I own two regular old hammers. One is a little larger than the other, but both would be considered "normal." I use the bigger one for larger jobs, such as construction. The smaller one gets used for little things like hanging icons or pictures. Both are tools. When used for what they are designed, they are useful. Hopefully, I won't try to use them to cut things (that is what pocketknives are for), nor install glass or anything else for what they are no intended.
I recognize the hammer for what it is. It is useful to bang stuff, especially nails. If I start thinking that a hammer would be a good screwdriver or putty knife, then I am using it incorrectly.
Ultimately, whether a hammer is used properly or not is determined by the user. It is the one who wields the tool that determines if it will be used properly or not.
So what does that have to do with the internet? Well, the internet is a tool, just like the hammer. The internet allows us to communicate with people from all over the world. It allows us to have more knowledge at our fingertips than we could possibly use or digest.
And I think that is where the danger of misusing the internet comes in.
When I first started investigating Orthdoxy, I lived in eastern Europe, where my English-speaking resources were fairly limited. I had a few opportunities to speak with clergy in Estonia, but not very often. I could order books from online retailers, but how could I know which books to order?
In this situation, the internet served me well. I was able to order many good books (along with a few stinkers), because of online reviews. I was able to speak regularly with clergy from the US (especially Fr. Joseph Huneycutt, who ironically is now the pastor at my parish). So I was able to learn about Orthodoxy and make the decision that I needed to be Orthodox.
On the flip side, many use the internet to cause trouble within Orthodoxy (and elsewhere). I will not provide links to such sites, as I don't want to spread their propaganda. But suffice it to say, these people cause heart ache and division within the body of Christ. That is sad, to say the least.
So I have heard some say that we shouldn't trust the internet; we should avoid it. I don't think that is the case. The internet itself isn't bad. It is just a tool, like my hammer. It is the one using the internet that determines if it is being used properly.
So how can we be discerning internet surfers? Admittedly, this can be tricky. There are some sites that served good purposes in the past, but have transformed into more problematic sites. Some have always been poorly conceived. The only real advice that I can give is that we should look at the spirit of the site.
Does the site exist to encourage, uplift, and edify? Does it build up the body of Christ? If so, then it is probably fine, for the most part.
Does it tear people down? Does it cause dissent? If so, then it should probably be avoided.
I realize this is a black and white distinction and most places probably fall somewhere in the gray area. That is one of the reasons that we are given our shepherds in the faith. If we have a question, then we should ask our priest.
I know that there are several sites that I used to enjoy, but now avoid. I no longer visit those pages, because I no longer can do so in good conscience. I feel a sense of loss, because I had come to "know" some of the people from those sites. Yet I know that I am better off avoiding them, as they were not uplifting.
Just remember: a tool is to be used for what it is designed. It is not intrinsically good or bad.
Now, you will have to excuse me. I have another icon to hang.