The Internet makes it easy for people to create separate communities and niches, and in a free society, much can be said on behalf of both. They can make life a lot more fun; they can reduce loneliness and spur creativity. They can even promote democratic self-government, because enclaves are indispensable for incubating new ideas and perspectives that can strengthen public debate. But it is important to understand that countless editions of the Daily Me can also produce serious problems of mutual suspicion, unjustified rage, and social fragmentation — and that these problems will result from the reliable logic of social interactions.I'm not sure if this is an insurmountable problem--or even an significant harm compared to the world-opening nature of the internet.
Consider: before I discovered the Web, I was limited to whatever media were accessible in small-town western Washington. I loved the public library, but its selections were limited. Even inter-library loan couldn't allow access to the mountains of material now available online. I couldn't read every newspaper out there, from global to podunk, and, what's more, wouldn't know a paper had factually goofed unless it was admitted in the errata. I would never imagine that my ramblings on any given subject could be read, for better or worse, by people who'd need a passport to visit me in the Evergreen State.
Now it's possible to see points-of-view all across the spectrum, organized and available within a two-click distance by Google Reader. I might choose to submerge myself in an echo chamber, but I don't. The opposition enlightens even as it frustrates, and when I'm wrong, I'm corrected too fast to feel the full weight of humiliation. I feel two times more politically savvy, at least 6.5 times more libertarian, and a thousand times more cosmopolitan than the Jim Anderson who stalked the shelves of the Elma Timberland Library a decade ago.