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Well, the tangible response to my challenge was pretty pitiful, by anyone’s standard.

I am not disheartened, though, because I think that you all thought about the challenge. You just didn’t post about it. Most of you claimed to be too busy . . . working on your computers, of course!

I think that Ron spoke for a lot of you when he left this comment: “The time I would spend thinking about it would be the only free time I’m not on the Internet, so it’s considerable.”

Heather wrote very eloquently and honestly about how her life would probably be different were it not for the Internet. I recommend that you read and consider her thoughts. Likewise, Tammi engaged in an assessment of the pros and cons of life without the Internet, but she concluded that, overall, it “wouldn’t be so bad.”

As you know, I recently spent a week in New York sans computer (except for my Blackberry which belongs to my employer and with which I receive only work-related e-mail), so I know that I can do it. Do I want to? That’s the more important question.

I spent some time this week thinking about how my life has changed since the Internet came into being . . . for better or worse. An apt phrase because it is rather like a marriage. I actually spend more waking hours with the Internet than I do with my spouse.

On a professional level, I am connected from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Those are the hours that my Blackberry automatically turns on and off each day. Since it is also a cell phone, I am readily available during those 16 hours per day. If I am working in my office or at home, I am in front of the computer and connected because being either place means, for the most part, that I am researching, writing, and talking on the phone. So I respond to e-mails pretty much immediately.

Except for the Blackberry which is a fairly recent acquisition, my professional endeavors have been conducted in that fashion since 1994 — that’s when I first signed on to America OnLine. I was the first attorney in my office to do so and the partners were very skeptical when I began giving my e-mail address to clients, opposing counsel, et al. That was long before courts began accepting documents for filing in electronic format and nobody had yet conducted discovery that way, but it sure made communicating with clients and keeping them apprised of their cases a lot easier. No misunderstandings, no complaints about calls not being returned. I loved it immediately . . . and still do.

On a personal level, I confess that the first thing I do in the morning is read my e-mail and the comments left on my blog. It is frequently the last thing I do before retiring, as well.

And I spend a lot of time either blogging or working on the numerous websites I have designed and maintain for various charitable organizations. I built my first website in about 1997. I just got a book on HTML from Barnes and Noble, some free space from Geocities and set about figuring out how to build it. On a dial-up connection, it was really slow going . . . and I laugh now at how primitive my design was. I remember wanting desperately to put sound on the site and having no clue how to accomplish it because I did not have the technology available to create a .wav file. Finally, a friend took pity on me and sent me one, but it took forever for the site to load. Later, I wanted to feature video clips. Anybody remember the Snappy device? A friend gave me his when he bought an improved model. So my son and I spent hours trying to figure out how to hook it up from the cable television decoder box to the computer. Extremely short, grainy files that took forever to load were the result, but I was thrilled.

I have always been a multi-tasker, so I learned to build those websites while doing laundry, dishes, watching television, supervising the kids . . . that part hasn’t and won’t change.

And for the last few years, of course, blogging has really overtaken website building. In fact, I am in the process of either converting most of my websites to blogs or at least adding a blog to the existing sites. I’m having a lot of fun figuring out how to modify the templates, add widgets, etc.

Like Tammi and so many of you, I could not function professionally without a computer. It is absolutely mandatory in order to earn my daily bread.

Besides that fact, however, I made a list of things I need the Internet for and discovering that without it, I would not:

  1. Pay my bills. I can’t tell you the last time I actually mailed a payment or went to a bank. I conduct all such transactions on line.
  2. Buy any new clothes. I dress from head to foot, literally, by shopping on line. I hate to shop and gave up those hot, cramped department store dressing rooms years ago.
  3. Know what’s going on the in the world. I read newspapers and magazines almost exclusively online.
  4. Stay in touch with friends and relatives. We e-mail routinely. Heck, my neighbors and I even e-mail each other!
  5. Be informed about my kids’ school schedules and activities. That information is sent out by the schools . . .you guessed it! Electronically! In fact, have you tried to apply for admission to a college or register for classes lately? There’s only one way to do it: Through the school’s website. That fact caused much distress for some of the elderly members of our community band which is affiliated with the local community college, thereby requiring all members to enroll via the Internet. Have you looked at the number of classes offered on line? In fact, there are some degree programs that you can complete almost virtually . . . er, virtually!
  6. Clean my oven. Hey, don’t laugh! Do you know that if you lose the instructions for one of your appliances, you can view them online? That fact came in handy today when I realized that the husband had managed to lose the instructions for the oven and I couldn’t remember how to start the self-cleaning cycle. I just took the model number off the inside panel, went to the manufacturer’s website and pulled up the instruction manual in Adobe format.
  7. Obtain prescription refills and schedule doctor’s appointments. All prescriptions are maintained on the drug store’s site. I just log in, place my order, and they contact the doctor if authorization is required. My physicians are now using the Internet to receive and send messages, and schedule appointments. In fact, the last time I received a telephone call reminding me of an appointment, it was from an automated system, not the nurse who used to call. My contact lenses come straight to my mailbox after I order them from 1800Contacts.com.
  8. Make major purchases. I went to the manufacturer’s site, took the virtual test drives and e-mailed the local dealership. They located the car and then I went down to test drive it. . . right into my garage. I selected and purchased my computer online, and it was delivered to my front doorstep.
  9. Watch movies. When was the last time you actually went into a video store and cruised the aisles in search of something to watch? I’ve been a Netflix subscriber since February 2003.

The computer and, more specifically, the Internet have completely changed the way I live. There is no going back at this point. It has made life infinitely easier in many, many ways and I admit that I take for granted that I can handle many things with a click of the mouse that I used to be required to invest time and effort in attending to, e.g., shopping.

So yes, I spend a lot of time using the computer for lots of activities beyond blogging. And I don’t foresee that changing any time soon, if ever.

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