It is hard to imagine life without the internet. Actually, I am old enough to do just that.
But it is amazing the effect that the internet has had on our lives. Believe it or not, there are still many people who don’t even own a PC – but that number is dwindling each year. It brings to mind all of the technological benefits of the internet age. My life has certainly changed within the past thirty years due to the internet and it’s a fine time to reflect on the impact it has had over its lifespan so far.
1. Modes of Communication
I remember when there were basically three different modes of communication: face-to-face communication, telephone conversation, and snail mail. Today, email is the preferred method of communication. It is an indirect method that most people prefer. Your recipient can either choose to respond or not – and you have conveyed your message without needing to have direct communication. In the internet age we also have VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol – popularized primarily with the emergence of Skype and Google Voice), instant messaging and texting. Texting has usurped email as the main type of communication with young people. Instant messaging is still being used in the business world, while Skype and Google Voice are used for personal and business communication.
2. Online Banking
The only time I write a check now is for a gift at a christening or a wedding. If you haven’t started online banking, you should definitely consider it. I’ve been online banking for at least the past ten years and I absolutely love it. The reasons for doing so are numerous, such as:
- You don’t have to be constantly writing out checks to pay your bills, licking envelopes, and buying postage.
- You can easily pay your regular bills like mortgage and car loan with a couple of clicks and the payments will be made electronically on the proper day to avoid late charges.
- You can also receive your bills electronically and an email will notify you when the bill arrives. Then, after logging into your bank website, you can schedule your bills to arrive on a given date.
Another great thing about online banking is that you can set up anyone as a recipient of funds. So, if you want to send a check to a relative you can do so online either by having a paper check mailed to them or directly depositing the money into their account.
3. Online Degrees
I could be considered an authority on online education as I just completed another college degree taking online classes exclusively. I just received my diploma in the mail last week and I never once visited the college. I am a huge proponent of online education. The benefits far outweigh any drawbacks – especially for anyone who works full-time – since the logistics of driving to and from class would simply be too time-consuming. There wasn’t even the hassle of having to go to the bookstore as I could order those online as well. Sure, there are some drawbacks – such as not having face-to-face interaction with classmates – but even that is possible if you want to Skype with them. If you have the inclination to go back to school for your degree, you should really consider taking an online degree. Take one class as a test drive; you will not regret it.
4. Online Training and Seminars
I remember a time that the only way you could get training on the job was either by going to a training class or having a trainer come into your workplace. Well, the landscape has certainly changed here. Webinars have become extremely popular in the internet age, bringing together a virtual class online. Gone are the travel costs for both the trainer and the trainee, which lowers the cost for the class itself. Anyone can basically put together a training class from the comfort of their own home with tools such as GoToMeeting. I regularly schedule GoToMeeting training classes with foreign counterparts and customers.
There were days when you wanted to learn more about a particular subject you would open a book, an encyclopedia or a dictionary. At my house, we always had a full collection of World Book Encyclopedias. When the end of each year came, we would receive the edition that chronicled that particular year. To this day I use a dictionary and thesaurus on a daily basis – but now they live online and not on my bookshelf. Today, we have lightning fast search engines that can give us thousands of links based on specific keywords. Just yesterday I used the internet to scope out farmer’s markets in my neck of the woods. Not only did I find a local one, but I got directions on how to get there.
My brother, a professor at a prestigious liberal arts college on the West Coast of the US , has written text books in the area of Government and Political Science. He has told me that with the advent of the internet age, the manner in which he does his research for his books has changed dramatically. In the past, he would have to go to a library to do his research. Today all of this research is done online, in the comfort of his own office. His main concern is to be conscious of sites with faulty information. Fortunately for him, his research is typically done on legitimate government and political science websites – so that is a minor concern.
7. Buying Online
If you can’t find it in a local store, you can always find it online. A case in point is that I recently could not find canned pumpkin anywhere in local stores. My wife uses pumpkin to make pumpkin breads, pumpkin ravioli and for other baking needs. It appears that there is a pumpkin shortage in the United States due to excessive rain. So, I mentioned to my wife that we should try to find it online – and we did. We were able to order a case of canned pumpkin for a fairly reasonable price. If you can’t find it at a local store, chances are you can find it online.
The internet age has completely redefined how we work. The ability to sit in your home office while connecting to all of the same resources as if you were in your work office is a reality in today’s workplace. This has allowed people like me to avoid a two and a half hour commute on the days that I am allowed to telecommute. The time savings, gas savings and the wear and tear on my car (and on me) is a huge gain. There is nothing I can do at work that I cannot do at home – other than walk over to somebody’s office. As mentioned previously, I use GoToMeeting if I need to meet with someone and share my computer.
9. Freelance Writing
With the popularity of the internet, there has been an explosion in online content. As a result of this, there has been a huge boon in freelance writing. Opportunities exist as never before in this area. If you love to write and are good at it, chances are you can find an online presence that will pay for your services. I have had the good fortune of doing just that for this very popular blog, which happens to be based halfway across the world. Being able to develop a portfolio of your work, and get paid for it, is a tremendous opportunity in the online world.
10. Worldwide media accessibility
The internet has opened up all users to worldwide media. Internet radio is accessible to anyone in the world connected to the internet. An example of this is that the other morning my wife (of Greek descent) was going to put on some Greek CDs on the stereo as she cooked for a large group that was visiting later in the day. I suggested to her that we should search the internet for a Greek radio site. We quickly found a Greek radio website that had links of roughly fifty different radio stations, most of which were music stations. We found a radio station based in Thessaloniki, Greece, which is where her mother was born. I hooked up some cheap $5 speakers to my laptop and we were able to enjoy hours of Greek music, at no cost. My wife was flabbergasted with the quality of the sound and the variety of the music.
These are just some of what I call “life-changing” advancements of the internet age. The productivity and personal gains that the internet has given to the world are tremendous. This list is not meant to be comprehensive but these are some of my favorites. I am fortunate in that I am able to remember what life was without these conveniences.
I sometimes wonder if the young people of today can truly appreciate the gifts that the internet has bestowed upon us.
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