Wednesday, 15 May 2013

What did we do before the internet????

Isn't it amazing how entrenched the Internet has become in our everyday lives? No-one seems untouched by it. Every newsworthy event in every part of the world seems to be accompanied by mobile-phone footage, tweets etc.

I truly don't know how I would survive without the Internet these days. I buy pretty much everything online, apart from groceries (I do the occasional online order, but generally prefer to browse the supermarket shelves myself). This week it is a friend's birthday, so I went online and ordered her a present to be delivered straight to her, and then ordered a personalised card to be delivered straight to her too. So much easier than trekking to the shops, parking, traipsing around the shops to find a present and card, taking it home, wrapping it, then traipsing to the post office to post it, by which time it is already the day before the person's birthday, and Royal Mail 1st Class is unlikely to get it there on time, so I end up having to pay for Special Delivery!!

Before children, when I was working full-time, the only time I could get to the shops was on a Saturday when they were rammed, so I used to do a lot of Internet shopping (especially at Christmas). Once I had children, I realised that shopping was now one of those tasks that you avoided doing at all costs with baby/small child in tow, as the window of opportunity in a day was so small - timing had to be absolutely perfect in order to make sure baby/child wasn't tired/hungry/bored/needed a poo etc. So I shopped online even more. Internet shopping is definitely the friend of the busy parent!

I find buying online is usually cheaper too. I know that I have probably had a hand in the death of the high street, but when I know I can get the same goods online for a fraction of the cost, and don't have to brave the one-way systems and extortionate parking prices of the town centres, then I know which one I am always going to choose! If I can't get it on Amazon or eBay, then it's just not worth having!

Since we moved house, online shopping has become even more important to me. I suddenly find myself 20 minutes from the nearest supermarket rather than 5 minutes. The local large towns all take about 20-30 minutes to get into the centre, and are pretty big sh*t holes if I'm honest - very run down with wall to wall charity shops and pound lands. Don't get me wrong - I LOVE a pound shop, but it's nice to have a few other shops to choose from too! Our local small town (walking distance from our village) has a few small shops (butcher, baker, post office, greetings card shop, newsagent) but not great for finding a last minute birthday present. Thankfully a new independent toy shop has just opened, so at least children's birthday presents will be sorted from now on!

But the Internet is not just about online shopping. The communication it has enabled is just phenomenal. Families on opposite sides of the world can have daily face-to-face chats using Skype. Facebook enables you to show your holiday snaps to all those old school friends that you haven't seen or spoken to for 30 years! Twitter allows you to know what your favourite celebrity is eating for breakfast! Life seems to be broadcast live via social media these days.

When I was at university (many moons ago...well the mid to late 90's), I remember having to go to the "email lab" to send and receive emails. It was a strange, formidable place full of hardcore geeks. I had no idea what to do, and only went there to accompany an American friend who was on an exchange visit and who regularly sent emails to her family back home. It's amazing to think that that was only 18 years ago. The Internet has basically taken off in the last 18 years.

With the rise of smart phones and tablets, the Internet is constantly at our finger tips, any time of night or day. We don't even have to wait for the PC or laptop to start up in order to google how old Tom Jones is whilst watching The Voice on a Saturday night -  we just reach over, pick up the ipad/iphone/other device and tippity tap, the answer is there.

I manage ALL of our finances online. I can check credit card balances, bank transactions, ISA performances etc at the touch of a button. I can view our electricity tarif and usage and submit meter readings online. I can get quotes for car or home insurance after a couple of minutes of form filling instead of the endless phoning around and answering the same questions over and over. I can see at a glance what the best savings account/mortgage/credit card is. All of these things used to take a long time to manage before the Internet.

There are of course some downsides to having all this information readily available. Here are some I have noticed that apply to me:

* I no longer use my (millions!) of recipe books. I find it so much easier to just google what it is I want to cook, look up my many pinned recipes on Pinterest, or use one of those websites that you can type in the ingredients you have and it comes up with some recipe ideas.

* I no longer phone my friends very often. I already know the ins outs of their daily lives, places they've visited, funny things their child has said this week etc etc from facebook. If we're lucky, we may exchange emails!

* It's far too easy to get life envy from looking at other people's wonderful holiday snaps or reading about their seemingly perfect lives on facebook. We must remember that Facebook is only an edited version of people's lives, and that many people only post the good stuff!

* Pinterest is bad for my health. I have pinned so many things that I would like to cook/make/sew that if I were to do all of them, I would be fully employed for the rest of my life. Some of the stuff on there makes me feels seriously inadequate!

* Online fraud. No matter how stringent virus protection and security is, there are people out there able to manipulate it, and there always will be. We have been victims of credit card fraud in the past, but thankfully I picked it up almost immediately due to being able to check our accounts online!

* And of course the big one for me - WILFING! I don't want to know the number of hours of my life I have lost to surfing the net aimlessly.

The positive impacts far outweigh the negatives though!

Our children are growing up, never having known a world without the Internet. Our 3 year old has been using my iphone and ipad since he was 1. He is fully competent at using BBC iplayer to watch a particular cbeebies programme. The older one, is addicted to youtube, where he watches lots of clips about moshi monsters. It seems to be intuitive to them. This is their world. A world where they have everything at their fingertips.

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