Victims of Hurricane Floyd: Internet Junkies

We didn't think much when the first two people said it. But by last weekend, when the complaint had repeated itself a half-dozen times, we began to wonder.

With water rising and power lines falling, what people were telling us was: "I can't get on the Internet. It's a drag."

Not "The power's still off," or "The meat in the freezer is beginning to smell." Instead, what we heard from Annapolis to Solomons was: "I haven't been able to check my e-mail since Thursday morning."

What are we to make of Chesapeake Country becoming so Internet-dependent? Should we be pleased that so many of us are immersed in the latest communications? Or should we be a little worried when, on a delightfully beautiful Saturday, people are fretting about their Internet being down?

Frankly, we don't know what to make of it. According to one estimate, 70 million Americans have access to the Internet. This sort of snippet makes people in the newspaper business jittery out of fear that folks will give up the time-honored practice of turning pages in the morning.

That's one reason you can read New Bay Times on-line, as is the case with most newspapers and magazines these days. On the other hand, watchers at many of our distribution points tell us NBT was more popular than ever when the power was out.

There's lots more going on on the Web, not all of it healthy.

We read about a study the other day on the spread of "Web addiction." Another item told of people being fired from their jobs for spending too much time on the Web. In yet another story, some sort of expert declared that the Internet has 72,000 pornography sites. (We wondered how he compiled that statistic.) The Internet is apparently a haven for gamblers, cultists and troubled losers.

By the same token, the Internet enriches our lives in many ways. It's easy for curious people to learn about anything, anywhere with a few strokes of the fingers. Many of us can do our work more easily. We can stay in touch, simply, with our faraway friends.

Globally, the Internet and e-mail have been tools for the poor and disaffected to communicate, organize and level the playing field against those interests that don't necessarily have the well-being of the world's have-nots uppermost in their minds.

We don't truly know all the ways that the Internet will change our lives. Those who tell you they know also have snake-oil in their satchels to sell you.

What we do know is that we're hurtling into a future where the Internet will play an even bigger part in our lives, which many of us already are struggling to keep in balance. We read recently about the potential of wrist-mounted screens hooked into the Web by satellite. Like watches.

For the sake of the Internet junkies around us, we hope they're water-proof.

| Issue 38 |

Volume VII Number 38
September 23-29, 1999
New Bay Times

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