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3 Ways the Internet is Changing Things, for Better AND for Worse

We’ve all become so adapted to the conveniences of the Internet that it’s difficult to remember what society was like before it. This becomes especially obvious when watching old movies. How odd is it to see characters do pre-Internet activities like go to the library to research information and use a phone book? These are just some of the ways that the Internet has dramatically changed society, for better and perhaps for worse.

Consider these three ways that the Internet has changed how we work and live, and then ask yourself truthfully, “Are we better off?”

Increased Productivity
One advantage the Internet affords us is that we can be productive virtually anywhere that we can connect to it. This includes places that were previously thought to be off limits from the reach of productivity, like at the beach while on vacation, on the road for business, we even hear that some users take their favorite devices into the bathroom with them. Looking at this situation from a purely business standpoint, it makes you as a business owner feel good that your staff is spending every waking moment being as productive as possible. However, looking at it from the standpoint of the human experience, it makes one feel like we’ve lost something when we can’t go but a few minutes without stopping to look at our mobile devices.

Yet, Productivity Decreases
While the Internet affords us more opportunities to access the web and get work done, it can also be a major distraction for the times when we actually sit down to, get work done. For example, at the end of the work day, how many tabs does your web browser have open? If you’re like the average modern office worker, your screen is full of interesting news articles, YouTube videos, multiple instant messaging conversations, and more, much more.

The problem here is that all of these little distractions presented by the Internet actually cut into productivity in a major way. In fact, it’s proven that it takes anywhere from 5-to-15 minutes for a worker to refocus on a single task after they’re pulled away from it. Therefore, having the Internet bombard an employee with distractions all day long actually results in getting less work done. But hey, they can always make up for it at home, or even in the bathroom.

Access Any Information Instantly
So far, the future we were promised is disappointing because it lacks flying cars, laser guns, and hoverboards (we don’t count the “Hoverboards” found in today’s retail stores). However, thanks to the Internet, virtually all of the world’s media and information is just a click away, and can even be carried in your pocket. This is a huge advancement for our civilization; one that would make the Jetsons green with envy.

Yet, all of this instant information is killing our attention spans. Consider these two sobering statistics from List25:

  • 50 percent of Internet users quit waiting for a video to load after 10 seconds.
  • The average shot length in an English-language film has decreased from 12 seconds in 1930 to only about 2 seconds in 2015.

Therefore, while the Internet is satisfying our need for instant gratification, it’s making patience much harder for human beings to come by.

In what ways do these benefits and drawbacks of the Internet play out in your office? Is your staff more productive and more distracted? Is work time cutting into leisure time? Are people so impatient that they resort to Googling a question instead of having an actual discussion about it? Are you taking any measures to control online distractions in the workplace? Of course, these are just some of the ways that the Internet is changing everything, both for better and for worse.

Do you have any points to add to this list? Share with us your thoughts in the comments.