What You Need to Know About the Internet

What You Need to Know About the Internet

We have a large-screen television on the wall in our offices. It’s become a favorite show-and-tell spot when we give guests a tour of our space.

It’s a boring screen, in one sense—no movies or fancy graphics, but just a dashboard of the current traffic to the website. But once you learn what the numbers mean, you get a sense of the significance. The main purpose of the screen is to remind our team, as we write and edit and craft social media, that tens of thousands of real-live users access the site each day. The dashboard stays on constantly during work hours so that we can monitor at a glance the number of current visitors, what pages are being viewed most and where the traffic is coming from.

During tours, we pause at the screen and explain how it reminds our team that we’re not simply building and curating webpages and apps, but that human souls are on the other end, coming for nourishment, education, correction and inspiration. Typically, eyes open wide in manifest surprise that we’re actually able to track, to a precise figure, the number of people currently on the site, the particular pages being viewed and even who referred them to our site.

How the Web Works

Over time I’ve learned to turn that surprise into a teachable moment.

You’re never alone when you’re online. Not only is God watching—which should be significant enough!—but others are watching too. Every click counts, and is counted. Whenever you retrieve information from some server out there in the world, that server knows it was pinged. And that specific ping can be tracked. Someone can find out what particular page you viewed, how you got there, how long you stayed, where you went next and even where your cursor hovered on the page.

You should assume that every time you click, someone knows exactly what you clicked on—and that information informs whether the builders of that site will deliver more of the content you accessed.

Every click matters.

Every Click You Make

Yes, knowing a little bit about how the Internet works has plain implications for the fight against pornography—both personally and collectively. But knowing how the web works helps with much more than just avoiding “bad places” online. There are not just the negative effects, but also a million positive opportunities. And the significance is not just momentary, but eternal.

Every click is a kind of vote. Every time you click, you say, in effect, I want this—and more of this. And someone hears you. When you click on seedy links and ads, and click around at sleazy sites, you’re not just showing and shaping the health of your own soul, but you’re also feeding the strength of those sites one click at a time.

The private use of the Internet is a mirage—a Satanic illusion to deceive you into thinking what you do online really doesn’t matter. But there is no such thing as truly private use of the Internet. Every click has a public dimension. And every click shows and shapes. It’s not only a current expression of your heart, but also has an effect on who you will be moving forward.

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David Mathis
David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor at desiringGod.org and an elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis. He has edited several books, including Thinking. Loving. Doing., Finish the Mission, and Acting the Miracle, and is co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.

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