The other day I was taking part in a workshop when a fellow business owner said something that stuck in my mind.

We had been talking about the many different ways small businesses can use the Internet to grow their profits. Somewhere along the line the conversation turned to the huge role the Internet plays in our lives now, and whether or not it’s a good thing.

Alchemical DevilMy friend shook his head. “I don’t know,” he said. “I think it dehumanizes us. People spend so much time glued to their computer screens, we’re losing our sense of true connection with each other.”

I didn’t say anything, because someone else jumped in then and the conversation moved on to a different topic. But his comment has been rolling around in my mind ever since.

And I find I have to respectfully disagree with it.

For me, the Internet is a tool — just like a car or a telephone or a hammer is a tool. How you choose to use it depends on you.

After all, you can use a hammer to build a shelter for the homeless — or you can use it to break people’s skulls open and spill their brains all over the pavement.

Um, moving on…

Rather than being something that dehumanizes us, to me the Internet is a mirror that reflects our own image back to us.

Sometimes what we see is terrifying — like this.

Or this.

Or this.

But sometimes what we see is unbelievably beautiful.

Take this, for example. Would those 500 families in need have enjoyed Christmas the same way if the Internet hadn’t been around to connect them to the people who wanted to help in some way but weren’t sure how?

Or how about this one? Another example of the Internet facilitating the connection between people in need and people who just want to help.

And were there any greater acts of humanity in the past decade than the huge response to help the victims of the big tsunami of 2004, or Hurricane Katrina, or the earthquake in Haiti? Would that level of response have been possible without the Internet?

… I don’t think so.

To me, the Internet is the most amazing invention ever. The fact that we as a species were even able to imagine it as a concept and then turn it into reality is a testament to the fundamental good within us.

For the first time in the history of humanity, people who live all over the world are in constant and immediate contact with each other. We can talk to each other and learn from each other and understand what it’s like to live in each other’s world. We can—and are—discovering that there are like-minded individuals in every country on the planet, and we are bonding with those people.

Borders are breaking down between us. And that’s the most humanizing thing I could ever imagine.

Sure, there’s a lot of evil out there, and the Internet makes it harder for us to ignore. But you know, it’s a heck of a lot easier to fight evil when you can point to it and say, “Hey, look! There it is!”

What do you think?

Has the Internet had a positive or negative impact on your life?

Please share your thoughts in the comments.