“If my generation is remembered for anything, it will be as the last one that remembers the world before the internet.” – Lev Grossman, author.
An unconnected world is almost unimaginable. Some of my closest friends live continents away, I order things on Amazon all the time, and like everyone else, I struggle to pull my eyes from the constant stream of social media and online content.
The internet has become an integral part of our daily lives, from personal to social to business, it has woven its cables around everything we do.
Yet it wasn’t all that long ago that the internet was something restricted to militaries and universities, the idea of it being in every home, phone, and pocket, was a far-flung dream. Even I remember growing up in the 90s and early 2000s with the internet being something I had access to only on rare occasions (and I don’t consider myself that old). But just how much has it changed things? Well, let’s take a look…
For the individual, the internet has redefined how we connect to the world around us. International connectivity has allowed us to stay in touch with family and find friends and lovers irrespective of time or distance.
The idea of a ‘fandom’ has been reshaped, with the internet making it infinitely easier to find those of similar interests and hobbies, letting people find communities in which they feel welcome even if its members are across oceans and borders.
That’s not even mentioning the impact of social media websites such as Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok and Facebook. Nor does it go into my preferred form of internet contact, video games, an industry that online multiplayer has shaped to an unimaginable degree.
More than 63.5% of the world is connected to the internet consistently now, with an average of 6 hours and 37 minutes spent using the internet every day. With 50 million pieces of content shared, and 867 million tweets made every day, that hardly even seems like enough time to keep up. But that 6 hours is spent far differently than it once would have been. (Sources Datareportal and Businessdit)
We’ve lost our patience.
Immediacy is the name of the game, with any information, entertainment or application available at our fingertips, we expect what we want, where we want it, how we want it, and when we want it. Control is in the consumers hands to decide what media they interact with, sculpting their social media feeds and streaming algorithms to create curated selections of what they enjoy. I couldn’t imagine just turning on the TV and being happy with whatever happens to be playing at the time anymore.
Perhaps even more than personal life, the business sphere has changed forever. Not only in the introduction of innumerable new industries (ISPs, influencers, online streaming, social media platforms, online retailing and more.), but also in the way more traditional businesses interact with consumers and each other.
The rise of the internet has allowed businesses to reach customers they would never have previously had access to. From small businesses selling handmade goods on Etsy to Amazon, which makes around $4,722 USD every second. online is now the preferred method of shopping and communication between customers and businesses.
This includes almost all marketing as well. Once upon a time, taking an ad out in your local paper was a sufficient method of marketing, maybe getting one on the TV or radio if you were feeling ambitious. Now there are more avenues of contact between businesses and customers than one could ever dream of. We’re inundated with advertising, and many find themselves seeking ways to block some of it out, or at least curating their ads to things they want to see.
The internet allows stocks to be traded instantly, let’s you purchase goods from anywhere in the world, and allows businesses in the most remote locations still operate effectively at an international level. Without the internet, the economy as we know it, would collapse in a matter of hours.
To go without…
To lose the internet would be to lose so much of what we just accept as fact in the current day. Online shopping, social media, streaming, influencers, fandoms, esports, online gaming, and so much more that it would be hard to capture it all. The impact would be immediate and cataclysmic. Sure, among us we can choose to disengage from the internet, in all honesty it’s healthy to do so from time to time, but society, cannot.
Few things have changed daily life in such a drastic way so rapidly as the internet. Indeed, the only comparison I could think of would be phones, or rather smartphones, which only became widely available in 2007, but now more than 92.5% of internet users access the internet through their phone.
Each of these innovations is, in truth, relatively recent. As said by Lev Grossman at the beginning of this article, there’s no shortage of those who still remember a world without the internet. It has come on from a military project to a worldwide societal shift in only a few decades, and that leaves me excited. Because if the internet and smartphones came on so quickly, so recently, you have to wonder, with the rate innovation is going. What’s next?