Yesterday I went book shopping.
A friend had recommended a specific book on children's health, and I really wanted to read it, so I searched for it at every local library branch. None of them had it. I decided to buy it. I found it at several different stores. I compared prices and quality; I looked at several similar books on the subject; I ended up buying a large number of books including the original one I searched for-- all from different stores, all for the best price, some used, some new. While I was at it, I also finished buying my daughter's birthday presents, including a Disney movie that is currently "in the vault."
I did all of this without leaving my home-- in fact, without leaving my desk.
I'm trying to imagine how many days this whole process would have taken, and how much it would have cost me, without the internet. Would I even have been able to find those books? Especially used? I know I wouldn't have been able to find the Disney movie anywhere, especially for that price. Now I get to wait comfortably while they are all delivered right to my home.
Today I've already communicated with several friends, all of whom live at least 50 miles away. I've RSVPed to weddings, graduations, and charity parties. I've conducted business, and checked off the RSVPs for my daughter's birthday party. I've checked the bank account, the credit card statement, and paid some bills. All that took me, I don't know, maybe half an hour to forty-five minutes? And cost me absolutely nothing. (Well, OK, I had to use money to pay the bills, but I didn't have to use a stamp, an envelope, or a check...)
I have to admit, when I hear people maligning the internet, I can't relate. As the mother of two small children with no car of my own and a TV whose antenna has apparently failed to find any local channels, when I think of life without the internet, it might as well be life in Rapunzel's tower. Without the internet I would never know what world events were happening, what tomorrow's weather forecast was, or where any of my friends and family were or what was happening in their lives. Many people who don't like the internet accuse it of destroying face-to-face friendships and local-based community. This is a big debate to which I can't do justice in this post, but I will probably write a follow-up entry addressing it. For now I would simply argue that, if it weren't for the internet, I would have no friendships or community at all (or at least they would be EXTREMELY limited), and some is better than none, right?
But what about phone calls? you might ask. I get my phone statements, pay my phone bill, and monitor my cell phone minutes (to make sure I don't go over) online, so no internet, no phone.
What about letters? None of them would even have my mailing address if I hadn't e-mailed it to them, and besides, if I had to pay nearly half a dollar every time I wanted to contact anyone, I'd be broke pretty quickly. (Did you hear the USPS is raising postage... again?!) Also, since I rarely have time or transportation to stop by the post office, I've often used the internet to calculate and buy postage when I do send something postal.
Basically, the internet is an integral part of my life. Without it, everything would stop, and I would probably go crazy...
Earlier this month I started planning my daughter's birthday party. Knowing the themes I wanted would probably be impossible to find locally, I bought most of the party things online: plates, party favors, craft materials to use in our party activities. However, I chose to wait and buy some things at a local store. "Surely," I thought, "Wal-Mart has crepe and balloons for a lower price, and I wouldn't have to pay shipping."
Unfortunately, local stores don't come with search engines. It took me half an hour just to find the place where the crepe and balloons should be, and then, of course, Wal-Mart had every color of crepe and balloon except the two colors that I needed.
Next time I'll just buy everything on the internet.