This month's ActiveRain challenge is entitled "Things we have lost to the Internet." The instructions are to write about the biggest change the Internet has made on our business.
I am not going to be focusing on how the Internet has changed my real estate business, since I am one of those who joined real estate after computers were readily available and phones were more than phones. So instead, I'm going to share a few thoughts that popped into my head when I think of how the Internet has changed life over the years. And these are just a few examples.
When I first started working in the late 1970's, technology was much different than it is today. For example:
We used to use manual typewriters where you would type a line of text, then push the carriage over to the left (with a resounding "bing") and then type the next line. We'd have liquid paper nearby in case we made a mistake. And we'd have to use carbon paper in between sheets of paper if we were going to need to keep copies. And if we made a mistake we'd have to whiteout each page before fixing. Accuracy counted!
In between then and now:
I was thrilled to use my first electric typewriter where you didn't have to stop at the end of a line of text but could keep going. AND you could even backup and correct a mis-typed word. This made typing much easier! But you'd still have to do every document separately. In other words, it wasn't a word processing machine, but rather just a typewriter made easier.
And then there was the Mag Card machine! This was very similar to an IBM Selectric typewriter, but it was actually a word processing marvel at the time. If there was a letter we would need to type multiple times but with changes to the address, or dates or other details, we could type the template and save it on a magnetic card. The next time we were going to type the same letter, we would put the card in, make whatever changes we needed, and it would print out on the paper. That was a huge step forward for those of us who needed to type documents!
But there was still no "internet" - so how did the Internet change this simple task?
There are desktop computers, laptop computers, tablet devices and phones, all of which are capable of allowing us to easily write letters or documents of any kind. If we type with a keyboard, anytime we make an error, a red line lets us know we goofed. We can easily go back and fix things, change the order of words, remove or add paragraphs. Once whatever we are preparing is complete, then we can decide whether to print it, and if we do, how many copies and which pages. Not only is accuracy no longer necessary, it is also not important to have an outline ready before hand. Just let the words flow. AND not only do you not have to be accurate, you don't even have to type anymore. Many of our tools allow us to use our voice to do the typing. Now that's a big difference!
(Note: While the above didn't specifically refer the Internet, the devices that are used to type now were developed because of the Internet. For example, computers are what the Internet runs on, and are how we access the Internet data!)
Imagine this! A telephone was a relatively heavy device that either sat on a desk or was attached to the wall. There was a handset that you would hold up to your ear to listen and talk. And there was a wire that connected the handset to the actual telephone device.
When someone wanted to call you, they'd usually look your phone number up in a phone book. That was this very large paper book that was published by Ma Bell (the specific company depended on where you lived). You'd search for people's last name in alphabetical order, and their first names in alphabetical order. Then you'd use the phone to dial the seven-digit number. Dial means you'd stick your finger in the hole next to "8" for example to dial the number 8. And the dial would click 8 times as it went around the circle. Then you'd pick your next number.
Once you got on the phone and were talking to someone, no one else could call your number. If they tried to call, they'd get a "busy" signal. And they wouldn't be able to get through until you hung up. There was no way to leave a message.
Oh and if you were sitting at the dinner table with your family and the phone rang? Well, in my house you weren't allowed to get the phone during dinner time. And there was no way to know who was calling. And there was no such thing as an answering machine. So you'd let the phone ring and wonder who it was and whether they would call back.
Oh, and there was no such thing as privacy. The phone was not usually movable so you'd have to talk in front of whoever was around. Whispering was not uncommon.
We walk around with a device in our pocket that's smaller than a deck of cards. If we want to talk to someone (and we no longer have to), we can pull the phone out, hit the voice icon, and say "Call Charlie" and the phone will dial a number for us that we no longer have to memorize. If Charlie isn't there, he'll know we called even if we don't leave a message because he'll see (at a minimum) our number flash on the phone. Or he'll see our picture and our name.
If we don't feel like talking but want to say something, we can just send a quick text message. Or if we want to talk to someone AND see them, we can use the video options. If we want privacy we can take the call wherever we want. But the craziest thing of all? It's not a phone we're talking on. It's our own personal computer that we keep in our pocket.
Because not only can we talk to someone and leave a message, but we can: sign documents, look up football scores, watch a video, make a video, listen to music, take a photo, open a lockbox, find a restaurant, read reviews, do social media, find out what altitude we're at, get directions, watch the news, check the weather forecast, connect to a drone, manage our calendar, look up a plant or footprint to find out what it is and check email -- to name just a FEW of the options available to us.
I have a million more thoughts about what technology and the Internet have done... but I'm going to switch gears just a bit and turn to:
You basically met someone to date in one of two ways.
First, you would meet them in person. You might meet a potential dating partner at church, the store, school, work, or at an event. And in the old days, you might be first attracted to them physically or verbally. Maybe they said something you thought was interesting and you wanted to know more. Or maybe they were hunky or hot and you wanted to get to know them better. But it was all done in person and in "real" life.
Second option, someone introduced you. Your family or friends would know of someone and you either met in person before the first date, or you met on a "blind" date after being assured this person had a 'great personality!" So you'd meet for dinner or something else and get to know each other a little bit. More often than not, these get-togethers didn't seem to work too well, but once in a while they did.
And that was typically it! But what this meant is that everyone you had the chance to meet was usually from your area, or in some way had something in common in terms of workplace, etc. Your options to meet people in other locations or in other industries was relatively small.
While the above options are still in play, there are many more ways to meet a potential significant other now that we have the Internet.
For one, because we are connected to people around the world through the Internet and various devices, we could get to know someone without ever meeting in person. All of us on ActiveRain know how well we now know people we have never met. We can talk on the phone, write emails, write our thoughts that can be seen by anyone, talk on zoom, etc. Love can also blossom through the same methods. Perhaps we are working in an organization with multiple locations and we deal with someone on a regular basis in another state. A few work-related video conversations could turn into a desire to learn more and before you know it there are sparks flying over those Internet lines.
And you don't even have to have a work or school connection to find love. Because of the Internet there are many different dating sites which allow people who might be in totally different fields or live in different locations, to find each other. Perhaps people who wouldn't ever have met had it not been for a profile on EHarmony.com, match.com, Tinder, OKCupid or any one of a huge selection of dating sites that are only possible because of the Internet.
I should know. I met my husband, a seafaring, boat building, novel writing, hiker of a college professor who lived an hour north of me through EHarmony. As a corporate manager raising two teenagers with a very busy and hectic life, we probably wouldn't have met without this Internet tool (although apparently we were both in the same spot for a week in the late 1970s and probably walked right by each other). So the Internet certainly made the odds of us meeting a lot better.
So is the Internet a good thing or bad thing?
In general, I think the opportunities presented by the Internet in terms of business and life are positive. What's not always positive is the way humans have reacted to those technological changes. For example, things like knowing how to spell are often no longer important because machines tell us how to spell. I don't think that's a good thing. Along the same vein, I've noticed that many cashiers don't know how to subtract $4.72 from $5.00 because Internet-connected machines tell them how much change to give so they don't need to learn math. That's not good either. And many people tend to pay attention to their phones INSTEAD of the people they are with. That's definitely not good. And instead of going out and exploring, many people just jump into their devices and pull up a YouTube video. Not good.
So while the options now available to us through this thing called the Internet can be amazing, we all should set boundaries regarding their use, so we have plenty of time left to learn, grow, explore and meet people in the "real world." That's where life really happens.
And that is my entry to ActiveRain's Things we have lost to the Internet challenge.