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Friday, 8 October 2010

YOU and the Age of The Internet - Part 2 of a Series


I was writing Part 1 of this article when I received a new email. It came in on my business account and figured it could be important. Of course it was a spammer trying for the hundredth to convince me to buy pig-dung futures in the Philippines as part of an investment strategy that couldn't miss. I'm afraid that I'll have to pass that very tempting offer. But it brings me to the salient part of this story. YOU. That's right, YOU. You have been named the Person of the Year by Time magazine for 2006. Every year, the editorial staff try to find the most important or influential individual for their year-end cover story. It's YOU this time because of the power of the internet. They explain that you benefit from the World Wide Web by helping to build a network of thoughts and ideas in the manner of websites that allow everyone to share. They note sites like YouTube, MySpace are typical of this digital democracy that appears to be part of a massive global experiment in bringing a sense of community to every sector of the planet. And for that, YOU get placed on their cover.

It's somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but they have a point. The internet has done something no other force up until now could do. It made information available to the masses on an immediate basis. Television gave us instant news, but nothing we could research. Libraries were built for that purpose. Now, with the WWW, we can grab a search engine, type in a keyword and have a plethora or results. Even the term, "to Google" made the most recent Webster's Dictionary as meaning "to research." The internet can make anyone famous. You can write a song, create a video, or type an article like this and have it seen by thousands or millions, depending on which site it's published. But the net is part of a larger picture. A picture of technological change.

Keeping up with the changes are what we are facing. How will we adapt? Now that more people get their news on the internet than from any other source, we have to consider the implications. Rumors and misinformation are rampant. Anyone can start up a website and stick anything on it, whether it's true or not. Fake pictures and videos of celebrities abound. Photoshop has become the new cosmetic tool of our generation. Every published picture has been doctored in some way to rid the person of wrinkles, age spots, and even pounds. So what can you believe on the net? For all you know, you could be communicating with a 12 year old kid who decided to start a website for just a few bucks a month. You can be of any age, buy a domain name, a cheap host and begin a career. It's that easy and that scary.

But, after all, it's all about You, once again quoting Time Magazine.

So our lives are changed forever, Paper mail has been replaced by email. Our junk mails has become spam. Greeting cards are now virtual cards. If our privacy is invaded, it's by phishers. Utility bills are sent and paid online. We do our banking on the net. We can even be diagnosed online by a nurse or doctor after asking health-related question. Attorneys and other professionals have places to find legal answers. My daughter has online college courses where she never sees the instructor and does her homework online as well. There are may web-based Universities and technical schools and it doesn't end there.

In the world of business, virtual storefronts are everywhere. I buy from Amazon and never see a store clerk. My wife and I have a website where we will never see a customer. But we still provide a valuable health information service and so it doesn't matter. You can be purchasing a part from India or Indiana for all you know. As long as it accepts PayPal and you get the part for your 1956 Chevy, who cares? The net has opened up new markets for products and services that didn't exist a decade ago. And everyone is the better for it. There are more choices and therefore more competition which eventually lowers prices.

It's what happened when Sears and Roebuck began their catalog on the late 1800's. Suddenly the farmer who was hundreds of miles from a town, could order a new stove and have it shipped directly to them. They shopped on the ranch with ease and comfort. It didn't matter how far away the seller was located. Now catalog shopping has moved online, but the same principle applies. Anyone from anywhere can buy anything at anytime. The net has made us more savvy shoppers and educated us too. Now we can take the time to check out the item and insure it does exactly what we want. The idea of learning from the internet is the best part of our cyber world. Hopefully, that will lead to breakthroughs in medicine and science as universities and colleges share knowledge with private institutions doing similar research and development. Then, truly, You will be the person of the year or even the decade.








Jeffrey Hauser was a sales consultant for the Bell System Yellow Pages for nearly 25 years. He graduated from Pratt Institute with a BFA in Advertising and has a Master's Degree in teaching. He had his own advertising agency in Scottsdale, Arizona and ran a consulting and design firm, ABC Advertising. He has authored 6 books and a novel, "Pursuit of the Phoenix." His latest book is, "Inside the Yellow Pages" which can be seen at his website, http://www.poweradbook.com Currently, he is the Marketing Director for thenurseschoice.com, a Health Information and Doctor Referral site.


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