Take a second, and try to imagine the world without the Internet. Kind of tough, huh.
Even if you were around before the Internet started commercializing in the mid-90s, it's hard to remember how you managed to get through the day. Remember when your parents had those bulky maps in their car? Or maybe you had them too? Remember when easy access to recipes meant you needed a cookbook? Remember when you walked into a travel agency and explained to them what kind of trip you wanted to book? Remember when you couldn't snap a photo and share it with a gazillion family members and friends? Remember when knowledge and information wasn't at the tip of your fingertips?
If you were born circa 2000, you're around 13 and may remember some time when you couldn't watch Baby Einstein or Star Wars on an iPad and your parents had to stick DVDs in for you to watch your shows on-demand. If you were born after 2010, you're pretty much swiping away and accessing your shows on-demand by yourself.
The Internet, for better or worse, has changed almost every single aspect of our lives.
This past week the Web celebrated its 25th birthday, so here are just 25 of the ways that the world is now different because of the World Wide Web:
1. Revolutions can start in no time
Perhaps the most important and lasting impact of the Internet is the speed at which people can now come together to protest thanks to social networks, especially Twitter.
In the summer of 2009, hundreds of thousands of Iranians demonstrated against the election that handed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad an improbably lopsided victory.
Iran tried to shut Twitter down, but the site found a way through and was credited with helping to bring news of the event to American audiences.
While Ahmadinejad stayed in power, Twitter would prove even more effective two years later, when it helped oust Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
2. We almost never have to leave the house to go shopping
The biggest impact on our daily lives, though, has been how easy it is now to get anything we want, at almost any time. We get amazing convenience without ever having to put on our pants!
The estimate of U.S. retail e-commerce sales for the fourth quarter of last year was $69.2 billion, up 3.4% year to year, according a report from to The Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce.
Consumers spent a grand total of $601.8 billion over the holidays.
This has taken a huge toll on brick and mortar store, including Barnes and Noble, which is closing oer 200 of its stores over the next decade. Staples is closing 225 of its stores, and RadioShack is closing over 1,000.
At least they lasted longer than poor Borders!
3. We don't have to be afraid of dating strangers we meet online
This past Sunday, I celebrated my eight-year anniversary with my girlfriend. We met online, through a mutual friend and not through a dating site, but I remember how in 2006 there were still many people (my mother included) who simply didn't understand that you could meet (and fall for) someone over the Internet.
Now, it’s commonplace. At least two of my friends are getting married this year to girls they met on a dating site. According to Statistic Brain, 17% of the marriages that took place in 2013 were couples that met on a dating site.
4. You will probably never need a travel agent
The best thing that the Internet has done, in my opinion, is make booking travel so much easier simply by cutting out the middle man. It's hard to even imagine a world where you had to go and talk to someone who would then book your travel for you.
What a waste of time!
Encompassing airlines, hotel chains, and online travel agencies, online travel is now a multi-trillion dollar industry.
I hope that anyone who was hoping to be a travel agent also had a backup plan.
5. The demise of the office
Since the beginning, the Web has always been about communication, making it easier for people on different sides of the country, or planet, to connect.
That has translated into a relatively new phenomenon: telecommuting, which grew nearly 80% from 2005 to 2012, according to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com. 2.6% of the U.S. employee workforce now considered their home to be their primary place of work.
Not every company has embraced their remote workers, but many have seen the cost benefits of not having to pay for an office space while still getting the same work out of their employees.
6. For better or worse, we have become our own doctors
Remember that girlfriend I mentioned a couple of numbers ago? She has chronic Lyme Disease, something that you really cannot imagine the horror of unless you've seen it up close.
The most fascinating thing to me about the disease is the community that she has found online of people going through the same thing she is. These are people who are willing to lend a hand emotionally, as well as offer advice on what treatments worked best for them, as well as which doctors they liked the best.
Through the Internet, she has found a support system, as well as a whole bunch of information, that she otherwise would never have had access to it.
7. Your resume doesn't mean that much anymore
You know that piece of paper that you spend all those hours pouring over, trying to get right? Yeah, your resume is only one factor that can get you a job now, and it is far from the most important.
So what are they looking at? Your social media presence. In fact, upwards of 90% of employers screen their employees on social media, including your LinkedIn connections, tweets and Facebook posts.
Don't think it matters? Roughly 10% of applicants are rejected because of something they did on social media.
You might want to go clean up your Twitter now.
8. You don't have to go to high school reunion to see who got fat
So, your racist/juvenile/drunken Twitter rantings have made you unemployable. In years past, your 28 year-old self would have been freaking out because it's been 10 years since you graduated high school and your reunion is coming.
What will you tell all the people who voted you "class clown" or "most likely to succeed"?
Fear not, because Facebook has made these reunions obsolete. Whereas future generations would have to wait years in order to see who got fat, and who got bald, Facebook is like a high school reunion every single day, one where you are constantly reminded that the people who you thought were dumb as rocks 10 years ago have now begun to propagate.
9. Television doesn't follow your rules, man. It goes where it wants to!
You know those annoying people who snottily respond to your questions about any currently airing show, "Oh, I don't own a television"?
Now, thanks to the Internet, you can safely say, "You're streaming episodes of Doctor Who and Downton Abbey, right? So you do own a television. It's called your computer. Now shut up."
Gone forever are the days when people are beholden to the whims of the network scheduler. Does it matter if two shows that air back to back make any sense being together? It barely does now, and in a few years it will matter even less because we can watch it at our own convenience, online, whenever we want.
There is not a single show that I watch now as it is airing. Either I DVR it, or I stream it later. The only exception is Jeopardy because for some reason they don't seem to stream it online. Get on that, Trebek!
10. What's that green stuff in your wallet?
I highly doubt that printed money will ever go away for good, but it's easy to picture a time when very few people will use it.
Not only do you have payments systems, like those from Square and PayPal, which make it that much easier to pay electronically, but you have new currencies, like Bitcoin, which have no physical presence at all.
Don't forget, though, people do like the security of being able to actually hold their money, and they can breathe a sigh of relief when they see that sea of green.
11. No connections? No problem! The Internet is your best friend.
Of all of the many, many ways that the Internet has changed the world over the past two and a half decades, of the most important and exciting, at least to me, is the way crowdfunding has opened up new avenues for creative people to express themselves.
Think back to the distant world of 10 years ago. If you had an amazing idea, but no connections, then that idea would basically remain in your head. You could try to get it out, but chances are it would go nowhere.
Now, everyone has a platform to put their ideas on. Having no connections is no longer an obstacle. All controversies over whether or not Zack Braff belong on it or not, services like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter are the ultimate level playing field.
12. Get to know the President!
The Internet, and Twitter in particular, has successfully blurred the line between celebrities and their fans. Want to ask Kanye West a question? Now you can. And he just might answer you. Or perhaps its his assistant. Either way, you feel like you really have a connection now.
The same goes for politics and the President of the United States. Sure, Bill Clinton tried the hip and cool thing in the 90s, playing the sax on Arsenio and going on MTV but we now have access to Barack Obama, in the form of Twitter townhalls and Reddit AMAs and Google Hangouts, that we never have before.
Is this a good thing or a bad thing? It's hard to say. All I know is that we will again have a non-tech savvy, stodgy, bland President.
To put it another way: just try to imagine Mitt Romney being on Between Two Ferns!
13. In the future, kids will ask what the post office is. And you will feel really old.
There have been a lot of winners as a result of the innovations brought about by the Internet, but one big loser has been the United States Postal Service.
First it was e-mail that killed the written letter. Then tablets allowed us to get all of our magazines electronically. The post office has been losing so much money that it has routinely been flirting with ending Saturday delivery altogether. As someone who still gets Netflix discs in the mail, that last sentence kills me a little bit.
The only bright spot for the Post Office has been, ironically, Amazon. The company has partnered with the U.S. Postal Service to start shipping packages on Sunday. There is even a suggestion that the U.S. Postal Service may expand this service to other e-commerce companies.
14. The death of language
And I don't just mean the written language. I mean almost all of the worlds languages might be wiped out because of the Internet. Oops!
There are over 7,700 languages in the world right now. I don't have to tell you that the majority of people on the Internet speak only a handful of those.
A report out from the Washington Post in December said that only 5% of those languages are being spoken online. The other 95% could be gone within the next century. Scary, right? It's like gentrification, but on a global scale.
Thankfully, there are some people and organizations, like Wikipedia and the Alliance for Linguistic Diversity, which are trying to save them.
15. Knowledge at the tips of everyone’s... eyeglasses?
I remember this time when I was a kid and I was watching Goodfellas with my friend (yes, I watched Goodfellas as a child, and somehow I didn't turn into a psychopath. Funny how that works!) and we got into an argument into whether or not that was Samuel L. Jackson in the movie.
To settle it,, we fast forwarded to the end credits to find out, then rewinded back to where we had left off. Sadly, I lost that argument and I've never truly gotten over it.
Now, a quick shot over to IMDB or Wikipedia, or a question to Siri, would have cleared that up without anyone having to skip a beat.
We can even get that information directly from our eyeglasses thanks to Google.
What an age we live in!
16. As God is my witness, I will never get lost again!
I love Google Maps. I really do.
Can I be honest, though? I feel like the world is missing out on something if nobody ever gets lost again. I don't mean stranded in the forest/going to die kind of lost. I mean, the kind of lost where you find something, or meet someone, that you never would have otherwise.
Some of my best adventures feature me not knowing exactly where I'm going. There's something slightly scary, yet freeing, about it.
17. Porn. Simply, porn.
It would be impossible to discuss the Internet without bringing up the inevitable: porn. How much of the Internet is porn? Estimated vary wildly, meaning anywhere from 37% to only 4%. It sure feels like a lot, though. Type anything, and I mean anything, into Google and at least one result will feature something to do with naked people.
The Internet has allowed people of all stripes, and who are into all sorts of things that you and I would probably never dream of, to find each other. There's something, I wouldn't say sweet, but, perhaps encouraging about that?
Look, people are going to have their opinions one way or the other about this, but I'd honestly rather that people take care of whatever urges they have in the privacy of their own home than... well, just about anywhere else. As long as no one gets hurt, then go for it!
18. Cyber cheating. It's a real thing!
Sadly, the Internet has made it easier to cheat.
While I have no problem with adults looking at naughty images on their screens (see above), it bothers me more when I hear about sites like Ashley Madison, which are designed to help people step out on their significant others. It really bothers me.
And then there is cyber cheating, which is just as bad as physical cheating, and don't let anyone ever try to tell you otherwise.
Sending naked pictures of yourself to another person, or having them do the same for you? Yeah, you probably don't deserve that person you sleep next to every night.
Sometimes the Internet allows us to gain knowledge and power in our lives. Other times it encourages our worst instincts.
19. How does that song go, again?
Seriously, how did it take so long for the music industry to embrace the Internet?
Back in 1999, when everyone was fighting over Napster, couldn't they see the inherent benefit of allowing people to listen to whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted? People will pay money for that!
Now there are almost too many music-streaming services, as the industry has finally gotten onto the bandwagon.
And we have easy access to the biggest library of music that anyone has ever had in history. Pretty cool stuff.
20. Waiting in line, or waving your hands around, is for chumps!
As a movie lover, and someone who goes far too often, my personal favorite thing to come out of the Internet is Fandango. I pretty much can guarantee you that you will almost never, ever catch me going to the movies again without a prepaid ticket.
Never again shall I get to the theater and be denied entry!
But even better, these days, who waits for a cab in a cab line (except when you're at an airport, maybe)? There's Taxi Magic, Lyft and of course Uber.
And you don't even have to fuss with cash or change.
21. The "truth" is out there
I'm sure we've all had the pleasure of going to Thanksgiving and hearing our Tea Party uncle spout "facts" that came from some chain e-mail he got that said Obama's Kenyan cousin was throwing a hip-hop barbeque in the Lincoln bedroom, or some such nonsense.
And he believes it. Not only because he wants to, but because the Internet, for all of the benefits of giving people more knowledge and becoming an equalizer, has also made it harder to parse through what is fact and what is fiction.
There's an old saying that goes, "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on." Because of the Internet, now it can go the entire way.
22. You are the product
Advertising is nothing new. It's what television and newspapers have relied on for decades. But the Internet has changed the nature of what exactly is being advertised and sold. Namely, it's you and all of your information.
We have all freely given away things about ourselves to the Internet, and especially Facebook, and now that knowledge is being sold and used to target us for advertisers. With mobile, they can not only know what to give us, but where and when based on our location.
This has given people the notion that we have sold a part of ourselves, and the truth is we have. But now we can get a coupon for that pizza place we are walking past sent directly to our phones, so isn't that worth it?
23. The opening of education
As we all know, one of the biggest problems in this country is student loan debt. The cost of higher learning has skyrocketed over the past few decades and its crushing people.
The solution? Online education, with companies like Khan Academy, Curious, Coursera, Code.org and Smart Sparrow making it possible to get an education that is both cheaper and does not require a full time committment.
The space has come a long way. If you asked me a decade ago if I would ever even consider taking a class on the Internet, I can't imagine what my reaction would be. In that time, though, so many people that I know have taken advantage of the opportunity to get a degree without ever having to leave the house.
24. The rise of selfie, a.ka. we're more self-absorbed than ever
I've been trying to convince my girlfriend to take what I guess you would call a "couples selfie" together, but she thinks that it would look bad and also make everyone online hate us. She's probably got a point about the second one.
The seflie, which was named Oxford Dictionary's Word of the Year for 2013, is kind of the scourge of society. Take, for example, the trend known as Selfies at Serious Places, which is exactly what it sounds like, only worse, because “serious places” means concentration camps and Chernobyl.
There may be one upshot of the rise of the selfie, though: maybe it will lead to the end of the paparazzi . After all, who needs them when when we're all taking selfies of ourselves, even celebrities?
25. Animals are cute
Ok, so this was always the case, but the Internet has taught me is that animals are cute. Especially if it is a cat playing the piano.