There are days when I believe what I've lost to computers, thanks to the Internet, is my sanity. Sometimes this machine really drives me wild.
But... what have I really lost?
Privacy, just like everyone else. And for the most part, we did it willingly.
Those of us who have websites - or who belong to Active Rain - post our biographies for any and all to see. People who play on Facebook, etc. fill out profiles that offer up details on everything from hobbies to tastes in music and food. Then some of them post intimate details about their health, their families, and even their finances.
I do have a Facebook account, but have not shared all the details of my life.
In addition to that, anyone willing to pay for the information can learn far more from websites that compile everything about us that's ever been of public record - and some that has not.
All that sharing leads to threats...
Identity theft has become big business for criminals, and those who share too much make it far too easy for them.
We've also lost time...
Who hasn't gotten wrapped up in reading articles or blog posts - going from one to another while an hour or two slips by unnoticed? It's also easy to waste time playing games, listening to favorite songs, or shopping.
How about money?
It sure is easy to spend it on line!
But what have we gained?
The ability to stay in touch with loved ones. I have two sons who would be hard to reach if I could only phone them during the hours they're at home. Now, as long as there's a cell signal, I can find them anywhere.
The ability to find and reconnect with friends from years ago. We can find high school or college friends, old neighbors, former co-workers, etc.
Speed of communication, for sure. While in many cases, I do prefer the phone, being able to instantly send written words back and forth via email is a blessing.
Information. Remember when we needed to own an encyclopedia or make a trip to a library to learn about people, inventions, historical events, etc.? And then, the information wasn't current.
Well, if you're young, perhaps you don't remember. But that's the way it was not ALL that many years ago.
While we do need to be careful of our sources, we can look up almost anything from the comfort of home. Or - for all you smart phone users - the comfort of anywhere you happen to be. I love it that when I'm curious about something, or when I want to remember the words to an old song, the answers are only minutes away.
What I've gained personally is a career I love...
After 15 or so years as an agent and then an owner/broker, what I had come to love most about my work was marketing. I loved writing letters, ads, and our monthly newsletter. I loved dreaming up ways to put our brokerage in the newspaper (for free) each week.
And then one day I received an email from AWAI - the American Writers and Artists Institute. More messages followed, and I became interested. They said I could learn to be a copywriter, and I decided to agree with them.
I sent away for the home-study course, and every night after work I'd study - and write. Michael Masterson said that to become good at something, you needed to put in 1,000 hours, so I made a chart and marked off the hours I spent writing each day.
To make a long story short, I loved it, and kept at it. Twice I even traveled to Florida to attend copywriting bootcamps.
But if it hadn't been for the Internet, what would I have done with it?
How would I have found clients? I could have placed ads in magazines or somehow gotten addresses and written to people who might need a copywriter.
I have a feeling the career would have fizzled. No one in my small town would have hired a writer. Not when the people at the newspaper would write their ads for free. At that time, no real estate agents did their own marketing. The brokerages placed ads in the local newspaper and in homes magazines, and that was it. The other agencies didn't even have websites. (Yep, we were first, thanks to my son, who insisted.)
Until our agency came along, nobody wrote prospecting letters or monthly newsletters, either. (And they still don't, for the most part.)
Thanks to the Internet, I have clients all over the U.S. and a few in other countries.
Also thanks to the Internet, I have friends I have never met and likely will never meet in person. One of my favorite long-term clients/friends is in Southern Florida - about as far from North Idaho as you can get and still stay in the "Lower 48."
Thanks to those clients turned friends, I now know more about the real estate markets in Florida, California, Texas, etc. than I do about our local market.
The conclusion - I gained a lot more than I lost, thanks to the Internet.
I'm forever grateful to the Internet for making it possible for me to enjoy a career as a real estate copywriter, and to make new friends across the country.