[Originally published in The Sun Chronicle]
My mind was wandering the other day and I got to thinking: What did people do before the Internet? And a question I had an even harder time answering: What did I do before the Internet?
I can’t pinpoint the exact moment it became a central part of my life, when I started using my computer for something besides typing papers and playing Oregon Trail, when writing e-mails and visiting Web sites became new methods of procrastination.
I do remember that during my junior year of high school one of my friends got AOL and it seemed revolutionary. Soon enough I had it, and with it came the sneaking suspicion that I ruled the world. Now as I type this, I’m logged into AOL Instant Messenger with my away message up while I listen to music I just downloaded (legally) and periodically check my e-mail. My wireless Internet service makes it all work. I’m not sure how, but it does.
At some point tonight I’ll probably check Facebook, too. Let’s be honest — I’ll definitely check Facebook. I said I’d never join, but I signed up so I could web-stalk a crush, and now I’m sucked into the supposed social networking site.
I say supposed because while it does help us connect to each other electronically, the word “social” implies actually being around others, not scrolling past photos and memes, cyber-poking acquaintances and compulsively checking status updates to see how many likes they have.
In that way I think technology is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s amazingly helpful and an enormous time-saver. Who hasn’t experienced the benefits of a Google search over a laborious quest through the library card catalog, or the ease of e-mails and texts as opposed to snail mail or even a phone call?
But still, although technological advancement means greater convenience, a chat window on a screen can’t take the place of an actual person.
The Internet has an enormous capability to give us access to information and people, but it can foster a sort of social laziness where we want the Web to do the work for us. Instead of going out to really investigate something, we do an Internet search and think we have all the answers; IMs, tweets and Facebook comments take the place of genuine communication while time saved by technology is wasted on YouTube.
Obviously the drive to make communication easier, faster and more accessible only reflects how important it is, but I kind of want to get back to being a little less addicted to my computer.
It may be a portal to the world, but when I think back to life pre-Internet, I remember looking at the world through my own eyes a lot more often.