Today is One Web Day, set aside for people around the world to celebrate the Internet and ponder how it has changed our lives. I invite you to join.
Here’s my take on it:
- The Internet has made more seamless the junction between my working life and my personal life. We love to talk about the extent to which our work goes home with us, and here I am “working” at 6:00 in the morning in my underwear at home, so I’m part of that. Missing from those stories, though, is the extent to which the Internet brings our personal life into our working hours. It’s happened quietly, and you may not have noticed it. Now you can. Be attentive to the way you check and answer personal e-mails, surf the web for personal information, and respond to IMs from your friends and family without even realizing you’re engaged in personal business.
- The Internet has made learning easier and more fun for the masses. How many of us now routinely keep a computer (or connected PDA) close at hand while we’re enjoying leisure time, so we can look up the name of an actor we see, or look at a town we’re discussing on Google Earth? Or use the Internet to figure out what to do with three bell peppers, a clove of garlic, a little turkey, and two tomatoes?
- The Internet has made me more connected with people in other nations. I have pen pals in countries that once were only names on a map, if that. So now I mourn with them when they can’t afford bus fare and celebrate with them when they win an international soccer tournament. I hope – and believe – that makes me a better person.
- The Internet has made the world available to everyone who has something to say. Yes, that means child sexual abusers and terrorists and skinheads, but it also means millions of people who give generously of their time helping others to make their lives more livable, exchanging gardening tips, ideas for Word macros, and advice on tuning your scooter engine.
- The Internet allows us to form micro-communities. My wife recently traveled to Peru, where she spent time with people from Montreal, Spain, South Africa, Brunei, Lima, and Birmingham. Now the members of that group are sharing photos and memories with each other and maintaining their tiny community. And that’s happening in millions of other ways, as the Internet erases the barrier of geography.
- At the same time, the Internet has made local communities more fragmented. If I’m interacting in close, quasi-intimate ways with a shopkeeper in Paraguay or a cabbie in Casablanca, I’m probably less dependent on the relationship I have with my mayor or my next-door neighbor.
I’m 52 years old, which I submit is the ideal age to enjoy the Internet. I’m young enough to embrace it (Divorceinfo.com has been operating since 1996 and gets about 25,000 page views per day from all over the world), but I’m old enough to remember vividly what life was like before the Internet, which allows me to regard it all with a sense of wonder. All in all, I’m grateful. How about you?