Sizing up the World Wide Web

I still get a little amazed at the Internet.
Darin J. McCannDarin J. McCann

Actually, to use the words “still” and “Internet” in the same sentence is a little ridiculous, as the Internet has been an evolving entity of growth and imagination since its very inception. Here at the Coastal Point we have gone from a Web site that simply featured the most current issue’s stories, to a site that constantly changes with breaking news, targets e-mails to our readers based on content and serves as a platform for interested Web surfers to monitor storms and other breaking issues in our cozy community.

And we’re a pretty small group over here at the Coastal Point Multiplex.

I started thinking the other day just how much I use the Internet and, in turn, how dependent many of us have become on something that is so relatively new to the world in which we live.

For example ...

The first thing I do every morning (unsightly stretching and odd noises aside) is flip on my cell phone and check whatever e-mails I received when I was asleep. Sure, most of them have subject lines like, “The real reason you’re fat,” or, well, something advising me that I have the ability to become a more impressive man with just a few easy steps, but sometimes I stumble across an actual e-mail — usually one of Monica Fleming’s nocturnal article submissions.

After I finish getting ready, I roll into the office, turn on the computer and scan a few Web sites. I always start with the Baltimore Sun to see what’s the latest with my Orioles and Ravens, then check headlines on CNN, MSNBC and Fox. A few perusals through some of the state Web sites usually ends my rumble through the Internet for the morning, and I then check out whatever e-mails I’ve received in the last hour or so (again, more subjects concerning male enhancement, leading a guy to get a little self-conscious in the morning).

Throughout the work day, all of us here at Coastal Pointland hop on and off the Internet to get advertisement information, or do research for stories or, in Bob Bertram’s case, look up the latest trends in clogs and Hawaiian shirts. We download songs for our iPods, pull art files for projects and continually converse with sources and clients through the wonders of e-mail.

It really doesn’t stop, does it?

So many of us do so many things that revolve around the Internet, it’s almost scary. I play poker online, have watched numerous Orioles games online and set up my entire travel itinerary on more than one occasion through the wonders of the Internet. We chat with family members, buy Christmas presents and check our stocks with the click of a mouse. There have been married couples who have met at online dating services, divorces caused by online dating services and divorce papers filed via the Internet.

It’s one-stop shopping, without the cost of gas.

And it’s not always good or especially helpful. Several NFL athletes have had photos of them partying a bit too hard exposed for the world to see on various Web sites, and you’re never quite sure what parts of what people will be splashed across the Internet for all to enjoy. Privacy has taken a back seat to public exposure and, while I’m a staunch advocate of free speech for all who wish to practice it responsibly, I find myself a bit disgusted at this development.

That being said ...

The Internet has had a wholesale effect on many of our lives. I remember starting out in this business as a reporter and research consisted of talking to people, tearing through the morgue in our office, going to the library or drowning one’s self in paperwork at a courthouse or police station. And, while we still practice many of those techniques, we now can get more and faster access to information from the comfort of our desks.

So, what compelled me to write this column this week? It’s not like any of what I wrote is new or breaking — people have been increasingly relying on the Internet for several years now, and the capabilities and advances that have surfaced over time have been well documented, to say the least.

Because, well, it struck me this week how dependent I’ve become on surfing the Web. And, well, it’s my column, and I’ll write what I want. For instance, if I wanted to discuss the situation in Ocean View, or the fluxuation in gas prices or the merits of underwater midget wrestling in the Congo ...

But I digress.

My point is that the Internet has been more valuable to society in terms of bringing us closer together than the phone, mail or any other form of mass communication. And, well, I needed a column idea this week.