Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thanks to a Mouse, its a Small, Small World

The Internet is an interesting thing.  With the click of a mouse one can find just about anything their heart desires- online encyclopedias, the latest edition of your hometown newspaper, hotel reservations, cute shoes, or even a spouse- all can be found on the world wide web. 

Technology has come a long way since I sat in front of my first computer- a Commodore 64 back in the fourth grade in Washington, Maine.  I still remember staring at the black screen with alien green font as I clicked away on the keyboard.  Later in high school we were required to pass a "computer literacy test" which essentially meant we had to prove that we could turn on a computer, create and save a document, then shut down the clunky machine.  Back then our typing classes (probably the single most useful class I took in high school) were held in front of old electric typewriters.  In college the Internet was beginning to appear on campus but its use was mainly confined to those students majoring in computer science.  My first computer was an Apple II, a cube of a computer that made typing papers easier but the only thing it connected to was a dot-matrix printer.  By the time I graduated, Mount Holyoke had Pine, a basic system that allowed for some rudimentary email communication.

Fast forward a few (or more) years and it seems as though the entire world has gone high tech.  Thanks to technology the entire world feels like a smaller place.  We may physically be living in Albania but thanks to Facebook, Skype, and the abundance of online stores we are more connected now than we ever have been.  We regularly talk to our families back in the States via Skype and receive play by play updates on friends' lives via Facebook.  We can buy just about anything online and have it shipped to us.  I've discovered that many on-line stores actually have a better selection of products than their sticks-and-bricks counterparts plus my transactions can be completed without having to fight for a parking spot.  I realized just how well connected we were when Glenn and I were coming up with his most recent stateside shopping list.  As I struggled to identify items he could buy in the States and carry back in his suitcase, I realized that there really wasn't anything I needed or even wanted.  (A cup of Starbucks doesn't count since he couldn't get it past TSA security).

I'll admit that the pace of my online shopping has accelerated since we arrived in Albania.  Instead of dropping into the store to pick up an item I fill my online shopping cart with the needed item plus a few additions.  After all, if you reach that critical price point in your basket you qualify for free shipping!  Of course, I must wait a few weeks before my purchases arrive but I get the same thrill from the email announcing I have a package that I did when I saw those little yellow slips in my MHC mailbox.

Some would argue that all of this technology is actually making the world a more detached place.  After all, you can accomplish so many things without actually talking to another human being.  I would argue just the opposite is true.  Thanks to technology we can meet people we would otherwise never know, we can learn about far away places without spending the money to travel there, and we can talk to our friends around the world.  The Internet could actually be viewed as a great equalizer.  If you have access to the Internet you have access to the world.  I realize that not every place or person has this access, but the number that do is increasing on a daily basis.  This means that eventually we will all be able to learn about one another and share ideas and we could even all end up wearing the same pair of shoes.

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