Time before “online”

An interesting thing happened to me at work today. A colleague asked me to search for some information about an event we held around the year 2000 and, knowing that our current website didn’t got back any further than 2002, I searched for the answer on the remnants of our old website. Unfortunately, the information wasn’t there either. In fact, there was no information dated before 2002.

This got me thinking about the time before “online”, and I found it really hard to think back to a time when I didn’t just grab the nearest device with Internet access to find the answers to my questions. These days, without even thinking of alternative methods, we just ask Google all of our questions.

I thought back to the late 90s and early “noughties”, and tried to remember what I was doing back then. I remember emailing people and having a certain amount of Internet access, but I also remember going to the library and looking things up in books.

What a different world we live in today! I honestly can’t remember the last time I went to a library to research something, and that makes me a little bit sad. The thing is though, the information held in libraries becomes outdated so quickly now, whereas the information online can be kept up-to-date, amended and corrected, in mere moments. Just look at Wikipedia.

The SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) protests have been in the news this week, and many of us witnessed the Wikipedia blackout in which content was blocked for 24 hours  in protest at proposed anti-piracy legislation in the US. Wikipedia asked, “Could you imagine a world without free knowledge“, but haven’t we always had access to free information through public and institutional libraries?

As much as I wholeheartedly support the protest, I do also wonder if people have forgotten the “good old days”. I realised that I almost had, and that was quite a scary realisation.

As for the information I was searching for at work, we may never find the answer. I don’t know if the organisation I work for even had a website before 2002 but, if they did, there doesn’t seem to be any record of it. There may be printed papers somewhere, but they will most likely be lost in the sands of time by now.

(Image source)


Social Networking your life away?

How many social networks do you belong to?  Can you count them on one hand?  I can’t…

Whether you’re Facebooked, Twittering, MySpaced out, Mixied up or Linked In, have you ever considered how much time you spend on these websites, and what they might actually be doing to your real social life?  I have, and I have become quite comfortable with my “online life” these days.  I think I’ve found a good balance between virtual and actual and, living in a different country and timezone to many of my friends, I have found that I just couldn’t live without social networks.  But to some, finding a happy balance between online world and real world can be a difficult task.

I check Facebook daily, even if it’s just to read the status updates of my friends (of which there are currently 152 – most of which I have met in real life, but not all), and I find that if I can’t get to a computer for some reason, I do begin to get a little anxious about what might be ‘going on’ on Facebook, without my being there to monitor it.  Unfortunately, my Japanese phone isn’t compatible with Facebook, so I can’t update my status from my cell phone like many of my friends do.  I recently read an article about a girl who tried to go ‘cold turkey’ and quit Facebook.  After just ten days she went back and reactivated her account.

My online life began with MySpace, back in 2006.  I was working in an office, and one of my friends there was obsessed with this website and kept showing it to me.  I had no interest and was a little wary of creating an online presence, but she convinced me it was a great way to make new friends and listen to cool music and, whaddya know, it was!  I was very cautious at first, and for a long time I insisted on using a picture of Nauscicaa as my profile picture, which attracted lots of anime geeks to my profile, but somehow felt safer than using a real picture of myself.

Eventually, my friends convinced me to use a real photo, and we even went out to have a ‘photo-shoot’ in our lunch break (which was actually a lot of fun!).  I used MySpace for a long time, and enjoyed starting a blog there, meeting new friends (many of which I have since met in real life and remain good friends), and discovering and listening to lots of great new music.

But MySpace seemed to die out a bit, and before I knew it all my friends were moving on to Facebook – the next big thing.  I stoically refused to join Facebook for the longest time, until one day I realised that none of my friends were ‘hanging out’ on MySpace anymore, and I would have to join Facebook if I wanted to keep up with them all.  At first I hated it, but now I’m not sure I can go without my daily fix.

These days I use Facebook and other social networking sites for two main purposes.  (1) To keep in touch with my friends and family, who are scattered over the globe, some of whom are too busy/lazy to write long emails, but will happily update their statuses or send me links to things I might find interesting. (2) To network my interests and promote my blogs.  I started writing blogs just for fun, but these days I want to be a bit more serious about writing things for people to read, and I’ve found that linking my blogs to sites such as Facebook can really help to increase my blog-traffic.

But I think we have to be careful.  During my ‘MySpace years’ I did go through a phase of being a bit too into it all, and I had to step back and think about my real life.  I was social networking my life away, at the expense of my real life. Social networking is all well and good as a tool to enhance your daily life, but don’t forget to go out and get a breath of unconnected, real-life fresh air occasionally… 😉