide web has some four billion users around the globe, each of whom can seemingly find whatever they want, whenever they want. Every product. Every service. And every shred of information.

Looking to buy a particular item? Scan the seller’s social media accounts — there is a 70 percent chance he has at least one — just to make sure he’s on the up-and-up. Or check out customer reviews from previous transactions.

Looking for an entertainment option? Those reviews are readily available, too. Same for plot summaries and, well, spoilers.

Looking for a date? Same drill. You can find out a great deal about a potential partner, whether from social media or information brokerages like MyLife.com.

The point is, there is more information out there than ever before — or, if you will, more knowledge. As a result, there is more power available to online visitors. It’s a matter of doing one’s due diligence, of understanding that transparency is a force for good, not evil.

While no one can ever deny the importance of online security, it is no less true that a savvy consumer can protect oneself by mining as much information as possible. Certainly it is one of the many ways in which the web can be used to best advantage.

Addressing health

Much has been said about how using the Internet and other technologies can affect both our physical and mental health. It is believed to lead to issues such as sleep deprivation, poor posture, musculoskeletal disorders, or eye strain and declining eyesight. Links have also been made between Internet usage and depression, ADHD, and high levels of stress and anxiety. These health issues have specifically been attributed to social media, cyberbullying, and an overwhelming influx of negative news. Even something like using the Internet to research physical symptoms of sickness can induce more anxiety and worry than might be necessary.

Many of these issues are a direct result of overusing the Internet, and legitimate concerns of addiction are nothing new. Publications talk about “unplugging” in an almost desperate light, but to remove yourself from the equation completely might not exactly be the answer. Using the Internet in moderation and limiting your time online as opposed to cutting it off altogether can certainly aid in combating the physical and mental health issues that it can bring about.

Addressing social responsibility

While too much negative news can have adverse effects on individuals, there is an upside. Overall awareness of social issues has increased dramatically as a result of the Internet, which has led to greater social responsibility among individuals. It’s no coincidence that Millennials, the first generation to experience frequent use of modern technology and Internet usage, are also the most charitable generation

The use of the Internet, and particularly social media, can be a constructive form of activism when used in the right way. For an individual, addressing social issues takes more than simply raising awareness — it takes promoting change through action and encouraging meaningful discussion on why the topic matters. It’s easy to just share a link, but to create a more responsible Internet, we must all carefully consider how we can involve those around us in the causes that matter the most. One successful example of this is the recent ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which not only raised awareness of the disease, but also had people take part in a challenge that required their active involvement, and the campaign raised $115 million for the cause. The Internet has the power to enact great change, so long as we are motivated to take action on the problems that are brought to our attention.

Addressing transparency (again)

One of the most fascinating trends in online marketing is the one toward influencer marketing, which is defined as the use of a few key thought leaders to spread the word about a given company, often courtesy of social-media platforms. Sometimes these influencers are paid by the company in question, sometimes not. Sometimes they generate content on their own, or sometimes the business does so.

Whatever the case, some 80 percent of marketers find this approach effective, and 89 percent said the ROI is at least as great as that from other marketing channels.

An example of this approach occurred in November 2019, when a Tesla employee threw a large steel ball at the driver’s side window of a prototype of the company’s Cybertruck. He was supposedly demonstrating the strength of the shatter-proof glass. Instead, the glass broke, setting off an Internet firestorm: Was it truly a failure, or just an attempt to generate interest on the part of a company led by an idiosyncratic CEO, Elon Musk? Either way, the effect was the same: Tesla received gobs of free advertising. And the influencers carried the day.

So once more, with feeling: Information carries as much power as ever. It is, however, incumbent upon online users to be discerning — to unearth as much as they can, to take full advantage of all that is there, right at their fingertips.

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