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The (not-so) natural awes of cyberspace

I was recently reading an article that stated 64 percent of teenagers have admitted to using some sort of an emoticon and other informal writing styles in their school work.

It’s a figure that probably makes any good English teacher’s skin crawl.

In case you’re confused, an emoticon is a  or an  often used in online conversations and something commonplace in in the realm of teens—and adults.

The article further reported 38 percent of the teens surveyed say they have used “short cuts,” like LOL (Laughing Out Loud) or BTW (By The Way) in school assignments. Oddly enough, the commonly used OMG (Oh My –insert deity’s name that begins with the letter “G”-) did not make it into the article.

It all made think of how our society has been changed by the ‘Net—both good and bad.

No matter your opinion on the Internet, the fact that it’s a mysterious, innovative and sometimes dangerous abyss is something we all can agree on. Once you fall in…Indiana Jones, himself, will not be able to pull you out.

I make it a point not to have Internet at home. Why? Because I’d probably be one of those “computer zombies;” eyes glued to the screen and a nasty case of carpal tunnel to boot. It’s tempting to have all that information at the tips of your fingers.

Even the nicknames for the Internet allude to an inescapable force, monikers like the “net” and the “web.”

There are times I wonder how many people live in their homes without ever leaving because of the Internet. After all, you can work, shop, communicate, watch movies/ TV shows, take college classes, date, find information, pay bills, do your banking, invest in stocks on the web. Heck, you can even get married, except it won’t be legal since the Internet is not an actual place nor is it a legal entity.

Yes, cyberspace has the power to change…for the good and the bad.

Many who use social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook and web features like e-mail and instant messaging have been able to keep up with friendships and classmates from years ago, relationships that normally would have fizzled out.

Just after I created a Facebook page, I remember receiving a message from a childhood friend I had not seen for at least 18 years.

To be honest when I first got his message he was just a speck of a memory…the cousin of my then neighbor and best friend, Anthony. I could barely remember him climbing through the hedges, much to my grandparents’ distain, that separated the two lawns.

Through that Facebook page, (which probably needs a little updating now that I think of it) I’ve been able to re-connect with quite of few of my friends from high school…and has kept me updated on the lives of my college pals. Friends who probably would have been a distant memory without the Web.

The Internet has provided a forum for international dialogue and noteworthy causes that would most would be unaware.

Of course with this Internet sphere growing in our society comes the cautionary tales.

MySpace, along with other cyberspace sites, has been under scrutiny and heavily criticized for the sexual assaults, suicides and even homicides that have occurred after predators met their victims online.

There is also the reality of identity theft and, evidently, the application of Web terms where they probably should not be used.

The jury still seems to be out on whether or not the Internet is good or bad; like they always say, “It’s how you use it.”

Amanda VanDerBroek is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. For comments and column suggestions email: amanda.vanderbroek@r-cnews.com or call (252) 332-7209.