Let us now praise the internet

A new study has found that young people who are active on the internet are actually more engaged with civic affairs than those who are not.  As opposed to the stereotype of teenagers plugged into their own virtual worlds and never interacting with real people and oblivious to the outside universe.   See  Does the Internet make for more engaged citizens? – MacArthur Foundation.

We have often criticized the new information technology for its baleful cultural effects–doing so, of course, using the new information technology–so let’s look at the other side of the coin.

How has the internet made you more involved with issues, improved your relationships, helped your church, or otherwise been an actual blessing, a good gift from the hand of God through the vocation of those who made all of this possible?

HT:  Webmonk

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Porcell

    The biggest benefit for me is getting the relevant information necessary for substantive decisions. For example, on the church side, chairing our investment fund, I share a variety of Internet information sources with committee members that has made them quite knowledgeable, increased our return on investment, and cut meetings from a monthly to a quarterly basis. Also, we do our trading through a Vanguard Brokerage account that saves us about 1.5% a year in brokerage and other account expenses.

  • Porcell

    The biggest benefit for me is getting the relevant information necessary for substantive decisions. For example, on the church side, chairing our investment fund, I share a variety of Internet information sources with committee members that has made them quite knowledgeable, increased our return on investment, and cut meetings from a monthly to a quarterly basis. Also, we do our trading through a Vanguard Brokerage account that saves us about 1.5% a year in brokerage and other account expenses.

  • DonS

    The Internet, through news aggregators, gives us immediate access to a compilation of current news on whatever subjects are of particular interest, whether it be local, national, or world news, news related to our professions, or finance, or news from the world of faith. Research capabilities are amazing. In the legal world, back in the ’90′s, we, as a small firm, spent $500 or 600 per attorney per month on our library, plus a subscription to Lexis for on-line research, which as I recall ran about $75/hour (you could also pay by the search, but that ended up being more). Our library is now a shadow of its former self, as we have given up almost all of our updates — we keep a few essential volumes and use free Internet, including legal blogs, for practically everything else we need.

    In the political news world, the Internet has been a huge boon for the conservative movement, because it allows us to gather news and opinion without the intervention of MSM gatekeepers whose sympathies generally run against us. It also gives us a place for discussion on these issues and issues of faith, including, significantly, this very site.

  • DonS

    The Internet, through news aggregators, gives us immediate access to a compilation of current news on whatever subjects are of particular interest, whether it be local, national, or world news, news related to our professions, or finance, or news from the world of faith. Research capabilities are amazing. In the legal world, back in the ’90′s, we, as a small firm, spent $500 or 600 per attorney per month on our library, plus a subscription to Lexis for on-line research, which as I recall ran about $75/hour (you could also pay by the search, but that ended up being more). Our library is now a shadow of its former self, as we have given up almost all of our updates — we keep a few essential volumes and use free Internet, including legal blogs, for practically everything else we need.

    In the political news world, the Internet has been a huge boon for the conservative movement, because it allows us to gather news and opinion without the intervention of MSM gatekeepers whose sympathies generally run against us. It also gives us a place for discussion on these issues and issues of faith, including, significantly, this very site.

  • steve

    Given the amount of wrong information and misinformation on the internet, I can’t decide whether this is a good thing. I hear a lot of soundbites of activists at rallies and, quite frankly, they don’t appear to be well-informed, just well-mobilized. If my perception is correct, this is a recipe for disaster.

  • steve

    Given the amount of wrong information and misinformation on the internet, I can’t decide whether this is a good thing. I hear a lot of soundbites of activists at rallies and, quite frankly, they don’t appear to be well-informed, just well-mobilized. If my perception is correct, this is a recipe for disaster.

  • helen

    There has always been hard news.
    There has always been gossip.
    Internet magnifies the volume of both and the speed with which gossip is spread.
    Keep track for a week of the “glurge” which you are urgently requested to “send to all your address book”! [Somebody would be coming after me with something dangerous, if I really did that!]

  • helen

    There has always been hard news.
    There has always been gossip.
    Internet magnifies the volume of both and the speed with which gossip is spread.
    Keep track for a week of the “glurge” which you are urgently requested to “send to all your address book”! [Somebody would be coming after me with something dangerous, if I really did that!]

  • Mary Jack

    I think the 24-hour access to communication, entertainment & news helped me avoid post-partum depression, as well as comforted me during major transitions in my life like moving far from family & friends.

    I’ve also learned about a lot of good causes, met new friends, and been reacquainted with old ones. I’ve gotten to practice discernment and I think learned to hold my tongue–and my typing–more, knowing how readily things can be misconstrued.

    I think the internet helps me to think on global terms while also giving me neat little tidbits about random practical things, like cleaning with vinegar or composting.

  • Mary Jack

    I think the 24-hour access to communication, entertainment & news helped me avoid post-partum depression, as well as comforted me during major transitions in my life like moving far from family & friends.

    I’ve also learned about a lot of good causes, met new friends, and been reacquainted with old ones. I’ve gotten to practice discernment and I think learned to hold my tongue–and my typing–more, knowing how readily things can be misconstrued.

    I think the internet helps me to think on global terms while also giving me neat little tidbits about random practical things, like cleaning with vinegar or composting.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    The Internet is my resource for learning about Lutheranism. That’s a net good.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    The Internet is my resource for learning about Lutheranism. That’s a net good.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    “A new study has found that young people who are active on the internet are actually more engaged with civic affairs than those who are not.”

    You know, I’d be willing to bet that the causality on that is reversed. After all, if you’re really into civic affairs and activism and wanting to do something, it would be really hard to not be involved online. On the other hand, the apathetic have no particular reason to be online, though there’s plenty there to distract them, if they care to be distracted.

    As such, I don’t really think this study addresses the “stereotype of teenagers … oblivious to the outside universe”. I think most of them still are, in many ways. But those who aren’t, are more likely to be online.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    “A new study has found that young people who are active on the internet are actually more engaged with civic affairs than those who are not.”

    You know, I’d be willing to bet that the causality on that is reversed. After all, if you’re really into civic affairs and activism and wanting to do something, it would be really hard to not be involved online. On the other hand, the apathetic have no particular reason to be online, though there’s plenty there to distract them, if they care to be distracted.

    As such, I don’t really think this study addresses the “stereotype of teenagers … oblivious to the outside universe”. I think most of them still are, in many ways. But those who aren’t, are more likely to be online.

  • Porcell

    While the Internet is valuable, we need to understand that it is limited in value. Just now, I am reading Michael Horton’s recently published The Christian Faith A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way, a brilliant work of scholarship and Christian wisdom that places the Internet in the dust.

  • Porcell

    While the Internet is valuable, we need to understand that it is limited in value. Just now, I am reading Michael Horton’s recently published The Christian Faith A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way, a brilliant work of scholarship and Christian wisdom that places the Internet in the dust.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “The Christian Faith A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way”

    How did you find out about that book?

    Let’s say that it is a really great book. Were it not for this forum, I would likely never hear of it.
    ;-)

    “I’d be willing to bet that the causality on that is reversed. After all, if you’re really into civic affairs and activism and wanting to do something, it would be really hard to not be involved online.”

    Yup.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “The Christian Faith A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way”

    How did you find out about that book?

    Let’s say that it is a really great book. Were it not for this forum, I would likely never hear of it.
    ;-)

    “I’d be willing to bet that the causality on that is reversed. After all, if you’re really into civic affairs and activism and wanting to do something, it would be really hard to not be involved online.”

    Yup.

  • Porcell

    sg, I learned about Horton’s systematic theology through an NRO post by a fellow named Poterma. At this point, I’m at page 419 of 990. One learns much and finds pleasure from every page of this book. I intend to give the book at least a second reading, as it is one of those classics one reads that gets better on a second and every other plowing through.

  • Porcell

    sg, I learned about Horton’s systematic theology through an NRO post by a fellow named Poterma. At this point, I’m at page 419 of 990. One learns much and finds pleasure from every page of this book. I intend to give the book at least a second reading, as it is one of those classics one reads that gets better on a second and every other plowing through.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Of course, the Internet has made possible relationships that would not otherwise have happened — and by that, I mean what I consider true relationships, as valid as any confirmed by face-to-face interaction. One proof of that, to me, is that such relationships are instantly convertible into face-to-face interaction, as when Bror and I had a beer or two together, based solely on Internet conversations. I’ve done that with a few other people.

    The Internet has certainly been a blessing to my parents, who have gladly learned any new technology that allows them to see their grandchild — RSS, Skype, Facebook, what-have-you.

    My particular interactions on this blog have certainly had an impact on my faith, exposing me to a type of Lutheranism I wasn’t terribly familiar with before. I’m not sure I would have ever bought a copy of the Book of Concord, were it not for this blog. And the conversations on this blog have certainly focused (or even altered) my understandings of such important doctrines as justification and sanctification.

    I think this last point stems from one of the Internet’s properties, that of allowing communities, no matter how small, to gather and express themselves. Time was, you only felt a sense of community if you were part of something that locals also were a part of. Now you just go out and find those like-minded people.

    Of course, the Internet also has the potential to do the opposite, exposing us to people outside of our desired communities. This is, in general, a good thing, as it tends to break down arguments based on ignorance or provincialism.

    So the Internet has the potential to rid us of our dross and edify us, even in our faith. This is, of course, all to the glory of God, who works through this medium as through any other.

    Our sinful natures, of course, have the power to do just the opposite, using the very same medium. It was always thus.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Of course, the Internet has made possible relationships that would not otherwise have happened — and by that, I mean what I consider true relationships, as valid as any confirmed by face-to-face interaction. One proof of that, to me, is that such relationships are instantly convertible into face-to-face interaction, as when Bror and I had a beer or two together, based solely on Internet conversations. I’ve done that with a few other people.

    The Internet has certainly been a blessing to my parents, who have gladly learned any new technology that allows them to see their grandchild — RSS, Skype, Facebook, what-have-you.

    My particular interactions on this blog have certainly had an impact on my faith, exposing me to a type of Lutheranism I wasn’t terribly familiar with before. I’m not sure I would have ever bought a copy of the Book of Concord, were it not for this blog. And the conversations on this blog have certainly focused (or even altered) my understandings of such important doctrines as justification and sanctification.

    I think this last point stems from one of the Internet’s properties, that of allowing communities, no matter how small, to gather and express themselves. Time was, you only felt a sense of community if you were part of something that locals also were a part of. Now you just go out and find those like-minded people.

    Of course, the Internet also has the potential to do the opposite, exposing us to people outside of our desired communities. This is, in general, a good thing, as it tends to break down arguments based on ignorance or provincialism.

    So the Internet has the potential to rid us of our dross and edify us, even in our faith. This is, of course, all to the glory of God, who works through this medium as through any other.

    Our sinful natures, of course, have the power to do just the opposite, using the very same medium. It was always thus.

  • http://blog.captainthin.net/ Captain Thin

    It is a great pity that tODD always seems to say what I would before I ever get the chance. Then again, it’s nice to know that even if I am too lazy to comment on a particular post (which I frequently am), tODD will say something similar anyway.

    I think it’s important we remember that this study is on, in the author’s words, “particular kinds of online activity.” According to the study, the key type of online activity which fosters community engagement is online participatory communities – in other words, blogs, message boards and the like. We’re not just talking about internet use in general. Teens spending all their time online at sites like bored.com are probably not any more likely to be socially engaged than their offline counterparts.

    So the study concludes that teens who blog or write on message boards are more likely to be socially active. Like tODD, I suspect that’s putting the cart before the horse. Teenagers who are involved with social communities online are probably so because they’re involved with social communities offline as well. It’s the same behaviour, just translated into a different medium.

  • http://blog.captainthin.net/ Captain Thin

    It is a great pity that tODD always seems to say what I would before I ever get the chance. Then again, it’s nice to know that even if I am too lazy to comment on a particular post (which I frequently am), tODD will say something similar anyway.

    I think it’s important we remember that this study is on, in the author’s words, “particular kinds of online activity.” According to the study, the key type of online activity which fosters community engagement is online participatory communities – in other words, blogs, message boards and the like. We’re not just talking about internet use in general. Teens spending all their time online at sites like bored.com are probably not any more likely to be socially engaged than their offline counterparts.

    So the study concludes that teens who blog or write on message boards are more likely to be socially active. Like tODD, I suspect that’s putting the cart before the horse. Teenagers who are involved with social communities online are probably so because they’re involved with social communities offline as well. It’s the same behaviour, just translated into a different medium.

  • steve

    I tend to agree with tODD and Thin (sounds like a radio show). However, I think its possible that a person who isn’t in an area or family that would foster social activism, but who may themselves have that desire, can find an outlet for that online. Of course, the same can be said for people with bizarre obsessions.

  • steve

    I tend to agree with tODD and Thin (sounds like a radio show). However, I think its possible that a person who isn’t in an area or family that would foster social activism, but who may themselves have that desire, can find an outlet for that online. Of course, the same can be said for people with bizarre obsessions.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I think this last point stems from one of the Internet’s properties, that of allowing communities, no matter how small, to gather and express themselves.”

    Very true. I remember reading a linguist writing on a science blog and finding a few others from there. My thought was immediately, I love these folks; where have they been all my life! If you don’t love small talk and have narrow interests, now is the time to be alive. You can find your conversations online and always accessible without ever bothering others at the wrong time, because they can stop by and chime in when they get the chance.

    I also learn a lot and find tons of info because I can find folks who like the same stuff but know more or have a new insight or angle.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I think this last point stems from one of the Internet’s properties, that of allowing communities, no matter how small, to gather and express themselves.”

    Very true. I remember reading a linguist writing on a science blog and finding a few others from there. My thought was immediately, I love these folks; where have they been all my life! If you don’t love small talk and have narrow interests, now is the time to be alive. You can find your conversations online and always accessible without ever bothering others at the wrong time, because they can stop by and chime in when they get the chance.

    I also learn a lot and find tons of info because I can find folks who like the same stuff but know more or have a new insight or angle.

  • Porcell

    The best way to think of the Internet is that it is a useful modern tool, though still merely a tool. Men have historically had a tendency to worship and idealize their tools, though they almost always being fallen find ways to abuse their tools.

    C.S.Lewis warned of chronological snobbery, the notion that one’s own time is superior to past times. The truth is that underneath it all, however marvelous our technological accomplishments, we in the West are living in a largely evil, decadent time that is hopefully and providentially in transition to something better

  • Porcell

    The best way to think of the Internet is that it is a useful modern tool, though still merely a tool. Men have historically had a tendency to worship and idealize their tools, though they almost always being fallen find ways to abuse their tools.

    C.S.Lewis warned of chronological snobbery, the notion that one’s own time is superior to past times. The truth is that underneath it all, however marvelous our technological accomplishments, we in the West are living in a largely evil, decadent time that is hopefully and providentially in transition to something better

  • Matthew Surburg

    Let’s recognize the Internet for what it is – a catalyst. If you want to do something useful, the ‘Net facilitates that. If you want to do something useless, it will do the same. If you are addicted to pornography, want to listen to classical music, or want to donate money to your favorite cause, the Internet makes all of those things easier. It can be the world’s biggest library, of the world’s biggest bathroom wall.

    I recall vaguely a statement by C.S. Lewis that a cow cannot be either very good or very bad. A dog can be better or worse, a child more so, a man more so, a genius more so, and an angel more so. The Internet falls somewhere on this scale – it is both very good and very bad.

  • Matthew Surburg

    Let’s recognize the Internet for what it is – a catalyst. If you want to do something useful, the ‘Net facilitates that. If you want to do something useless, it will do the same. If you are addicted to pornography, want to listen to classical music, or want to donate money to your favorite cause, the Internet makes all of those things easier. It can be the world’s biggest library, of the world’s biggest bathroom wall.

    I recall vaguely a statement by C.S. Lewis that a cow cannot be either very good or very bad. A dog can be better or worse, a child more so, a man more so, a genius more so, and an angel more so. The Internet falls somewhere on this scale – it is both very good and very bad.

  • WebMonk

    The Internet is a tool, and therefor worshiped by the ignorant masses just like the many past religions that worshiped the wheel, cart, locomotive, and car. The Internet is just the latest and greatest tool to be worshiped. The reason there is so much hatred for it is that the religions that worship the locomotive and the car have joined together, in spite of their competing deities, to attack those who worship the Internet.

    Most of the past tool-worshipers have faded into obscurity, such as the sledge worshiping tribes of the N.American Indians, the dog sled worshipers of the Eskimos, and the hammer worshiping cults within Amish communities. (and we mustn’t forget the infamous, though short-lived, blimp worshipers of Europe) But! We must be on our guard against the modern tool worshipers – those Internet worshipers.

    All readers need be careful that you do not also worship your tools. Tool worshiping is historically shown to be a great trap for the lesser, uncouth minds, and all of us are probably flirting with it.

  • WebMonk

    The Internet is a tool, and therefor worshiped by the ignorant masses just like the many past religions that worshiped the wheel, cart, locomotive, and car. The Internet is just the latest and greatest tool to be worshiped. The reason there is so much hatred for it is that the religions that worship the locomotive and the car have joined together, in spite of their competing deities, to attack those who worship the Internet.

    Most of the past tool-worshipers have faded into obscurity, such as the sledge worshiping tribes of the N.American Indians, the dog sled worshipers of the Eskimos, and the hammer worshiping cults within Amish communities. (and we mustn’t forget the infamous, though short-lived, blimp worshipers of Europe) But! We must be on our guard against the modern tool worshipers – those Internet worshipers.

    All readers need be careful that you do not also worship your tools. Tool worshiping is historically shown to be a great trap for the lesser, uncouth minds, and all of us are probably flirting with it.