The Internet! It has changed our lives. It has changed the way the vast majority of the world thinks, communicates and even functions on a daily basis. One can solve problems, find the answers to the most perplexing questions and talk, one on one, with people we would never had the ability to connect with in the past.
The Millennial Generation grew up with computers, video games and the Internet, streaming media and cell phones and has no idea what the world was like before them. Generation X (Generation Y is a non-generation according to "Wired Magazine") grew into video games, computers and the Internet, adopted early car and bag phones. The Baby Boomer generation is an analog generation growing up with dial telephones, black and white TV, vinyl records (especially 45's), Top 40 AM radio, double feature Saturday movie matinees and bills that came in the mail with cards full of holes and the inscription "Do Not Fold, Spindle or Mutilate." The Greatest Generation grew up with party line telephones, AM and short-wave radio, black and white movies and 78 rpm records.
I thought it would be interesting to differentiate the generations by some of the technology that was popular during the youthful years.
Some of those who were born and raised during the Greatest Generation have been able to adapt, although, on a somewhat limited basis, compared to the Gen X and Millennials, to computers, streaming and downloadable media, cell phones (let's not even consider Smart Phones) and the Internet.
Most of the Baby Boomer Generation has managed to adapt quite well to all the modern technology. However, for the most part, if all these technological advances hadn't become so user friendly over the last decade, I'm sure they would probably be considered Luddites.
The Internet exists solely because of computer technology. No computers, no Internet. It's that simple. And, while most people have come to take computers for granted, they have no idea of their history or how long they have been impacting human existence. Computation actually dates back earlier than 2000 BC. This is not meant to be a history lesson, so if you're interested, please use the Internet (what else) to research for yourself. Suffice to say, over the last few millennia, there have been a variety of mechanical and electrical devices created to provide computation.
The Internet actually dates back to it's birth as the ARPANet on October 29, 1969. Digital networking began as early as 1950. There were several organizations around the world experimenting and developing various networking protocols. Ultimately, the ARPANet became the protocol that, obviously, proved successful and eventually became what we now refer to as the Internet and was made available to anyone with a digital computer and a means of connecting (modem) to the backbone of the Internet. Again, if you're interested, you can easily do your own research.
The Internet, as we know it today, has literally become the greatest interconnectivity, information, communication and educational creation in the history of humankind. It surpasses the printed book, radio, Television, motion pictures, telephone, all forms of audio and video recordings, graphic art, etc. because it has encompassed all of them. The computer and the Internet are ubiquitous. In some way, the computer and Internet touch lives as extreme as the most remote, primitive societies in the world to the highest tech homes, businesses and governments. The, once, simple and basic telephone has morphed into a micro computer with far more power than that of the computers used by NASA to land men on the moon and bring them home.
The reality is that computing devices that, at one time, required large rooms to house them have been reduced in size over a period of approximately 75 years to where an individual can have a small tablet device, smaller than a traditional book, or a smart phone that easily fits in a woman's purse or a man's shirt pocket and accomplish just about every function an older and larger computer could do. Additionally, with the connectivity available on the current wireless telephone systems, the tablets and smart phones connect the possessors of such devices with the Internet and global information, entertainment and communication availability 24/7. And, now, the communication device comic strip character (for those of you old enough to remember), Dick Tracy, wore on his wrist in the 1940's, 50's and 60's has actually become a reality with wristwatches that are smart phones and have Internet capability.
As the old Virginia Slim's cigarette ad's slogan boasted, "We've come a long way, Baby!" As of 2014, 90% of American adults have cell phones and some kind of computing device. The smart phone is used by 64% of all American adults and growing. Additionally, huge percentages of American adults have and use tablets, e-readers, laptop and/or desktop computers. The percentage of American adults over 65 with cell phones is 74%. A mere 29% of American cell phone owners can't imagine ever being without a cell phone and 44% sleep with the phone next to their bed so they won't miss a phone call, text or any other updates while they are in bed.
The Internet and the devices that connect us to it have become as addictive as most of the other addictions humans are susceptible to. I was at an event Monday of this week, at the airport in Fresno, California, where people were taking photos of their relatives and friends leaving on a special trip. They were taking the photos on their smart phones and then immediately uploading the photos to their Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and probably other social media pages as well as their on-line photo albums.
The Internet As A Time Thief
So, here it comes! How much of YOUR life is being stolen by the Internet? Let me broaden that statement just a little.
How much of your life do you spend checking and responding to e-mail (rapidly becoming "old school") and texts, checking and posting to Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and other social media, Skype, Facebook, etc. messaging and responding?
Do you find yourself sitting at the table during meals with you smart phone or tablet in hand or close at hand?
Are you constantly checking your smart phone/tablet while you're in the car - as a passenger, or OMG, while you're driving?
Do you find yourself looking at your device(s) while you're waiting for something (doctor appointment, meeting a friend, business meeting, at the conference table, while waiting in the mall with your kids or spouse, etc.)?
Do you actually prefer to email or, now, more commonly, text rather than actually make a phone call and talk with someone utilizing verbal communication?
Do you spend hours each day or week posting, commenting and "liking" things on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Ebay, Craig's List, etc.?
Do you get absorbed for hours in video games, on your computer, game machine or on-line?
Before the computer (and all the derivative devices) and the pervasiveness of the Internet in our lives, we still had a life. We actually spent time having one on one and family visits with friends and relatives. We weren't concerned if we missed a call because, if it was important, whoever made the call would call back. We played board games. We went outdoors and enjoyed fresh air and natural, normal exercise. We bought books or went to the library and read them. We had a variety of forms of entertainment, but none of them pervaded our lives.
I cannot be a hypocrite. I am a techy. I have been since I became a short-wave listener at about age 12 and 13 and an amateur radio operator at age 14. I discovered the recording and sound industry in college and video recording as part of a part-time summer job I had during two summers in college. My life and career were all about the technology of a couple industries including many years in the high-speed tape duplication industry. So, it wasn't without precedent that I wouldn't eventually become involved in and embrace digital/computer technology. Additionally, having a Generation X son, the computer and Internet were virtually inevitable, both for him and for me as I had to keep up with my own industries.
Yes! Here I sit composing this article about the Internet as a Life Thief. And I'm qualified to write this article because computers (I'm composing on my laptop, I have my smart phone next to the computer and my tablet that I'm using for research as I compose, sitting next to the phone) are part and parcel of my life. I am as guilty as sin with regard to the questions I posed earlier (except I don't text while I drive, although my smart phone will read incoming texts to me and I can dictate very brief replies when it's safe to do so).
There is absolutely no question or doubt in my mind that I am a form of technology (and in this case, computer/Internet) "addict." If I did a conservative estimate of how much time the computer and Internet have stolen from me, I'm sure it would easily be a couple years, at least. This doesn't include specifically identifiable, productive use of computers and the Internet.
It was about 1980 when I first started fooling around with computers. We duplicated computer games for game companies on data cassettes. Those early years were targeted toward productive business use. It wasn't until around 1993 or 1994 that I began getting involved in on-line services like Compuserve and AOL. That led to the Internet and the rest is history, as the saying goes.
Are You An Addict?
So, can you be honest with yourself? Are you an Internet addict? How many of the questions I raised earlier in this article describe your typical behavior? Have you ever said to yourself, I'd like to live in a kinder, gentler time in the past . . . as long as I can take my technology (more specifically computers, tablets, smart phones, wireless telephone and Internet connectivity)? Do you feel like you're "naked" if you accidentally leave your smart phone at home or the office or even in the car? Have you ever even attempted to calculate how many times you pull out your smart phone or tablet during any given day? Have you gone out with the family, on a date, visited with friends and found yourself checking your smart phone and replaying to texts instead of focusing your attention on those you are with? How much time out of every day, week, month and year is the Internet in its many manifestations stealing from your life?
Yes! You certainly need to evaluate this. You need (as do I) to learn how to turn the phone off, set it down, leave it behind and learn to use that time to focus on family, friends and yourself. Today's kids are a prime example of what we are becoming. They will sit in the same room, regardless of whether it's just two or a group, and text each other messages while within mere feet of one another.
Yes! Some of this is extreme. No! We're not all as bad as some of the behavior I've described. But, the Internet and all that it and the computing devices related to it are taking not minutes, not hours, but days, weeks and months, in aggregate, from our lives.
The Greatest Generation, those who use and have embraced the Internet at some level, typically, somewhat limited, are not as far gone down this road as the later generations. They still, actually, converse with one another and some even have telephone conversations and write letters on paper.
The Baby Boomers, again, while not near as immersed as the younger generations, are often pretty deeply immersed in the Internet. Most still use e-mail rather than writing on paper and sending letters. Many have embraced texting. I know some people who may be approaching the same level of texting addiction as their kids and grandchildren. And, I have no idea how so many people I know can spend as much time on Facebook and other media as they do. Some Baby Boomers have also become involved in online games playing chess, scrabble, solitaire and numerous other addictive games.
The Generation X folks grew up with computers, computer games and the opening of the Internet to the general public. My own son is a self-taught Web developer and graphic designer, having adapted to the computer like a duck to water. They are the creators of the Facebooks, Instagrams, Twitters and so many other facets of the Internet and all that it now encompasses.
The Millennial Generation is the real question mark. They have never been without computing devices, tablets, smart phones, the Internet and social media. They very well may be the first generation that has little or, in some cases, no direct, one on one, interpersonal contact and connections with people over the long run of their lives. They are the young people who sit in the same room and interact by texting one another. What will families look like in the future. Will children be conceived and raised without two parents ever coming together for the biological act of conception? Will they even have two parent families? Perhaps they will be the last vestige of a society we knew and grew up with. What will their offspring be like? How will they be raised.
Is the Internet TOO MUCH of a great thing? Is it stealing not only our lives and time, but out humanity from us? Only the future will reveal the answers to these questions. Only we can stop the Internet from stealing our lives and those who will come after us.