The idea behind the internet was to create an ideal, virtual dimension of our world. Thus the internet became a space where seemingly endless amounts of information could be found online and communicating instantly with anyone around the globe became the standard. Although the internet, in many respects, remains a diverse place to explore, it has also become a space that confines and shelters us. Our false perception of the internet’s expansiveness and diversity is an illusion that majority of us have fallen victim to.
We have come to perceive the internet as an inclusive and interconnecting space but why or how is this false? According to InternetLiveStats.com, only forty six percent of the world’s population has daily access to the internet—while in the US, the percentage is over 80. We often forget that the only people we are able to connect with on the internet are those who have access to it and the only information and ideas we receive are coming from people who have internet. While we might deal with the internet on a daily basis and allow it to play a role in essentially every aspect of our lives, we do not realize that for more than half of our global population the internet is still a rarity.
This may have come as a surprising statistic considering how fast we’ve seen the evolution of technology take over our lives. But realizing how foreign the concept of not having internet is to us represents our privilege. We subconsciously assume that the rest of the world is receiving advancements in technology at the same pace as we are. Because we have become so used to our lifestyles that circulate around technology and the internet, we often associate a country or place without a similar lifestyle with being uneducated or behind. This concept can be termed as first world privilege. A person with privilege lives within its confinements and benefits daily from what it offers, rarely getting a glimpse of what lies beyond it to realize the bubble in which they live. This exclusivity makes the person fall under the assumption that their lifestyle is superior, causing them to value their life and culture over others that may be different.
Beyond our perception of the internet, our interactions online have also been sheltering us. Because of features like tailored search browsers and ads, our interaction with the internet has become an entirely personalized experience. Tailored searches mean results will reflect previous searches done by a user and/or are limited to results from within the user’s physical location. Drawing from a user’s information through recently visited webpages and past searches, ads on websites and social media can also be tailored to fit the perceived interests of the user.
Features like these tremendously narrow the scope of the internet for each individual person as their experience online becomes catered to them specifically, significantly lowering their chances of venturing beyond their familiar network. Being unaware of our privileges and prejudices caused by being online can be detrimental to our society. With awareness, we are more able to nurture understanding and appreciation for diversity, giving us the will to care for a world beyond our own.