A few days ago I was asked how the Internet has changed my life, apart from it being the reason why I no longer work as a veterinarian. I spent 35 years of my life without having access to the Internet, so there are indeed a few important changes that I can talk about. If you wonder why this topic is worth a blog post you probably grew up with the Net and therefore have no idea how life would be without it.
So how did the Net change my life?
Google – Technorati – RSS Feeds
I have not been in a library since a long time. When I did the research for my doctoral thesis, I spent several weeks there. Not only provide search engines and online directories instant access to a huge amount of information, they also let me ask questions that I would not have asked back in 1975 simply because it was too difficult or impossible to find the answer. You either had to know someone who knows, find a book, or search a library. Try that with a question like “Who can share his experience with this cassette player?” or “How can I make food for the tadpoles that I just brought home?“. No answer was available for the first question so I had to buy the player and hope for the best. After searching hundreds of index cards I finally found an answer to the tadpole question in a library. Today I would just go here and here and enjoy the rest of the day listening to the player while watching the tadpoles eat.
I shop online. Books, CDs and DVDs, electronic equipment, computers and other hardware, furniture, printer ink, freezer, fridge, washing machine, clothes, you name it. The lesser the need to actually “see and feel” a product, the more likely I order it online. The actual buying process is not the important part though. Searching and selecting products takes most of the time, and this has become much easier since user recommendations, product reviews, and price comparison engines became widely available on the Web.
Banking and payments
I have not been in a bank since years. I recently changed my bank account because the old bank cached in some 120 Euros per year for basic charges and money transfers. My new account is at an Internet bank, including online trading, and 2 credit (actually debit) cards for me and my wife. It all comes at a very competitive price. No basic charges, free transfers, and no fees for the cards. 0+0+0=0. No bank counters anymore, but I don’t miss them anyway. If I still need a “real credit card”, I can get one from eBay or elsewhere at a better price than my local bank can offer.
For my online shopping I use PayPal whenever possible, and if the amount is small, I have a Click&Buy micropayment account which I use for things like iTunes.
What would I do without email, instant messaging, and VoIP? Probably I would talk to friends and family less. Communicating over the Internet is free, fast, and convenient. Needless to say that I never want to go back to letters and regular long distance phone calls.
I’m still experimenting with “the social”, but given the amount of time I spend on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook it has definitely changed my life. There is no easier way to keep in touch. If only more of my friends and relatives would use these sites.