Why the Internet has So Much Importance in Everyday Life
The internet has been described as the ‘decisive technology’ of our century, but how important is it truly in people’s minds? A survey by a UK broadband provider TP-Link has suggested that some people think the internet ranks above shelter, food and sleep in its importance in their lives. Another survey found that the internet is considered more important than daylight by many people.
Here, we look at the ways the internet maintains a high impact presence in our everyday lives, and in our society as a whole.
Everyday tasks and research
From essentials such as researching clothing and shoes online to the Dr Google phenomenon, the internet at its most basic level is an indispensable tool we use to research products and services (including other consumers’ opinions).
We also use the internet to book flights and accommodation, carry out essential tasks like managing our bank accounts and pay bills, and research everyday problems and questions relating to, for example, DIY household dilemmas, pet behaviours, or technology problems.
Watching movies, reading or watching the news and finding driving directions are all common internet-based activities that we do regularly. At this everyday level, the internet has probably become a staple for many – if not most – users with access to a connection at home and/or at work.
Friendships and social networking
The TP-Link survey mentioned above found that many people consider the internet so central to their lives because it supported and strengthened their relationships; more than 51 per cent of those surveyed found the internet helped with friendships. The immediate and rapid connectivity of the internet allows people to minimise geographical distance and time constraints to connect with their friends.
While friendships are helped along by the internet, apparently the same cannot be claimed for relationships, with just 7 per cent of respondents stating that the internet has helped with their romantic lives.
Other evidence suggests that the internet does in fact have a positive impact on sociability, civic engagement, and familial and friendship ties. This could be through the growth of social networking platforms and other communication options such as email, chat, and video chat.
Automation of everyday processes
The internet’s potential in this area is yet to be fully realised, but automation of basic personal and business banking tasks – such as payments and billing – has certainly saved the time of many consumers and businesses. Other processes that can now be automated via an app include finding the best route to work given real-time traffic information, and obtaining up-to-date public transport information.
Updating and syncing your calendars, backing up data to the cloud, and getting weather alerts can all be automated through the internet. These simple but crucial everyday tasks are otherwise time consuming for individuals and might not even be carried out if the internet were not available.
For some people, the internet has already helped them achieve better work-life balance and lifestyle changes. A study into lifestyle locations found that the internet and its enabling of work-from-home arrangements has supported many Australians seeking to move to towns that are close to but not within capital cities. Demographer Bernard Salt says as many as 8 per cent of Australians or one million people will work from home within ten years.
Businesses and the Internet
Operations and collaboration
While consumers and households can indeed attest to the power and value of the internet in their lives, the internet has also come to play a critical role in the day-to-day operations of businesses and industry.
Collaboration across and within organisations regardless of geographical dispersion is now a reality. Businesses can work with their mobile workers, track their vehicles, and communicate with suppliers and other partners – all in real time. The real-time operational advantage likely gives many if not all businesses an ability to work more effectively and efficiently, with significant time and cost savings.
Customer acquisition and reach
At another level, internet-based tools have allowed businesses to link with their customers – whether these are other businesses or consumers – in many more ways. Online marketing is now considered a vital component in marketing, and businesses can instantly reach potential customers on the other side of the world with paid advertising.
Delivery channels and new products
Other businesses are selling and delivering their products or services online to their customers, which has meant the creation of more digital-only products and additional channels for instant delivery of products or services. For example, ebooks and video on-demand are now popular products and more brands are offering these digital-only options to consumers.
Other examples include online courses, including whole degree programs, being delivered through online-only platforms. In this area, the internet has opened up vast new possibilities for businesses that have moved quickly to take advantage of these new gaps in the market.
Social movements and democracy
The internet has had a strong impact on social movements and possibly the growth of democracy around the world. The internet’s impact on communication and media channels has meant that messages can be spread and reach increasingly large audiences at an extremely rapid pace. For example, while before the internet only those that could purchase TV spots or large newspaper ads could publicise certain causes, now anyone can set up a blog to express their opinions.
Examples of social movements being impacted or partly driven by the internet or social media include the Arab Spring and other civic protests around the world. The Occupy Wall Street protests were also said to have been supported by the internet. All of these examples suggest that the internet could have a positive impact as far as allowing social movements to flourish.
With its unlimited potential, the internet will continue to flourish and impact our lives in a multitude of positive ways as technology progresses. Not only has the internet eased business by automating certain processes and allowing companies to expand their reach, but it has also networked our society. The digital revolution has already sparked some major socio-cultural shifts, and we should continue to see the internet transform our lives into the future.