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Updated on August 26, 2013

Oh, the glory days. This was when you could have a meal with your loved one without them stopping to take a picture of their plate and posting it. This was also when you could watch television and view the display of an actor or journalist's name without also viewing their twitter handle listed. I long for those days, don't you?

I remember in 10th Grade when my Geometry teacher made us watch a film on the "information superhighway". It was going to change the world. It would create an everlasting capability of networking that couldn't be matched. It would transform how we view the world before our eyes. In these ways, and many other facets of society, the internet has achieved these goals. Who would have thought a series of 0's and 1's could do so much? Settle down, Al Gore.

Although network - to - network connections began in the late 1960's and early 70's in California and Utah, the Internet was introduced to the public in the 80's and into the 1990's. In the middle of the decade that brought us Grunge Rock and Miley Cyrus, the Internet gained tremendous momentum. Email, instant messaging, and, how could I forget, chat rooms hit the ground running. AOL, Prodigy and Compuserve were the first main Internet Providers. Anyone over 25 should recall the auditory annihilation that was the dialing of your home line to your local server in order to make the connection to the world wide web. But, of course, if someone wanted to use an old fashioned method of communicating by calling you on the telephone, they'd get a busy signal. Yeah? Remember that sound? Try playing a busy signal for your teenager and they will have no idea what that racket is. But I digress...

Early times of internetworking began at Universities in CA and CO.
Early times of internetworking began at Universities in CA and CO.

Early Internet browsing seemed innocent, but innocence was soon lost on this highway. The web spread throughout the world in the mid and late 90s. This opened the door for advertisers to feast their eyes upon a brand new realm of marketing. It was a dream come true for enterprises. Banner ads and pop ups began streaming away on an IP address near you. I would be remiss if I did not mention spam emails, too. With the annoyance of spam came the fear of computer viruses. A seemingly innocuous subject of "Hi" in an email could crash your PC if you didn’t go out and buy the latest and greatest anti-virus package. Sometimes I think the people who create antivirus programs are the ones whom are actually creating the viruses just to force consumers to purchase their product. Hmmm...

Towards the end of the millennium, word spread about a "Y2K" threat that would disable our computing system worldwide. Data tables apparently weren't capable of ascertaining a "00" in the date field . Much work had to be done swiftly to ensure important information was not lost in the nether regions of the webisphere, thus leaving many in fear for what would happen. Would the very invention that changed how we communicate in the world turn against us? Would the financial institution that we all rely on cease to exist? Nah, didn't happen. But do not fret, for our banking facilities did not fail in screwing with our hard - earned money after all.

As far as Y2K goes - crisis averted. In unison, we all released a sigh of relief with our friends and family. This also was the time when cell phones began to increase in population. Sure, cellular phones had been around for years before the new millennia, but their growth in sales in the 00's was unchartered. From just 1999 to 2000, the total number of cell phones rose by 46% year over year. Since then, their quantity in most inhabited parts of the world has increased by 1700%. Yep, you read that right - 1700%. Those same family members and neighbors that had exhaled after dodging the Y2K bullet were running out to snatch their very own mobile device. That meant you had to have one, too.

Chat rooms were all the rage in the '90s.
Chat rooms were all the rage in the '90s.

It wasn't until the inevitable marriage of cell phones and the internet became apparent, that I'd say society began to change. Internet browsing on your phone, which became popular in the middle of the last decade with the introduction of social media sites such as MySpace, Facebook and Twitter, personalized one's "information superhighway" experience. Now, I could take my online hobbies on the road. Before, I had to go outside to see my friends and loved ones. Now, I can do so from the comfort of my own pajamas. Before, I was forced to keep appointments and numbers stored on paper or in a rolodex - sound it out with me kids - ROL-o-dex. Now, I can store all this info into my palm. In previous years, girls at a club could give a guy the wrong number when asked for it. Now, a smart guy will not only put the girl's number in his phone, but he will try and call it to make sure it's really hers and not the number to the grocery store down the street. Sorry ladies. Guess you have to find another way to brush off those sleazes at the club. I'm sure you'll come up with something. Indeed, once cell phones and the web became a couple, social customs were reinvented.

In the year 2013, it’s customary to provide both your friends and the friends of your children with your WIFI password whence they step forth into your domicile. No one has one telephone number anymore - there's your home #, cell #, email address, facebook page, twitter handle, etc. Within the next five years, people will walk around with barcodes on their clothing or on their person in some manner. Then, if I want to get to know you, I will simply take my phone and scan your barcode. But, for privacy, you will have to give me your personal password so that I can access your data.


Everything has a website - tissues, water bottles, stationary, note pads - and those are just a few items I am looking at as I write this! And yes, many of us love to share with our friends what we're eating at that very moment. If there was only a way to add a scent of one's food through the internet. I am sure someone will come up with that app in the near future.

Please don’t misinterpret this article. My goal was not to come off contemptuous. I am merely relaying to the masses what I've observed over the past 15 years or so. It is the global transformation of society due to a bouncing bundle of binary code. I do like to look back fondly at a time when our children would have friends over to your home and would actually physically talk to one another, rather than sit on the same couch in the same room in silence and text or tweet or "like" the same thing at the same time on their hand held devices. I peek back well over my shoulder at a time when one would actually have to travel to a library or to their basement to locate an encyclopedia to research something for a project. Now, all of the answers to every question I can ever imagine are located at my fingertips. In fact, some of the facts in this article that I hastily harnessed were found in the very same manner in which I am writing today.

Society has changed, but it's definitely up to debate if it's changed for the better. Have you recently stopped at a red light or cast your eyes beyond the extension of your arm to gaze upon your surroundings? If you do, you will see no one traversing with their head up. There could be an asteroid on its way to use falling from the sky, and we wouldn’t know about it unless we were following its path on twitter. But, to counterpoint, information can be accessed on many vital matters in life at any moment, any time of day, without much hassle, Unless, God forbid, you hit a firewall or, even worse, you forget your password and cant obtain it from where you're located. Then it's back to the basics circa 1990. Then you're screwed.

Has the Internet helped our society, hindered it, or both?

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    • mythbuster profile image

      mythbuster 4 years ago from Utopia, Oz, You Decide

      Nice article. I don't think we're balanced in our use of technology at all. There are as many drawbacks to new tech gadgets as there are benefits. I'm on public transit a lot, so I don't have to worry about having my eyes on the road when I travel. When I do look out the windows of the transit vehicle when at stops, despite no cell phone driving laws, I see about 8 out of ten DRIVERS with one hand on the steering wheel, no eyes on the road or traffic lights ahead, one hand texting or one hand with cell to their ear.