Being connected is fundamental to living a life in the twenty-first century. As demonstrated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, “the number of households with access to the internet at home continues to increase, reaching 83%.” Not surprising to say the least, as my seventeen year old brother Joshua argues, “the internet is imperative to our way of life.” My mother Margaret doesn’t necessarily agree.
The internet was established in 1991, and is thus a fairly developed concept. danah boyd claims “networked publics are here to stay” (2014, p.213) reflecting the belief that my brother holds. I interviewed both him and my mother regarding the internet access in our own home, and how this has impacted upon relationships and social life.
My household has at least six devices connected to the internet at any one time. According to our internet provider, Telstra, we have a ‘fast ADSL’ connection and rarely go over our 200GB cap. Despite this, my brother recalls “the internet lagging when playing FIFA15” whenever another user is connected. My mother also makes mention of having to call our internet provider recently “because of some technical fault.” I asked them about the National Broadband Network (NBN) to which Joshua had briefly “heard of it talked about on the news.” Margaret was unaware of the NBN’s existence or the fact that its potential for a faster and more improved internet experience is not yet readily available in our area. When asked if she would consider switching, Margaret’s main concern was cost.
The inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee stated “the web is more of a social creation than a technical one. I designed it for a social effect – to help people work together” (1999, p.123). With this in mind, I questioned my family members further, asking their opinions on the social utilities of the internet. Margaret believed that whilst the internet has been a great tool “to keep in touch with relatives in Italy” through social networks such as Facebook, it can also “have negative effects on immediate relationships.” Margaret noted that internet usage in her household tends to consume her family members’ time, and that this may “sometimes cause a strain” on their interpersonal communications.
Similarly, Joshua explained that most of his time spent on the internet was for social purposes. An avid social networker, Joshua said that without his internet connection he would “feel cut off” from peers. When asked if there were any negative implications from being online, Joshua raised a growing social concern regarding cyber-bullying. He notes it as a “big issue facing teens today.” Joshua’s argument is further supported by dana boyd as she notes “technology can amplify existing dramas, but it can also create new mechanisms for meanness and cruelty to unfold” (2014, p.140). Joshua also accounted that the invention of the internet has provided the opportunity to access a wide range of information, and consequently feels more “supported” in his own education. This coincided with Berners-Lee’s intentions for internet usage on a globalised scale.
I concluded the interviews by telling both Margaret and Joshua that the ABS recorded in 2012-13 that 81% of households accessed the internet each day. I asked them to suggest a future for the internet and its users. Margaret thought society would become addicted to the internet indicating “maybe 100% of people will use it on a daily basis” and Joshua claimed the internet would “keep getting better.” Thus it is safe to say the future of the internet is unprecedented.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014, Household Use of Information Technology, Australia, 2012-13, Cat. No: 8146.0, ABS, viewed 22 August 2015, <http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/D0DD505F12749281CA257C89000E3F5E?opendocument>
- Berners-Lee, T., 1999, Weaving the Web, Harper Collins Publishers, p.123, <http://www.harpercollins.com/web-sampler/9780062515872>
- boyd, d., 2014, It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, pp.140 & 21), <http://www.danah.org/books/ItsComplicated.pdf>
- Mackay, J., 2015, Interview, 22 August.
- Mackay, M., 2015, Interview, 22 August.