I’m an intellectually curious person. When I was a kid, I was notorious for asking a lot of questions in class. At home, I’d pepper my parents with inquiries ranging from “What happens when we die?” to “Where do babies come from?” I got my first smartphone over 10 years ago. Since then, I’ve spent hours every week querying search engines on topics that fancied my interest, ranging from theology, history, biology, and money markets, to sports, culture, and entertainment. The internet enabled me to learn Spanish and Arabic–in addition to my native language English–with the help of electronic dictionaries, books, vocabularies, and references. YouTube, along with Facebook and Snap Chat, has also been a steady supplier of knowledge, laughs, and entertainment.
The Pros And Cons Of The Internet
I’m sure you can think of ways the internet has benefited your intellectual development and opened up creative possibilities in your life. People in the ancient world would have killed to have access to the knowledge contained on an ordinary smartphone with internet access. Without the internet, I wouldn’t have written this article, and you wouldn’t be reading it.
Unfortunately, that glowy portrait isn’t all there is to the story. The internet, on the flip side, has damaged society in quantifiable ways. We recall last year when Facebook (Meta) was embroiled in a scandal for not taking sufficient action to remedy the ill effects of its social media platforms. Facebook’s internal data, and numerous other external studies, have found a correlation between social media usage and mental health issues. Facebook’s internal data showed that Instagram makes “body image issues worse for one in three teenage girls”; that “teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression”; and “among teenagers who reported suicidal thoughts, about 6% in the U.S. and 13% in the U.K. traced them back to Instagram” (Social Media And Mental Health).
The Problem Of Internet Pornography
Internet pornography is another plague to which much ink has been spilled on this blog during the last 3 years. Internet pornography statistics, which you can access at Covenant Eyes Porn Stats and Webroot porn numbers, are quite staggering. I personally know of many people whose lives have been damaged by internet pornography. To an extent, I am among them. I wonder how my life would have been different if I had never once given into sexual temptation online. Pornography makes it harder to love one romantic partner. It makes it harder to love anyone, romantic, platonic, agape or otherwise. Pornography typically exacerbates the loneliness and isolation that people feel. And it is often a contributing factor to depression and anxiety.
I wonder how my life would have been different if I had never once given into sexual temptation online.
Anonymity can be a beautiful thing. They say “dance like nobody is watching,” because when nobody is watching we feel most free to be ourselves. However, anonymity can also be a curse. It is because of anonymity (and access) afforded by the internet that people routinely engage in cyberbullying, trash-talk, and gossipy, click-bait-y behavior. It is that same anonymity that provides a “safe space” to indulge in pornography without immediate social consequences. A man once said that everyone with a smartphone has a Playboy under their bed. What he meant was that everyone with internet access is no more than a few seconds away from indulging their sexual appetite with virtual strangers.
If we want to avoid the ills of the internet, while continuing to benefit from it, we have to be proactive. Simply “going with the flow” is going to yield both good and bad results. I try to go off the grid as much as possible (The Benefits Of Going Off The Grid), especially before bed, when my internet usage tends to be less productive. However, I’m still working on it. My work and hobbies are such that I spend an inordinate amount of time online. I have brothers and friends who execute a lot better on this goal, and I admire their consciousness and intentionality.
The goal of spending less time on the internet isn’t just sexual integrity. In addition to avoiding temptation, time spent away from our phones means less time on social media and more time in the presence of real human beings. It means being exposed to less cellular and Wi-Fi radiation, which may or may not be harmful to human health in the long run. Less time online can also potentially improve our eyesight–or at least keep it from getting worse–especially if we spend some of that time outside.
Let’s ask ourselves today, are we casualties or beneficiaries of the great power that is the internet? How can we get the most out of this amazing technology without falling victim to its many pitfalls?
For more, see the complete archive of articles on integrity.