Abusing the Internet
That the internet can be used for both good and bad is an old cliche. Everyone knows that you can either load Google and look for help with your homework, or load Google and look for help with your erectile dysfunction. Therefore, it bores me very much to hear this same old story rehashed every time somebody writes or talks about the advantages and disadvantages of the internet. There are so many other possibilites to use. Here's one: writing skills.
Most people use the internet as a communication tool in some form; some people do podcasting, some people put up websites to air their erotic fantasies about Homer Simpson (I'm not kidding here), and some people just chat or (gasp!) email. Now, all of this generally improves some sort of skill; podcasting is pretty cool because you have to be an amateur deejay; homoerotic stories probably help that erectile dysfunction as mentioned above; chatting, er, teaches you why you shouldn't click on every link you see and email helps your writing. The problem is, most people don't take full advantage of these opportunities.
A lot of people enjoy chatting, forumming or posting to newsgroups, for example. The problem is, frequently people using the former two mediums tend to neglect the English language. on d 0th3r hAnd d n3Wzgrups t3nD 2 prEvEnT ppl from ActING like dis thru sElF rEGulAtiOn sUm foRUms do dIs 2
If properly used, the internet could be a boon for improving the writing skills of mankind. Unfortunately, most of us don't seem to want to practice or improve our writing skills. Online establishments that permit/encourage the use of fake "English" are the norm.
Fortunately, I never did get used to chatting. I only went on IRC a few times, and the few forums that I did join basically flamed you to death if you d4r3d 2 p0st lIKe d!s. This facilitated practice of my writing skills. Most people are afraid of writing because they don't get enough practice. Forums structured around proper usage of language encourage you to pour your thoughts out in a semi-organised manner.
Of course, forums can only take you so far. But that "so far" is a fair distance, if you ask me. Forums and newsgroups are a brilliant way to improve your writing and arguing skills. I've engaged in several scintillating debates over religion, science, politics and economics through forums. It's like keeping a diary, only you're guaranteed to know somebody will console you about your problems. Of course, the fact that it's equally likely somebody will flame you may be a bit of a discouragement, but if done properly, this can encourage appropriate learning of the dos and don'ts of writing.
The internet, as many have pointed, out has many ups and downs. It may be good and may be bad. But please, let's give up the learning/porno metaphor. It's too cliched and overused.