The Net is set to become the media that for the first time seriously splits people into groups based on their economic status.
A recent AC Nielsen study conducted in the US showed that an American white family was 25 percent more likely to have access to the Internet than a non-white family.
These results suggest that in reality, the Net may not be beneficial to everyone. And a number of ramifications ripple out from such a conclusion.
Some experts are comparing economically-restricted access to the Internet with living in Los Angeles without a car. You’re not necessarily going to suffer in a life threatening way, but in LA terms, you’ll be cut off from the real world.
This restricted access will eventually lead to a greater and greater focus on things “nearby.” Kids will attend their nearby school. Adults will only work in nearby areas. And special offers in nearby suburbs will never reach these “nearby” people.
As a result, many people will come to intimately know the meaning of a nine-letter word called “isolation.”
This situation, however, can easily become self-perpetuating. No access to the Net means no access to knowledge. No access to knowledge means less intellectual freedom and hence, a bigger risk that the next generation’s access to and ability to use the Internet will be further reduced.
Sadly, there are other ripple effects of the Internet that are caused by its heavy focus on customization. Imagine a person who prefers light entertainment like the Wheel of Fortune TV show. The Net monitors his/her preference and ensures that future content belongs to the same category.
Slowly, the Net will change its format for this individual consumer. The wide variety of information will no longer be accessible to this individual in the same way. Net profile programs ensure that this person only receives data belonging to the light entertainment category.
While one user will be more and more exposed to light entertainment, other people, because of their profiles, will be increasingly exposed to a long and uniform stream of other content.
This not only locks people into certain profile categories but also makes it nearly impossible for them to escape their profiles.
One could draw a comparison between this circumstance and the impact on people who eat only junk food. The long term effects can be hazardous to your health.
Our society is caught between the information poor and information junkies.