The internet can make you smarterThe internet is often a ridiculous place. There are websites full of people angry about something that happened 30 years ago in first edition D&D. There are people who argue about whether Balrog's have wings. There are massive bits of fandom that collectively ignore continuity- a lot of Harry Potter fanfic writers, for example, hated the epilogue of the final book, because it took away their license to play around with the characters. There are still forums full of people arguing about which series of Buffy was the worst. There is even a forum for Flat Earth believers (although its mostly full of people who spend their time debunking the theory).
I love this. Even on these ridiculous topics, I get to learn more. By spending time browsing random forums and blogs, I get information on debates that would never even have occured to me, and thats a lot of fun. Also, however, I've also gained useful information. My knowledge of polyamorous relationships has broadened greatly thanks to the net, along with an appreciation that relationships of many different kinds and colours exist, and exist happily.
My knowledge of feminism, vegetarianism, and racism have all broadened thanks to the internet. Reading blogs by feminists, people (mostly women), who have thought long and hard about these topics, and are more informed than I can be. These are concepts I would have encountered through other means, but perhaps not in such depth, and its made me think, and hopefully made me a better person.
My knowledge of types of politics I never really accepted has grown- libertarians, who I still tend to disagree with strongly, are all over the net, and have a fairly strong presence in the US. They're not really in existence in the UK, at least not in a strongly defined sense. I've heard the conservatives argue against taxes, but not in a particularly intellectual manner, as I've encountered more than once.
Even certain web comics have made me think about how I act in relationships. Something positive, for example, made me think hard about the idea of the "nice guy" syndrome, a concept that I had clung to that I now realise really does not hold that much water. Other comics have been plain good, some have been plain bad, and other websites have helped give me tools to distinguish between them.
I don't really have a conclusion I'm heading for with this essay, other than to say that the internet possesses a fantastic ability to amaze and educate if you let it, and escape from checking facebook every 5 minutes...