The Internet has become a place where everyone has a voice, and where we can discuss things freely. We, however, have become more insular and extreme in our views, and seem less willing than ever to change our minds. Coincidence? I doubt it.
For one thing, the growth of the Internet has been at the same time as the growth of massive inequality, both within countries and between them. As this eager new technology crawled out blinking into the sun, it adjusted its eyes and saw that we were in a corporate-dominated world with wealth only in the hands of the few. It was naïve, it didn't know enough, and it fell into the open arms of the TNCs. It has since done nothing but aid them.
The class divisions and partisan covens of the society the Internet was born into stayed on, and as it matured into a conversation tool and librarian, people still rarely strayed from their groups. Rightwingers stayed with rightwingers, leftwingers with leftwingers, fascists with fascists. Old ideas got clumped together, and people separated even more. The modern form of the self-dubbed "libertarian" movement was born from the Internet, and so was the type ecological socialism popular amongst the young. They existed before, of course, but not in such a structured way.
Of course, some still sought out ideas different from their own. But the Internet does not make it easy. Targeted advertising (especially on sites like -- no pun intended -- Facebook) has left lots of people with their own ideas, and even seems to confirm what they already believe. It's not hard to see why this is a problem: discussion and debate is the whole point of democracy. Looking into the British Houses of Parliament we can see a lot of rhetoric and not much actually done, but this is nothing compared to the obstinacy of the political Internet.
What can be done? To start with, we can try and honestly (not just pretend to) consider significantly different points of view to our own. Next time you argue politics, argue it from an extreme point of view. But that wouldn't be enough. Therein the problem lies. The problem of targeted advertising is a major one. It could easily be said that targeted advertising no more makes you a bigot than reading the same newspaper every week. But what is easily said is easily wrong. A decision you make -- to read a newspaper -- as opposed to something someone is telling you, is the difference here. Imagine someone authoritative telling you that you're right about everything (yes authoritative, we're not quite so flippant about adverts as we like to think) every day on a regular basis. Maybe it's not like that yet, but remember that 10 years ago Internet advertising wasn't a thing.
There is absolutely no way that we can get rid of advertising. Advertising is what makes services on the Internet (such as Facebook, MySpace) free at point of use. But we can limit its affect on us, by forcing range in it and by limiting our exposure to it. And we can do it through politics. Everything is done by politics. Can we for our own freedom and for the future of democracy, try to pull down monopolies? Can we try? I hope we can. Because the Internet, which should unite, divides.