Question of the Day — Impact of the Internet on You

I'm completely engrossed in paper writing right now. In the zone. But maybe you all can help me out. I'm writing a paper on how individuals interact with the Internet. Here's my first paragraph:

When an individual sits down in front of her Mac in the morning, presses the on button, and hears that cheerful warm-up chord, her experience after that will be entirely shaped by the political skills and experiences she brings to the computer table that morning. There are opportunities to learn about the war in Iraq, to sign a petition, or to sign up for a political newsletter. There are also opportunities to find out who is ahead in the American League pennant race, to read about Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, and to shop for new shoes. The individual’s personal pile of political experiences and interests will determine whether she spends an hour buying sling backs on Zappos.com or whether she sends a letter to her congressman.

And then I discuss how the Internet accellerates political skills among those who already have a lot of political skills. For everyone else, not so much.

Question of the Day: Are you more aware of political issues since you started reading blogs and having access to Wikipedia and all that? Are you more energized about your politics in general? Do you see any before and after transformations in yourself, because of all the time that you spend online?

10 thoughts on “Question of the Day — Impact of the Internet on You

  1. Given that, before blogs, I was in graduate schools in political science, I’d have to say I’m not more aware of political issues since I started reading blogs. I spend less energy on politics than I have at any point in my adult life.

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  2. I think the internet has had a negative effect on my political knowledge, and has been neutral on political participation. Actually, it’s probably not the internet itself, but the fact that four years ago I moved to a place where I couldn’t get a good daily newspaper at home, and so have shifted to reading the NYT online, along with blogs and news sources. I read more “boring” news in the newspaper; here I can read endless links about stupid things (especially the semi-political things like Palin rants and Sanford gossip).
    Also, your post reminded me that I wanted to go on zappos and look for some shoes a friend just bought…

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  3. I’m definitely more informed because of the Internet. And I’m much more involved in politics. I’ve always had an interest in politics, but found keeping up with it tedious. Now it’s easy to look something up, to find various viewpoints, to–as my son put it–find out what the enemy’s message is. Before I’d try to slog through the Christian Science Monitor or the New York Times, and just found it boring. Now I can connect to so many different kinds of information.
    But, I know I’m the exception. Most people I know who use the internet for political information are doing so to reinforce their own point of view. I also think there’s an information overload factor at work. It’s sometimes hard to decide what you need to know in order to make better political decisions.

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  4. I also know more, than I did before the internet. I know more about both unimportant stuff (Sanford, Ensign, Newsome infidelities) as well as about important stuff (the history of public health care programs in different countries). I used to rely almost exclusively on NPR for information before the internet. Now I regularly read articles in the Times, Wash Post, and occasionally at Talking Point, Huffington, Politico, Wall Street Journal, Atlantic Monthly. Sometimes I even read Town Hall, as well as American Prospect. And I read the reports behind news articles (for example, Stanford’s analysis of charter schools, or the analysis of Every Day Math curricula).
    I feel more informed. And, online access has another feature — I am far far more likely to contribute money than I used to be. I do have more money now, but the ease of clicking to contribute makes me far more likely to respond to requests for money. For example, I contributed to the congressional campaign of an Illinois congressman — he’s an ex-physicist, and I discovered him through random clicks, he intrigued me, and I gave money. I’m now on his mailing list. I gave money to Human Rights Campaign, and so now am informed, via their email list, about hot topics. So, I’m more involved in my pocket book, but also more wise to the initiatives/obscure bills than I would have been 20 years ago.

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  5. I think I’m more aware, but it’s hard to tell how much of that is simply aging. (I started on internet in the 90s, when I was in high school/college.) Somewhere along the way, Japanese wikipedia and news sites and video clips from news shows and political discussion on 2ch (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2ch , and hard to believe that it’s a home for rabid political “fans,” but it is) meant that I became rather conversant in Japanese politics. Which has spilled into (finally) an interest in US politics. (Which I was introduced to through Japanese coverage.)
    (I also shut down reading all news and political sites for two years after 9/11, just because I couldn’t take it anymore. I wonder if you might also get other non-professional political internet users who had a gap in their activity for one or another reason.)

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  6. I’ve been on the Internet since Christmas of 1991, when I was 25. The first place I went on Prodigy was the soap opera forums; the second place I went was the abortion discussion forums. So I’ve been political and online for pretty much my entire life online, which is almost half my life.
    I was on the newspaper in college (and thus very informed and political), and I was very political in grad school, which I couldn’t really help considering the Right turned my program into Ground Zero in the culture wars. Somehow, without the Internet, I learned about the rallies in DC for reproductive rights, and I attended them. In 1992, I worked on the Democratic Coordinated Campaign for Clinton-Gore in NC. I was barely on the Internet back then except to talk about Harley and Mallet on Guiding Light.
    I’m trying to think about how/if I’m transformed, if at all. I think the Internet makes it easier to be what I already am–an info junkie know-it-all. 🙂

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  7. Like lmc, I feel more informed now, but that may just be the older me, spending more time on being informed. (As opposed to spending my time worrying about Cute Boys and drink specials.) I find it telling that I also pay much more attention to baseball than I used to; this is a direct artifact of getting older and having different types of free time.
    I didn’t used to feel the need to hear several takes on a certain issue. Maybe this was unrealistic, but back in the print media days I felt that most MSM was pretty middle-of-the-road and giving a relatively spin-free take. Now I feel like the distance between journalism and editorials has just disappeared. There’s so much bias woven into so many things, I feel the need to read about a topic in 3 or 4 places to get some sense of balance. I do this even for topics where my views are pretty solid.

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  8. Just spending time online was not enough to really change my approach to politics. Before I really discovered blogs, my main source of information were the established media outlets, New York Times, BBC, etc. Blogs have changed that by providing political news and commentary that is both closer to my own interests, as well as approaching topics from a personal perspective and opinion, rather then just as a factual recounting of the events.

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  9. I guess if you include email in this question, I would have to say that overall, my political activity has increased due to the Internet. But as a person who has spent basically my entire life as a political organizer of some stripe or another, I can’t say that it’s due to the internet that I am politically active. More that the internet is a tool to use in political activism.
    Also? wishing I could spend time thinking about Cute Boys and drink specials again.

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