I’ve been ruminating on some things lately. Having a kid has made me more contemplative of life in general, I think, but I’ve also been considering my job and where things are going with my life. Not in a bad way, mind you, but we’re not as financially well-off as we’d like. Who is, right? But compared to many of my peers, my path has kind of meandered and I feel like I’ve traded some interesting life experiences for economic prosperity. And now I’m trying to make up for it, in a way.
At any rate, I have a lot to be thankful for. I think as a Christian this is especially important to remember, but everyone regardless of creed would do well to count their blessings from time to time.
Alex of Amatopia got me thinking the other day, about the Internet in particular. It’s something he’s been talking about recently, and on Twitter he asked whether people felt the Internet were a net good or bad in their lives.
Now I’m not sure such a thing can be determined, quite frankly. Would the world be better off without electricity? If Nixon hadn’t won the presidency, or if he hadn’t been found out in the Watergate scandal? Would my life be better if I had pursued a different career, or if I had Mexican food for lunch yesterday instead of a sandwich?
And of course if we’re being intellectually honest about this, “good” and “bad” and “better” should be recognized as distinct from more or less convenient.
Do I lead a “better” life because I can do a Google search to access something approaching the sum of humanity’s knowledge in seconds? It’s certainly helpful. But does it make me a better man? Does it bring me closer to God?
I honestly don’t know. As I said to Alex on Twitter and as he notes in the above-linked blog post, the Internet is a tool to be used for both good and evil. Most applications are probably morally benign or banal.
But I’ve been thinking about how it’s improved my life, and decided to list some of the ways. If nothing else, sometimes these thoughts need to be forced out and formed to word. It’s too easy to yield to anger and despair and bitterness in this world. So sometimes I need to count my blessings:
1. My Family
This one is pretty straightforward. I met my wife through online dating. If not for the Internet, I wouldn’t have met her, and my son wouldn’t exist.
The Internet has been a real boon in my life for keeping in touch with the people who are important to me. After college, I lived in Japan for several years. Because of the Internet, I was able to keep in touch with my family and friends. I recorded videos of my life there to share with them online. I frequently talked and played games with Kaiju. Hell, I’m talking to him online right now as I write this.
My wife and son have been in Thailand for the past three months visiting her family, and I’m so grateful that I can use FaceTime to see them almost every day.
And through this blog, I get to interact with you fine people!
I can’t say that anyone I’ve met online, aside from my wife, has become one of my best friends, but I’ve made some good ones and otherwise forged some solid connections. Back in the Age of the Message Board, I befriended a few people who I still correspond with now and then. We’ve exchanged baby shower gifts, for Pete’s sake.
Nathan (Gita Bushi) is a good example of someone I’m grateful to have met online, as are a number of other people from the blasted landscape called Twitter. I’ve met some people who share my tastes in fiction and are of like mind in theological matters, and it’s been a blessing to know them.
4. Exploded Marketplaces
You no longer have to go to the library or the bookstore to get books (though they can still be fun places to visit). You can buy books online for mere dollars and have them arrive at your doorstep within days. You can download e-books online, in some places for free! Throughout much of history, literacy was a privilege many common people missed out on, and books were treasures. In this respect, we truly possess an embarrassment of riches through the Internet.
The big publishers’ and retailers’ ability to gatekeep has been significantly diminished, now that anyone can put out their own book on Amazon or another online platform. There’s a lot more out there, for good or ill!
Don’t even get me started on video games! The rise of Steam was a real gain for gamers. There’s a lot of crap out there, sure, but there have been a ton of excellent independently published video games now, and consumers are no longer at the mercy of AAA studios and their myriad loot box variations.
And of course there’s media. I’m grateful I can hop around the Internet gleaning news and information from a ton of online sources rather than having to rely on a handful of TV networks and newspapers to tell me what they think I need to know.
Sliding into this from the last item, I’ve been afforded many opportunities in my life because of the Internet. I worked for a stretch as a contractor for a small publishing company, and I did all my work remotely from home. After returning from Japan, I also did a few jobs translating from Japanese to English, done online.
(Update): And geez, how could I forget – I’m a published SFF author because I was able to submit a story online to Cirsova magazine!
And several months ago my wife and I started a family business that’s run primarily online (still not ready to go into the particulars at this point). We are actively improving our lives and working to better our family’s well-being because of the opportunities provided by online marketplaces.
I should add that almost all of the jobs I’ve had since college were advertised online and were applied to online. Of course not all of us have to worry about this (I think many jobs are still gotten through connections), but can you imagine having to go back to searching the newspapers for job ads?
The Internet has definitely had some negative impact on my life, as well, but I’m not going to dwell on that right now. For the time being, I’m grateful.