Natalie's First Final Draft

It’s two o’clock in the morning, and you’ve been working on a paper all night because you’ve divided your time between your paper, Facebook, and Youtube. You only need one more source, so you can finally see the end. You begin to scan through your favorite search engine —Google— and you eventually discover what you’re looking for. You click on the page and just as it’s about to load, your Internet connectivity suddenly fails. The library is closed, your friends are asleep, and you can’t email your professor to let him know your predicament. Panic begins to consume you. What do you do now? Some individuals are convinced that the Internet is destroying the minds of its users, and as much as evidence as they may present, I strongly disagree with them. The widespread use of the Internet is pushing us towards more technological advances and continuing the cycle of social evolution. If the existence of the Internet was terminated I feel that we would all cease to function in the way that we do today; therefore, I believe that Internet access should expanded so that universities everywhere can experience this phenomenon.

The occurrence of technological advances may be the most encouraging aspect of the increased widespread use of the Internet at universities. In recent years, Internet speed has steadily increased and evolved into a major source of entertainment and information. Opening numerous web pages, listening to music, and communicating with others can all be done simultaneously on one computer. Possibilities have become endless. With Internet connectivity continuing to broaden, it provides inspiration to those with ideas of making the Internet better. Evolution in Internet connectivity has brought about great changes in human civilization, and as the Internet continues to change, so will humankind. In his article “Get Smarter”, Jamais Cascio argues that “the focus of our technological evolution would be less on how we manage and adapt to our physical world, and more on how we manage and adapt to the immense amount of knowledge we’ve created.”1 I agree with Cascio in this theory; our interpretation of discoveries in Internet connectivity affects whether or not we can handle the technological advances we have reached. Managing these technological advances relies quite a bit on the personal and moralistic values of the individual. For example, students themselves must decide what constitutes as crossing the line between quoting an essay and plagiarizing it completely. They have the information, but ultimately, it’s up to them to use this information judiciously.

Just as students must exemplify responsibility when managing technological advances in Internet connectivity, they must also demonstrate responsibility when using informal language. The increased use of informal language as a result of online social networking is a big disadvantage of the Internet among those who greatly value the preservation of formal language. Initially beginning with text messaging, the use of abbreviated words (omg, lol, u, ur, 2) has filtered into online communication and everyday language. Sven Birkerts states in his article “The Gutenberg Elegies”, “There is no question but that the transition from the culture of the book to the culture of electronic communication will radically alter the ways in which we use language on every societal level. The complexity and distinctiveness of spoken and written expression, which are deeply bound to traditions of print literacy, will gradually be replaced by a more telegraphic sort of “plainspeak.”2 I disagree with Birkerts’ belief that this “plainspeak” language will replace formal language; I believe that we are and always will be able to distinguish between when to use formal and informal language. Students are aware that it is inappropriate to address their professors or advisors with the same word choice as they would address a childhood friend. It’s true that society has accepted informal language more openly than it did fifty years ago, but that does not mean that we are headed to a complete language meltdown. It simply means that we are accepting of the free expression each generation exposes the world to.

Although the Internet connectivity at universities has made the lives of college students much easier on several levels, there are a few disadvantages of this familiar convenience. With access to many online sources, college students find it quite simple to come across material they need for class. For example, some college students post old essays online for others to see and use as references and examples. However, the college student that finds an essay may think, “Hey, this is exactly what I want to say,” and copy a small part of the essay and submit it for a grade. This student has, without realizing it, committed plagiarism. With the wide variety of information circulating the Internet and the small amount of time it takes to look up topics, the temptation of plagiarism increases among students. Last minute papers are “copied” and “pasted” into documents within seconds. Not all students are guilty of this practice, but enough of them are to attract attention to this issue. Similar to managing technological advances, the choice not to plagiarize is up to the individual’s moralistic values and perception of right and wrong.

Once students accept the responsibility that comes with using the Internet, they can fully utilize all of the practical benefits the Internet provides. Virtually everyone can use the Internet. However, some people choose to believe that a certain level of skill is needed to search the web. Of course, this can be attributed to the way people sometimes overcomplicate things. I’ll admit, I do find it really annoying when I’m unable to find exactly what I’m looking for, but usually it’s because my topic is too broad. Once I narrow my search, my journey through the web is quite smooth. Like many things in life, using the Internet requires patience and an open-mind. With these two things, using the Internet is as easy as the user makes it. Knowing how to use the Internet is essential now, especially with the amount of information that circulates around the Internet on search engines like Google. One search can generate thousands of related web pages that users may find useful. Years of collected information and knowledge are instantly available, and site monitors work hard to ensure that the information provided is correct. From experience, Google has always been a very reliable source for information. However, other encyclopedia-like sites such as Wikipedia sometimes supply inaccurate information. This is due to the fact that anyone can edit content on various pages of the site. As much as site editors attempt to eliminate vandalism on their pages, sometimes they just can’t stop a bored teenager from debasing a page on George Washington.3 For cases such as these, many teachers and college professors choose not to accept Wikipedia pages as viable sources to cite.

After attending Vanderbilt for a couple of months, I’ve noticed two things regarding the Internet. The first is that knowing how to use the Internet is pretty much a necessity. If I didn’t know how to use the Internet, I imagine my life here would be pretty difficult. The second thing I’ve noticed is that many of my peers have become accustomed to the convenience of Internet connectivity on an academic standpoint. Students can easily access online articles and assignments in class just as conveniently as in their dorms. If a student can’t attend class due to illness or other emergencies, they can quickly email their professor to let them know, instead of endangering the health of the professor and other students. Who wants to risk getting swine flu? Professors have also become accustomed to the convenience of the Internet. Student and faculty emails are prime examples of university encouraged Internet usage. With simple emails and class pages, the Internet allows professors to stay connected with their students outside of class. Vanderbilt ensures that all students and faculty receive email addresses, and that it is to their advantage (pretty much a necessity) to check their email regularly. The news of a cancellation of class can be publicized by sending one mass email. Without the Internet, the likelihood of ensuring that every student finds out about announcements like this one would be nearly impossible.

During my high school years and up to now, I have found that the Internet is the fastest way to research just about anything. Libraries are great, if you just happen to be in close proximity to one. However, let’s say that you arrive at the library to pick up a book you need for a paper and, unfortunately, the guy in your class with the same topic as you came by twenty minutes earlier and checked it out. Now, you’ve wasted a trip to the library and you still don’t have the book you were looking for. I experienced a similar situation once before, and since this wretched experience, I always do one of two things before making a trip to the library: look up the book online to see if the library currently has a copy, or look for a copy that I can read online. Both of these options can be done very quickly, and the latter can completely eliminate a trip to the library. Of course, years of reading online will probably damage my eyesight, but that is a risk I’m willing to take. Not only is the Internet extremely fast, but it is also accurate on most occasions. Although most sites have reputable evidence included in them, it is, however, necessary to use discretion when deciding which sites are notable.

Online social networking has become a norm in the college world. I spend about four hours a day on networking websites like Facebook and Twitter. In the presence of Internet connectivity, cell phones become less of a necessity because of websites like Skype, a networking website dedicated to enabling its users to communicate with online call conversations. I understand that Facebook and Twitter don’t appeal to everyone, so cell phones are still a convenient way to communicate with other people. But let’s say you lose the phone number of someone who lives in another state. How do you reach them? Well, with Internet connectivity, Yellowpages.com is perfect. You can easily access phone numbers and addresses of anyone. Problem solved, thanks to the Internet.

Some critics of the Internet opt to believe that the Internet is affecting our overall intelligence. In “Is Google Making Us Stupid”, written by Nicholas Carr, developmental psychologist at Tufts University Maryanne Wolf argues that “the style of reading promoted by the Net, a style that puts “efficiency” and “immediacy” above all else, may be weakening our capacity for the kind of deep reading that emerged when an earlier technology, the printing press, made long and complex works of prose commonplace.”4 She fears that we are allowing our ability to think critically when analyzing text is lying dormant in our minds. No, we are not becoming any less intelligent as a result of the Internet, we are simply learning to adapt to change and cultural evolution. I can accept that the Internet is slowly making us lazy since almost everything we need to know is at our fingertips and the click of a button, but laziness and stupidity are not the same. It boils down to the responsibility of the individual whether or not they will succumb to the convenience of Internet connectivity and begin to use shortcuts in other aspects of their life, i.e. informal language in daily conversation and the act of plagiarizing.

Internet connectivity here at Vanderbilt is as widespread as it could possibly be. Every location on campus has access. If the university were to decrease Internet access, I feel it would cause mass interference with everyday life. The Internet has become a major part of academics and social networking, so why would anyone want to disrupt the natural flow of college life? Are critics of the Internet actually afraid of losing formal language or the evolution of society?

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