Before the Internet became widespread in the 1990s, human civilization still carried on pretty well without emails, blogs, Facebook and Twitter. While information might not have been easily available at one's finger tips, work was still done (but maybe more slowly) and school work was still required (as well as more trips to the library to do research).
Those who were born in the 1990s might have trouble imagining life without iPads or Facebook. Those born before the 1990s might also have trouble recalling how life was like before the Internet since most of us now spend much of their daily lives connected to the Net, whether it is for work, social networking or running errands.
We are now in an era whereby technology is becoming integrated into every aspect of our lives. While we are constantly amazed at what technology can do for us, there will also be moments when we pause to reflect on its toll on our mindsets and values.
How life was like before the Internet
1. Running bank errands meant having to spend time waiting in queues, since online banking was non-exisitent then. Bills had to be paid with a cheque or cash. With online banking, a simple money transfer takes less than 10 minutes.
2. You checked the weather forecast in the newspapers or the morning TV news programme and hoped that the forecast held for the rest of the day. Now you can have more up-to-date information about impending weather changes.
3. Planning a vacation often required going through a tour agency for air ticket and hotel reservations. Reading up on these places that you might want to visit meant going to the library to borrow travel books that might be outdated. Now you can compare prices online and also make your own reservations and plan your trip itinerary instead of having to join group tours going to places you rather not go.
4. You relied on the Yellow Pages (a thick telephone directory with ads) to look for the telephone number of the nearest pizza place or plumber. Now you use the Yellow Pages as a paperweight or to kill bugs.
5. You waited for the newspapers every morning to provide the results of a sporting event held thousands of miles away. Now you can catch it live on the Internet or get the results with a simple click.
6. Buying music meant going to a store to buy cassette tapes or CDs. Now downloading music via iTunes is much more convenient and cheaper too.
7. To communicate with friends in distant places, you wrote letters or made an occasional phone call. You usually waited for more than a week (or month) for a reply via the postal mail. With the Internet, instant communication between people far apart is possible, though that often brings about another set of problems.
8. To write a term paper, you had to go to the library, look through the library's Dewey Decimal System cards to look for reference books or encyclopaedias so that you could skim through these books for the information that you were looking for. Now google and other online search engines are every student's best friends.
9. Writing to penpals was the common way of getting to know people in foreign countries. Now you can use the Internet to explore all corners of the world and easily read up on topics you have always been interested in.
10. Getting on TV was a big thing. You would call your friends and relatives if you were scheduled to appear on a TV show or in the far righthand corner of a 5-second screen shot of a TV news clip. With YouTube and other social media, everyone is a star today, even if undeservedly so.
On the other hand, the Internet has also brought about a few things......
1. People talk less face-to-face, as they are usually facing their computer screens or iPhones to chat with others. They also tend to spend more time "talking" to those far far away than the ones around them. At work, people would sometimes rather email one another than walk over to conduct a proper conversation.
2. Children spend less time outdoors or reading. More time is now spent on playing online multiplayer games or chatting. Reading a book, instead of online articles, is also becoming uncommon.
3. YouTube videos that are better off kept in a personal drawer. The open nature of the Internet brings out the narcissism in many, especially those with exhibitionist inclinations.
4. Making people walk to a shopping mall or store, compared to the ease and convenience of online shopping, makes people spend less on shopping. Now having access to a previously unimaginable variety of products is a dream come true for many shopaholics or those who were previously too lazy to drive to the nearest Wal Mart.
5. Stalkers and identity thieves now have a much easier time, with all the resources at their finger tips. Online anonymity also makes them bolder, yet more difficult to catch.
6. To get human interaction, you now chat in forums or leave messages on message boards, instead of physically visiting others.
7. With email and instant messaging, people now expect instantaneous replies. This gives people less time to think about their replies before sending them off. Misunderstandings often arise because of this.
8. A mistake (e.g. photo, video clip) lives on in the Internet and is known to the whole world. With the Internet, there is often no turning back.
9. The cheapest deal on the Internet might not be the best deal. While online bargain deals drive prices down, they also often drive the quality down too.
10. With instant and constant stimulation in the Internet, our attention span has been unknowingly reduced. Our patience wears thin and we want instant gratification.
During the early 20th century, we witnessed the invention of the telephone, which subsequently made life easier for everyone. People can now talk to each other in real time. In today's Internet world, communications have become highly integrated in our lives thanks to broadband and wireless communications and tools like the iPad and iPhone. Nonetheless, how we can seek a proper balance between its immense benefits and social costs remains to be seen.