Sunday, September 6, 2015

Is the Internet Taking Over Our Lives?

I know at least one person who thinks so, and he believes it will be the downfall of us all. Of course, he is in his nineties and has never even used a computer, but he hears about sites being hacked and information stolen. The TV news stations don't seem to run stories about the good side of the Internet.

I suppose anything can be misused and get out of control, but, aside from the occasional glitch that has me cussing at the screen, I think the Internet is absolutely wonderful. I'm certainly not addicted to it, but I sure wouldn't want to find myself in a situation where I didn't have access anymore.

My computer is my newspaper. I sit down first thing each morning with a cup of tea to find out what is going on in the world. I get the vast majority of my news via Google News. Because the articles come from so many different sources, and I even have some choice in which version I read, I am not subjected to a continuously biased slant that distorts what I hear. And if I want to learn more about a topic in the news, I've got Google Search right there in front of me. This morning I spent an hour learning more about Syria and what has caused this current refugee crisis.

My computer is my contact with our local weather station. After I check whether it is supposed to rain today and what time, I can also find out the weather for all of Mexico, the US, and even the world. Are any storms threatening Terry's fishing on Mexico's Pacific coast? Or his brother's fishing on Florida's Gulf Coast? If I check again before my evening walk, I'm much less likely to be caught in an unexpected downpour. And I receive email warnings of any pending tsunami threats so I can warn Terry if necessary.

Facebook is my connection to locals and my family and friends back in the US. It allows me to live and travel in foreign lands without losing touch. I didn't make it to my 40th high school reunion, but many of us are now in regular contact via Facebook.

Blogger is my soapbox. It gives me a place to share my ideas and opinions. No one is put in the position of having to read if they don't want to or disagree. I actually have almost no idea who is reading what I write, but I know they are from all over the world. And there must be a lot of them, because I have over 93,000 pageviews since I started a couple of years ago. Whoever you are, thank you! I started writing because I had something to say; I never expected so many people would be interested in reading it. And all of you in Ukraine - how in the world did you find me?

Since I decided to move back to Portland, I've bookmarked the Portland Monthly magazine. Every once in a while, I go to their site to see what's going on in Portland. When I arrive, I'll be right on top of the latest happenings.

When I moved to Mexico over eleven years ago, one of the hardest things for me to give up was my weekly visits to the public library. I always had a stack of books waiting to be read. If fact, I picked this location in Mexico because a local organization has a library where members can check out books in English. After I decided that the membership cost was too steep for what they offered, I started stocking up on paperbacks on every trip north of the border. Then I visited every book exchange I could find (and we had a lot of them then) to trade those books for others. Then I got an MP3 player and a non-resident library card for the Queens, New York library. I could download books to my computer or audiobooks to the MP3 player. That was wonderful! Well worth the fifty dollars a year! And I could download hundreds of magazines through Zinio with my library card. Unfortunately, they don't have the best website and the employees don't seem to understand how the system works, so I haven't been able to renew again since my card expired a few months ago. So sad, but my MP3 player broke now, too, so I guess it's time to move on. Now I have an iPad with Kindle. With amazon, it is just amazing how simple it is to find the book I'm looking for, have a virtual look inside to verify that it's what I want, click a button, and it's mine. Yep, it's not the same as a real book with real pages, and it's not the free public library, but it will hold me over until I get there.

I've found that Pinterest actually does a pretty good job of replacing the magazines I used to read on the Zinio site. I can do a search in an interesting category, find a photo that grabs my attention, then go to the orginal site that shared the photo. There is usually an article or blog post attached. It's almost like a magazine without all the ads. I get vegan and vegetarian recipes, lots of decorating ideas (for my future tiny apartment in Portland), and see pages and pages of drawings and sketches like I am (supposedly) doing.

I have Skype, so my computer is also my telephone to call family and friends in the states. When the person I'm calling also has Skype, we can even make a video call.

If I had to do it over again, I don't know if I would have bothered to go to a university at 40. Why, when the information is all out there just for the asking? I hear in-depth discussions of current events by listening to NPR on my iPad. I watch interesting lectures on endless topics with Ted Talks. I have discovered many free sites to get me started in studying various foreign languages. The I can go on and learn more with Rosetta Stone. And Wikipedia may not be perfect, but the amount of information available there is fantastic.

I am my own travel agent with the Internet. I can buy plane or train tickets, rent a car, and arrange to stay in a private home in Tuscany or Provence or Portland. And I do all that with much more information than I ever had working through a travel agent.

I am downloading my CDs to my iPod Touch so I won't have to move them and the stereo back to the states. I don't have Netflix yet, like nearly all of my friends do, but I can definitely see it in my not-too-distant future. Shoot, even my exercise is online since I got a Fitbit and walk at least 4 miles a day!

So, I spend a lot of time on my computer, but is the Internet taking over my life? Or am I learning to use the Internet to make my life easier and more interesting and to stay connected with family and friends? I think the important point is that I am in control. I'm not online all day. I don't feel the need to check my email when I'm hanging out with friends. I know many people seem to compete to have as many Facebook friends as possible, and they read the posts in order of popularity. Why would I care what other people liked to read? I want to see what my friends, and only my real friends, have to say. And why would I care how many people are following my pins on Pinterest? I pin things that I find interesting and want to be able to find again. If someone else likes the same thing, fine, they can pin it, too, but what has that got to do with me? Maybe mine is an introvert's form of social media.

What do you think? Do I waste my time online? How do you use the Internet?


  1. more so people seem fused to their phones, they do not have deeper connections just more anxiety