Remember the sound of a dial-up modem? If so, you probably belong to the generation of people who can still recall a pre-Internet world.
The Internet, at least the modern version we know, turned 25 this year, and its effect on our lives simply cannot be understated. Two-hundred seventy-nine million Americans, (over 85 percent of the US population), now have access to the Internet. Globally, that figure is a staggering 2.9 billion people. In a mere quarter century, the technology has transformed the way humankind works, learns, communicates, shares, connects with one another—and much, much more.
So profound and far-reaching has its impact been that many of us today can’t even recall what life was like before the Internet.
I recently met with writer and artist Douglas Coupland (you know, the guy who wrote Generation X and always seems to be a step ahead of the cultural curve) about his latest book, “Kitten Clone: Inside Alcatel-Lucent.” The book raises some fascinating questions about how the Internet is changing the way we think and behave. While discussing these themes, Douglas and I found ourselves asking each other an interesting question: “Do you remember your pre-Internet self?”
It’s actually a tough thing wrap your mind around, and I had to really stop and think to remember my life pre-Internet.
It turns out that some of my most vivid memories come from a trip I took last year. I went to a tiny rural beach town in Mexico where I spent two weeks in internet minimalism mode. During that time, I learned some important lessons on work-life balance.
More significantly, I also realized it’s important to acknowledge just how powerful and beneficial Internet technology has been to myself and society at large. When you get down to it, the Internet has changed—and in some cases revolutionized—major aspects of our existence: from finance and healthcare to entertainment, shopping, travel, socializing and even romance. On a personal level, the Internet allowed me to become an entrepreneur and start the business that would ultimately become Hootsuite. Deeper still, it’s connected me with events and people halfway around the world at a level that would not have been possible even 30 years ago.
But not everyone seems to agree. You see a lot of people nowadays taking a stand against the constant ‘plugged-in’ lifestyle, arguing that things like the web and social media are making us unhappier, attention deficient, even crazy.
It’s become trendy to leave Twitter and Facebook; there’s even an official Quit Facebook Day. But are people really willing to give it all up and go back to an Internetless world? I’m not so sure. At this point in time, it’s like saying you want to go and live in the jungle without the aid of modern medicine—but what would you really do if you contracted a serious, life-threatening infection while out there?
What about you? Do you remember your pre-internet self? Would you go back to a world without the Internet?
By Ryan Holmes, Hootsuite’s CEO
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