Even though many of us grew up when there was far more limited access to the Internet, it’s hard to imagine the world without it. We use it for so many fundamental things, like finding out how many cars filmmakers destroyed in The Fast and the Furious filming. And, how would we ever win an argument with friends without Googling to prove our point?
Here are some ways that the Internet impacts our day to day lives.
The Nigerian Prince in Your Family
Email has helped us keep in contact with our families, especially those that live far away. At times, the Internet has even helped people find out about family they didn’t know they had. Many people, for example, have been surprised to find out that they are, in fact, the closest living relation to a recently deceased Nigerian prince. Although they never had a chance to meet this royal relative, they are happy to receive an email detailing their vast inheritance. Unfortunately, when the recipients of these emails pay out the $1000 fee so that the transfer worth millions can come through, they are left $1000 poorer.
The Internet has given many criminals opportunities to con trusting people out of money. The Nigerian prince scheme is just one of many. Don’t be fooled—more than half of Internet scams originate in the United States, and fewer than 6% come from Nigeria. We pay more attention because, well, the idea of being contacted by a Nigerian prince is over the top.
It is incorrect to say that without the Internet, there wouldn’t be any con schemes. People used to receive shady snail mail letters asking for money before this. The Internet does seem to have facilitated these schemes, though. It is cheaper and easier to send out hundreds or thousands of emails than sending out the same number of letters.
Getting to Know You, Getting to Like You…
When you want to find out more about an acquaintance, where can you go? Thank goodness for Facebook!
It just takes a finger tap to see your mystery person eating plates of carefully arranged avocado toast while snuggling with his cat. Want to know about his vacation in Thailand? Facebook will show you that too. You can see him dressed in a tux at his friends’ weddings also. The best part: you don’t even have to talk to him to find any of this out. Social networks may be anti-social networks.
Of course, Facebook has its positive points. People can use this platform to express themselves and share with others. Many people belong to support groups that send out messages of hope. These groups can be useful for people suffering from rare illnesses. They probably wouldn’t be able to find others with the same condition in their communities.
We all know about the dark side of Facebook, though. People regularly publish and share information with no base in reality. They make snarky political comments. Others post terribly offensive and blatantly racist material. According to the Mayo Clinic, teens who regularly use Facebook have higher levels of depression and anxiety.
Gone are the Golden Days of TV
In the Eighties and Nineties, kids watched TV—a lot. Amazingly, kids watch substantially less nowadays, and it isn’t because their parents are any stricter. They are far more entertained with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and who knows what new app came out this week. TV time is down, but screen time is up.
Of course, the Internet has given us NetFlix. Does anyone else remember how in 2007 and 2008, they would send you the movies you wanted to watch by snail mail? Afterward, you would put the DVD in the envelope provided and send it back. Now there is no waiting necessary. You can binge whatever show you want, the moment you want it—instant gratification.
An Abundance of DIY Guides
One truly amazing thing that the Internet has given us is guides to fix just about anything. Want to do your plumbing? You can find out how on YouTube. You can find out how to do a range of home improvements—some of them quite complicated and dangerous. Of course, in the videos, everything looks much easier than it is in real life.
Found some tennis shoes in the mud and want to restore them? There’s some excellent material about that. Want to turn just about anything into a LED lamp? You can find out how on YouTube. Just turn to YouTube if you need instruction about making a cake that looks like a realistic crab or a giant hamburger or anything else that seems to be an unappetizing shape for a cake.
And resin. And colored pencils. You’ve probably been blind to the possibilities of these two unusual materials when combined. Fortunately, you need only search to find videos showing how to make an electric guitar and a toilet seat with the two.
YouTube gives us so much more than just instructional videos. You can find an incredible number of people playing mean pranks on others, even their children. There are a series of videos of cats scared by cucumbers. People have created an entire genre of YouTube clips that show how their children react when Darth Vader reveals that he’s Luke’s father. Useful stuff.
In the early nineties, when people started to connect to the Internet, it felt like the possibilities were endless. We were going to use it for science to make information accessible to everyone and improve communication. It has been used this way, but we’ve also converted it into something that is, at times, frivolous. At worst, we’ve used it to escape from living our lives. We now live vicariously through the videos we see and only contact friends through messenger.
You may have laughed in 1999 when you heard Vice President Al Gore say, “I took initiative in creating the Internet” on the Late Night Edition with Wolf Blitzer as he ran for president. Although it sounds ridiculous out of context, the truth is that Al Gore worked as early as the 70s on creating legislation and giving funding to education and the private sector so that the Internet could develop into what it is today. Early Internet pioneers supported Al Gore and explained that “No one in public life has been more intellectually engaged in helping to create the climate for a thriving Internet than the Vice President.”
As a congressman, he sponsored hearings in which experts spoke about how communication technologies could be useful in natural disasters. Did he know that people would be marking themselves safe on Facebook after floods, earthquakes, shootings, and other events thirty years later?
When he was a senator, he authored the High-Performance Computing and Communication Act of 1991. This legislation created the National Information Infrastructure and gave funding to the scientists who created the Mosaic web browser. Both of these laid in place the structure on which the modern Internet has been built.
As vice president, he was passionate that every school should have an Internet connection for students. He famously wrote, “Twenty-two percent of white primary-school students have computers in their homes; less than 7% of African-American children do. We can’t create a nation of information haves and have-nots.”
Did Vice President Al Gore imagine how the world would look 30 years after authoring his Act? Here are some ways that the Internet plays a role in our daily lives that might have surprised Al Gore back in the day.
Al Gore wanted information to be available to government agencies in natural disasters. He wanted students to collaborate over long distances and research new topics. But, while he was working on connecting the United States, there is no way he could have imagined how the future president would make use of the Internet. Of course, there is no way Al Gore could have imagined what a Tweet would be all those years ago.
Nowadays, President Trump tweets on a daily. He uses Twitter to announce policy, attack political opponents, conduct diplomacy, and campaign. Back in the day, Gore must have used the telephone, televised speeches, and letters to do the same. Although Trump’s Tweets are sometimes incorrect and downright offensive to many, there is no questioning that he has changed how the White House uses the Internet.
Time for V-cay
The Internet comes in handy for every part of a vacation. When planning a vacation, people study possible destinations. Sites like Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor offer information about destinations. Reviews of places like the Grand Canyon, the Redwood Forest, and the Statue of Liberty help travelers decide if they are worth the effort and money it takes to get there. After picking out a destination, it’s time to select a hotel. Future guests may pick their lodgings from AirBnB, Booking.com, Tripadvisor, and many more.
Once vacationers get to New York’s China Town and worry about getting lost, GPS on their cell phones saves the day as they venture down busy streets. When they get hungry, where do they eat? At the best-rated restaurant they can find on Google maps. When the whole family is bored with exploring and sick of each other, what do they do? It’s time to hunker down in the hotel and scroll through Instagram. Of course, no vacation is worthwhile if it doesn’t make friends and neighbors jealous, so once everyone is home, it’s time to post those selfies.
Remote Work and Study
As COVID-19 swept through the world, many workers began to complete tasks from their own homes. Teachers began to give online classes. Without the Internet, this transition would have been impossible. If the pandemic had happened 40 years earlier, most of us would have probably spent our social distancing time watching TV or playing solitaire with playing cards.
It used to be that students were limited by where they lived. Only families with economic means could send their children to faraway colleges, pay for travel to and back, and expensive room and board. Now students can choose to complete high-quality classes online. The list of institutions that offer these courses is long, as is the list of online majors.
Remote work is also slowly becoming more widespread. Journalists, copywriters, programmers, graphic designers, and many other professionals have more flexibility to arrange their working hours, pace, and workspace.
Remember when every family had a stack of newspapers lying around for art projects? This is no longer the case. Now it is so much easier and faster to open up the news on a cell phone. People used to have to wait until the newspaper came every morning, get dressed, go outside and retrieve it. As soon as we wake up, we can fumble about for our cell phones and read the news immediately without having to get out of bed. Al Gore once said, “I wrote newspaper articles professionally for seven years, and I love newspapers.” He said this, explaining that he hoped that newspapers and news sources would find a way to thrive online.
Life would be much different without the Internet. We might have to listen to President Trump’s announcements on the radio. Guidebooks would provide us with most of the information we needed on vacation, and we wouldn’t be able to make as many people jealous of our photos. Work would be completed in the office, and students would only be able to study at school. We would have to wait for the newspaper every morning to learn about new events.