Why The Internet Is Still Awesome

“They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the Internet. And again, the Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It’s not a big truck. It’s a series of tubes.”Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens, 2006.

“The Internet has its charms and its dangers.” – Peter the Librarian, to incoming freshman at Washington University, 2001.

“During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet.” – Senator Al Gore, 1999.

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Since it first graced me with its presence in my home in 1996, I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with the Internet. In the beginning, I instantly fell in love with the dancing hamsters and the ability to find anything my heart desired on Netscape. Soon, I discovered that my crush was accessible 24/7 thanks to a little something called AOL Instant Messenger. My friends were also accessible over AIM and I’d spend many nights sneaking into the computer room to chat, waiting for that magical hum from the modem signaling to me that I was connected me to the internet/my dreams. Sometimes I’d throw a towel over the computer, hoping it would mute out that terribly loud sound and not wake up my parents.

Not only did the Internet connect me with my friends, but it allowed me to listen to all sorts of music I wouldn’t otherwise have access to. Thanks to Napster and later Kazaa, I could listen to the greatest hits of the ’80s, ’90s, and today without having to spend all of my allowance on CDs. All that money I saved really came in handy in college when I had to pay for things like laundry and Ramen noodles.

Remember when it was “the” Facebook?

Toward the end of college, a little social network called Facebook arrived to the scene. It allowed you to connect with other kids on campus and see what they were up to. At first, it sort of felt like signing someone’s yearbook. You’d leave a little note on someone’s graffiti wall and go about your daily business. Soon, we were able to be friends with people on other campuses. Then, eventually the whole world was invited to join along with everything that has ever been invented. Ever. You could suddenly post pictures, tag people in statuses, check in with people. Lots of information available about everyone including your old boyfriend, his mother, your best friend from middle school.

Fun at first! A great way to keep in touch with friends old and new! But funny things started to pop up. Judy had a party last week? All my friends were there? I wonder why I wasn’t invited. Do they not like me? Staci is backstage at the Justin Timberlake concert again?! She really leads a more exciting life than I do. I need to get out more. Why won’t anyone like my status? Am I not funny? Or interesting?

My boyfriend, according to Buzzfeed.

Thanks Facebook, not only have you exacerbated my fear of missing out, you’ve turned me into a cyberstalker and you’ve wasted ALL of my time. What’s worse is that Buzzfeed has joined the party to take up even more of my time. As if Facebook hasn’t wasted enough time, now there’s an array of easy-to-read (read: mostly pictures), hilarious posts about everything under the sun from news stories to why going to the mall as a child is different from going as an adult. If that wasn’t enough, they now have quizzes. So even though I didn’t go grocery shopping as I’d planned, I do know which writer from history I should have a romantic fling with (Anton Chekov) and which U.S. President I most resemble (Barack Obama). Equally as important, I’d say.

Aside from wasting my time, how about the fact that the Internet has dumbed down our society as a whole?! The Internet is rewiring our brains! Nobody even reads anymore. In fact, if you’ve reached this far in my post, I commend you! Hashtag thank you. Hashtag see what I mean about the dumbing down of our society. Hashtag I hate people who talk in hashtags. Hashtag sorry not sorry.

Some days, I am so disgusted by how much the Internet has taken over my life. As I write this post, I’m staring at my iPad while my iPhone sits next to me. You know, in case someone likes my photo on Instagram, I can instantly respond and return the favor by liking one of their photos.

Just last month, when I hit the peak of my frustration with the Internet and thought about unplugging forever, I was kindly reminded why the Internet is still awesome. One day, upon arriving home from work, I received a small package in the mail. I wasn’t expecting anything so I didn’t have a clue as to what might be in the box.

The mug and the letter.
The mug and the letter.

After opening the box and sifting through the hundreds of styrofoam peanut-looking things, I found a commemorative royal wedding mug and a letter that was typed on a typewriter. It was from a Twitter friend, whom I’ve never met, but who knows how much I loved the royal wedding and everything Will and Kate-related. His mother, who lives in Minnesota, got the mug as a commemorative gift from People Magazine and was going to throw the mug away. Not wanting a good mug to go to waste, my Twitter pal thought of the only person he knew who might want such a thing–me.

The mug was accompanied by a letter, another one of my favorite things. There’s nothing better than receiving a letter in the mail. The thoughtful gift was an added bonus. This encounter happened because of our friendship over Twitter and it reminded me why the Internet is still awesome. It connects people.

Isn’t that why we go online in the first place?

To Making New Year’s Resolutions, Giving Thanks on Thanksgiving, and Spreading the Love on Valentine’s Day!

NYE champagne toastAs I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never been one to make New Year’s resolutions. I firmly believe you can make positive life changes on any old day. If you want to eat healthier, then start with your next meal! If you want to drink less, order a seltzer and cranberry juice the next time you’re out with friends. As the adage goes (and no folks, Gandhi did not say this), be the change you wish to see in the world. Don’t wait until January 1st. It only takes a week or so for a new habit to become a routine. Personally, I prefer to start new routines on Mondays, but that’s just me.

While I don’t make formal resolutions, I do like to make crazy lists. The other day, I found myself writing down a bunch of things I’d like to focus on this new year. I guess you’d call it resolutions. Here’s what I scribbled down in my planner as unpacked from my Christmas vacation:

My "resolutions."
My “resolutions.”
Inside the Guggenheim.
Inside the Guggenheim.

The list has a lot of standard items like work out, clean, read, etc. However, two items really take precedence here as far as I’m concerned: going to the museum and getting off my phone. I live seven avenues from museum row and I’ve haven’t set foot inside the Met since 1990. (In my defense, it was closed the day I ventured over there). I’m so close to so many cultural gems and there’s no excuse to ignore them! Secondly, I need to beat my iPhone to smithereens with a sledgehammer  take some time to unplug from my phone. But, Instagram! Anyone that knows me knows my phone is always within arm’s reach and it’s getting to be a bit ridiculous. Even I’m annoyed. Baby steps!

Facebook status
Haters gonna hate.

I was having a conversation with a friend at work the other day about how many people in our Facebook feeds like to kindly remind us that we shouldn’t wait for New Year’s to make change, for Thanksgiving Day to give thanks, and for Valentine’s Day to express love. He pointed out, if that’s what you need to put a little positivity out there, then so be it! I couldn’t agree more. Just like some people need conversation starters to talk to people who intimidate them, others need the boost of the holidays to give thanks, share their love, and make resolutions.

So instead of hating on New Year’s resolutions, as I may or may not have done in years past, I fully support all of your goals for 2014! Who cares if you made them on January 1st (or in my case December 28th)? Let’s just make some positive changes in 2014 and spread the love!

I’ll see you at the museum.

A Vacation From the Internet

Last week, I enjoyed a fabulous, all-inclusive vacation in Mexico. I spent the week with family and friends on the Caribbean Sea, sipping drinks on the beach, enjoying 80 degree weather, and working on my tan in January–oh and visiting ancient ruins in Tulum.  I could not have asked for a better vacation.  At the end of the week, I was truly sad to leave which can be a rare feeling after a family vacation.

One of the most surprising highlights of the trip was taking a vacation from the Internet. I never thought I would be so happy to ditch my iPhone, my laptop, Twitter, Facebook, gchat, Tumblr, WordPress, etc.   It wasn’t until I started having digital separation anxiety days before the trip that I realized just how addicted I am to the charms of the interwebs. However, once in Mexico, I let my iPhone go dead and didn’t look back! No chatting, no updating statuses, no Facebook creeping.  Instead of tweeting every five minutes, I tweeted once during the week vacation (I guess you can’t quit Internet addictions cold turkey). Taking a vacation from the Internet was just what I needed to curtail my social media addiction and here is what I found:

  1. Ignorance really is bliss. I don’t need to know what everyone else is  doing, thinking, feeling at all times. In fact, I’d prefer not to.
  2. Face-to-face conversation trumps all other forms. Social media is a fabulous way to keep in touch with people, but nothing beats meeting with those people in person.
  3. Make time to stop and smell the roses. I hate being that person who is always on their darn phone looking at Twitter updates, so it was nice not to have that option. It really forces you to soak in your surroundings and live in the moment!
  4. I really do prefer Twitter over Facebook. At least this week. Twitter doesn’t bombard you with tons of useless information as Facebook tends to.  I really like 140 character limit on Twitter.

Because of the way technology has advanced and the rising popularity of social media, it’s silly to think that a person should spend their entire life offline and not on a computer. However, now that I have taken an Internet Vacation, I have found a much-needed balance between my digital life and my real life. There is a time and a place for being connected and that time is not all the time.