The Internet has done more to change the way we live, do business, and communicate than anything else in (my) recent memory. The current generation might not remember life without the Internet but there are still plenty of us who remember using the library for research and having to go to the post office every month or two to replenish stamps so we can keep up with our correspondence.
While new technology is fun and exciting, the truth is, there’s always give and take. For every large online merchant, there’s a bunch of mom and pop stores having to close shops for lack of business. For every kid researching a project online, there’s a library struggling to keep it’s doors open.
What follows is a look at some of the things that we’re losing thanks to the Internet, and a few things we gained in return.
1. Lost: Handwriting
Back in the day, I prided myself on my neat penmanship. Teachers loved it, employers loved it, and friends ooohed and aaahed. But then I started typing every day and that handwriting thing didn’t happen so much beyond signing a check or a report card. If you’re like me, your handwriting has deteriorated as well for lack of practice.
Found! Paperless Offices
In the 60’s and 70’s, when it wasn’t considered the “in” thing to do, my parents recycled. We were very aware of waste, especially paper waste. So imagine my surprise when I entered the workforce in the mid-80’s and saw a forest’s worth of papers wasted every day. However, the Internet and computer technology were to change that. At first it didn’t happen. Everyone was still printing out memos or hard copies to proofread, but eventually they realized all this stuff could be done via a computer desktop. We began to embrace email and interoffice memos. We learned to communicate via online methods over faxes and snail mail. Some folks still need to get in the moment, but our forests are thanking us and that’s a very good thing.
2. Lost: Waistlines
Admit it. You sit on your butt a lot. Some of us do it a little more than we care to admit and then make really bad choices. Like choosing to work extra rather than taking time out for exercise. Or making poor food choices so we can wolf down something convenient before returning to our desks. There are a lot of reasons why some of us are so fat, and hanging out online ranks up there in the reasoning.
Found! Tools and Apps
We may not be getting as much exercise but we certainly have lots of convenience, and I don’t necessarily mean that as a bad thing. Thanks to a variety of apps for our smart phones, tablets and laptops, we can do so many more things while on the go. We can scan bar codes from our smart phones, share files via an online service, check in to all our favorites haunts and even keep track of our physical fitness. We might not be moving as much as we should, but there are tools in place should we decide to get up off our butts and get fit.
3. Lost: Communication
Text speak, chat room talk and having to squeeze as much information into the smallest space possible leaves something to be desired in the way we communicate. I realize this was a problem last week at the supermarket when I had a conversation with an acquaintance who used “OMG” and “LOL” to punctuate her conversation. Handwritten letters are a thing of the past and we’d much rather send an email or leave a message than chat live and in person. Why, we can talk to hundreds of people in an entire day without even having to open our mouths.
It’s a 140 character world, people. Fitting as much conversation into the smallest space possible appears to be the thing to do right now. We write for the short attention span and try to keep our articles and blog posts at 500 words or less. We update the world using social networks instead of family newsletters. We’re putting out more information than ever, but we’re doing it quickly.
4. Lost: Focus
Can you sit at a concert, movie, speech or recital without checking your device? Email, Facebook, Twitter, text messages…all of a sudden these have become something we can’t do without. Fifteen years ago we could get through the day without texts and Tweets, now if we don’t have access to them we go through withdrawal. We can’t even have a conversation without pausing now and then to check our gadgetry, but hardly anyone will admit how rude it actually is.
We write off our lack of focus as multitasking. Thanks to portable devices and the ability to open up endless windows on our computers, we don’t have to do the same thing for more than a few minutes at a time. The good news is that this keeps us from becoming bored. The bad news is that when we hop from screen to screen we don’t give each task our full attention.
5. Lost: Face to face interviews
I’ve given dozens of interviews over the past few years and only two of them were over the phone or in person. With voice or face to face interviews it’s easier to read a person and add additional questions if necessary. We can tell when the interviewee is hemming and hawing or when they’re passionate. There’s no mistaking tone or emotion. Yet it’s too inconvenient to go this route.
Found! The email interview
Since it’s too much trouble to get on the horn for an interview, most writers and bloggers shoot a bunch of questions over to the person they wish to interview. That person jots down the answers and shoots back. This is mostly what you see when you read interviews online. Sometimes, they’re not even edited so the interviewees typos come through. It’s kind of lame, but this kind of interview takes up very little time. We’re definitely losing the art of the interview.
6. Lost: Friends
Hanging out in the house all the time and spending all your time online is guaranteed to alienate a few people. Not all of our friends care for the Internet, and not everyone wants to spend all their time on Facebook.
For every friend who doesn’t understand your online addiction, you’ll find ten more online who get what you do. Thanks to the social networks you never have to be lonely again.
7. Lost: Window Shopping
Mom and pop shops and boarding up their windows and having going out of business sales. Thanks to malls, strip malls and shopping emporiums, it’s tougher for the brick and mortar guys to keep up. Downtown shops don’t last like they used to and the sense of community we used to have with our merchants is going the way of the five and dime. Many towns don’t even have sidewalks, only stopping points along the road.
Found! Online Shopping
Amazon, Zappos, Overstock, iTunes….we don’t even have to leave the house anymore to get the things we need. We lost the quaintness of our favorite shops, but there’s no denying the convenience.
8. Lost: Snail Mail
Remember pen pals, letters to the editor, thank you cards and notes just to say, “Hi?” Well, we still do that stuff sometimes, but we don’t do much of it via snail mail. I can’t tell you the last time I received a handwritten letter from a friend, and I only buy stamps to send out holiday cards. Even my bills are just about all paid online. The post offices are struggling and we’re forgetting how to correspond.
That isn’t to say we’re not corresponding. Email makes sure we all stay in touch. Sales flyers and thank you cards now come to us via email as do business correspondence, news from friends an promotional codes. Email is about as convenient as they come, that is, until we start using voice recognition software to do our typing for us.
9. Lost: Library
When I was a kid, we used the library for more than taking out books. We watched movies, participated in book clubs, attended parties and researched all our school papers. We can still do all this stuff with libraries but fewer people are doing so. Most would rather research online and with the ability to download books electronically, we don’t really have to leave home. There are still folks who enjoy the library (I’m one of them) but there’s not denying that they’re closing down all around the country. Let’s remember the library is more than a free wifi hotspot, it’s a place for our community to gather, share and learn.
Found! Online research
Now that everyone is doing all their research online, it means they’re plagiarizing, copying and regurgitating content from websites and blogs. Granted, there are some important resources online, but there are some equally lame resources online. Not all information is accurate and a vitamin site can offer legitimate looking advice, while passing on self serving and not so accurate information. While we certainly have convenience at our fingertips, we have to remember we can’t believe everything we read online.
10. Lost: The Front Porch
Remember the front porch? Friends and family gathered in the evenings and chatted? Now, we can’t wait to get inside to our air conditioning, laptops and flat screens. When front porch conversation goes, when we stop meeting our neighbors for conversation across the fence, we lose our sense of community. A neighborhood simply becomes a place where people live. There are plenty of thriving communities and neighborhoods, lets hope we don’t lose them.
Found! Online Community
Communities abound online and like minded people are everywhere. Thanks to blogs, social networks and forums we can carry on a conversation with people all around the world. The Internet has brought the world together in a way no one thought possible. It enables us to unite for a cause, share, discuss and just hang out with some of our favorite people, even if those people don’t live anywhere near us.
What are some of the things you’ve lost or gained, thanks to the Internet?