With the holidays swiftly approaching, it hasn’t escaped our attention that more and more holiday shopping is done in non-traditional ways. Driving to the store and fighting through crowds to grab the last sleeved blanket out of the hands of a fragile little grandmother? Pssh, that’s so last decade. Now we just whip out our mobile phones, iPods, iPads, netbooks or notebooks and enjoy the futuristic convenience of having the stuff we want brought right to the front door.
But how many of us would keep using these devices so extensively if it weren’t for the internet? Phones are obviously still useful without internet access, but the iPad without internet is…well, a fancy Kindle. Internet access has become so ubiquitous that many of us don’t even notice how often we use it. Googling an answer to your kid’s homework (so he doesn’t realize that you have no idea who the 27th president was, either), grabbing a quick recipe for dinner or looking up the phone number to the pizza delivery place have become things that lots of us do almost without thinking.
Would you keep using your devices if they didn’t have internet? Personally speaking, we carry around the iPod Touch, netbooks, laptops and a variety of mobile phones, and none of these would be the same without the near-constant internet access they give us. We wouldn’t be able to play online Xbox 360 games with friends across the country or across the world, and our Wii experiences would be sorely lacking in interactivity, too. Our iPods would no longer stream Netflix movies for us as we jog endlessly on the treadmill at the gym; instead we’d have to settle for music downloaded directly from our computers (since the iTunes store would no longer let us buy grooves on the go).
While web-enabled gadgets have undoubtedly made life easier, they have also made it easier to work too much, get distracted too easily and generally lose track of time. But like all things, we learn to enjoy our gadgets in moderation. As you load up on electronically-purchased gifts for the holiday season, take a closer look at how you’re shopping and remember to be grateful for the little things: free wi-fi, web-enabled gadgets, mobile versions of your favorite online retailers, and free shipping with no minimum purchase. The future is now, and the future is very, very good.