Today in class my students were discussing how commercial flight has changed our world. The answer oh-so-helpfully provided by my text, was that they should simply understand that it made the world smaller (don’t you love these canned questions?). Much of what it took to answer the question for my students was based on imagination. Yet for myself, applying this question on a basic level to the idea of the internet and the world wide web and how they have impacted my life, well, it’s pretty interesting to contemplate.
I remember the first moment I discovered the World Wide Web. I had already used America Online, Compuserve, and even Prodigy, and found them engaging. But that moment at work when I noticed a new application on my desktop–Netscape–and gave it a try, well, let’s just say it’s easy to see why those other services weren’t going to keep my attention. When I first typed a search into altavista (or was is infoseek? I no longer remember) and I saw the information available at my fingertips, I knew that my time on AOL was done.
For the excitement of the internet for me lies in the accessibility of information, to different people, to thoughts and opinions of people I’ve never met. It’s a wild west of information not necessarily filtered through newspapers, book publishers, and TV producers. It was raw and intoxicating. I was instantly hooked, whether it was looking up recipes, travel advice (pre-Tripadvisor or Thorn Tree), or the answer to the question “Just what are pigs-in-a-blanket anyway?” (who knew they were different from sausage rolls?). Perhaps not the most exciting use of the internet, but it still amazes me how I can access so much information about so many different things.
Nowadays of course my internet use has changed some. The web metaphor is so crystal clear these days, with almost every page containing numerous links to other pages equally fascinating. Due to existence of blogs, facebook, and other social networking, personal recommendations are linked on almost every page, and it can be information overload.
There’s a lot of power in this web to make things happen and to get information out there. Ideas which perhaps might have never gotten off the ground in the old days end of going viral, and they’re not all about dancing babies, sometimes it’s about fundraising for Tsunami victims, or revolt in Egypt. I have made donations to worthy causes based on a facebook post, and helped connect people who needed to be connected and yet might never have done so but for the ease of connection in this internet age. One really has to wonder, if we include internet connections, does the theory of 6 degrees of separation really hold up any more? Or would we all be closer? Just how many degrees of separation is there in the digital age?
So how do I use the internet now? I get things done (plane tickets, hotel reservations, etc), find out information and seek out ideas (suggested lessons, movie research, whatever), check on my various feeds of information to see if there is anything new and interesting(RSS, facebook, edmodo), connect with friends and even people I haven’t met(skype, gmail, comments on blogs), create (blogging), and go shopping (Amazon, and many other places). It mixes into so many things that I do, and while I can easily separate from it as needed (and wanted, as I love to disconnect and go camping), I always enjoy coming back to visit again.