I was talking with my dad this evening about wanting to buy a MacBook Air and he got the brilliant idea to head over to the Apple store to get some hands-on playtime and expert opinions. After 20 minutes in the store, Dad and I decided that it wasn't a bad idea to go ahead and buy today. The Air was $101 off for Black Friday - a "promotional price reduction" (but never a "sale." Apple doesn't do "sales."). They threw in a printer for good measure. All the signs said, "Buy today!"
I'm in seventh heaven, even though the I won't actually switch to the new Air until Christmastime. The poor thing will have to sit in the basement unloved and unused until I've got the time to transfer all my files, but I can certainly wait for such a good thing.
So here I sit, spending a few moments with my new favorite 2.9 pounds of plastic, aluminum, and lithium polymer before it's goodbye for another three weeks. I'll survive.
As I was setting up Google Chrome on my computer, though, I stumbled across this highly entertaining and educational ebook called 20 Things I Learned About Browsers and the Web. One line really struck me, especially after my musings in my last post on the Internet:
"The movement of many of our daily tasks online enables us to live more fully in the real world."
The idea is intriguing: because we can pay bills online, make dinner reservations online, submit homework online, and check the score of the Mets game online, we have less to worry about offline. Cooking from AllRecipes.com is simpler, in theory, than looking up a Betty Crocker recipe in a book that cost you $17.98. Shopping online is, again in theory, less complicated than dragging your screaming toddler around Macy's.
Okay, sure. In some ways, the Internet really simplifies the daily processes. I am Wikipedia's #1 fan. I love reading the Times online. All this information is at our fingertips, just waiting for the right Google Search.
But while the Internet is really liberating in lots of ways, I actually feel like I lose a lot of autonomy to it. By no means do I consider myself a slave to the Internet, but having so much information so readily accessible means I'm less active about going out and looking for it.
For example, the Internet has radically changed the way college students write papers. While my parents were in college, writing a term paper involved trekking to the library, pulling dusty back issues of scholarly journals of the shelf, pouring over page after page looking for just the right word. Today, I can access a sizable portion of the materials for my own research from my laptop from the comfort of my own bed and use the handy dandy command+f function to search for keywords and phrases. From this angle, I'm apparently more "free" than my parents were; there is more information that is way more accessible to me.
But at the same time, how much do I let convenience restrict how adventurous I am, how much liberty I take in the real world? If all the information and services I could need are a click away, why would I ever even leave my house?
So the Internet provides a place where we're increasingly more free to say what we want however we want to and gives us a certain freedom in the real world, but the convenience of it all can limit and alter our interaction with that world.
The Internet is ultimately a tool we can use to expand our "freedom" (wow, what a loaded word) or limit it, but it's not inherently anything, right?