Some say the Internet is our downfall. Others insist it is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Although I’m not a huge Facebook fan, haven’t really used eBay in years and don’t download music, I think the Internet has changed the way we communicate and do business. I’m an e-advocate for certain.
Sure, it has its evils. It is a community and just like any town, it has its seedy parts. There are those waiting to steal our data and identities. There are pedophiles stalking its dark streets and the Internet makes it easy for them. But also thanks to the Internet, we can find out which, if any of them live in our neighborhood.
Some computer/Internet users sit in front of their monitors for hours on end, never seeing the light of day. This, of course is the extreme. You’ve got to know when to shut down and walk the dog.
I’ve made a living from the Internet for many years now. Many of you read this online. I fix your computers that allow you to access the Internet. I can also remotely repair your computer via the Internet without leaving my house.
I have traversed the Information Super Highway since it was a dirt road. It’s been good to me. I buy things online, from clothes to prescriptions. I do banking, pay my bills and have video chats online with my daughter who lives two states away. I even met my wife and found my last dog online.
Before I had a GPS, I printed maps from the Web. I’ve planned vacations, made hotel reservations, bought airfare and rented cars from my computer. I’ve visited virtual places that I couldn’t drive or fly to. Some cities have webcams in real time. You can see the Eiffel Tower from your laptop as it is right now.
Some of us will remember when we had to rely on multivolume encyclopedias with annual updates to do any kind of research at all. Now we can find virtually anything online and it is updated daily in most cases.
Classified ads, too, have evolved. Not only are there auction sites like eBay, but we have sites like Criagslist, that make finding things to buy (or free) easier than before. There are job sites like Monster and Career Builder for those in need of employment.
Whether looking for a job, across town or across country; or seeking a part for your ’70 Camaro, what used to take hours or days now takes seconds or minutes.
I often read the news online, look up phone numbers, facts, words, the weather and even do research for this column when needs be. I use the Internet for research, from recipes to finding computer parts or for keeping up with the latest technology.
To aid us with these searches, we have engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. Even a novice can find what they need in minutes with their help.
And there is fun to be had as well. I’ve reconnected with friends I hadn’t seen in 30 years in the little time I’ve spent on Facebook.
Gamers play each other online, often across town or even the country.
We can also watch TV online now thanks to sites like Hulu and Fancast. We can also download music, books, magazines and newspapers to listen or read on our computers or portable devices.
The Internet has manifested itself in mobility products as laptops, netbooks, cell phones and portable computing devices like the Blackberry and Iphone.
E-mail is probably the single most used part of the Internet. When was the last time any of you actually penned a letter to anyone? Why bother; we have e-mail. We can attach photos, videos and music and audio to our correspondences. It’s easy, fun and it is quicker than snail mail.
Thanks to e-mail, I have stayed in contact with friends and relatives I might never have written to otherwise. Call it impersonal if you must, but it keeps us connected.
Yes, I get viruses, adware, spam and letters from the Nigerian Treasury Minister as we all do. But I think the good far outweighs the bad.
Although admittedly, I would rather hold a magazine, book or newspaper in my hands, I still read my fair share online.
The computer and the Internet are a couple of incredible tools that have changed our ways of life, like it or not. They have opened doors that were not visible or even there a mere 20 years ago. They have broadened our horizons, opened our eyes and enriched our lives.
Things will never go back the way they were. The Internet will continue to grow and emerge. I wouldn’t want go back to how it was before we had cell phones and I certainly wouldn’t want to do without my computer and the Internet.
Arthur Glazer is a freelance writer and computer technician in Gainesville. His column appears biweekly. Arthur welcomes your computer questions and ideas for future columns.