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Get Online? Why would I do that?

Rory Cellan-Jones | 09:35 UK time, Monday, 18 October 2010

Are you one of the nine million people in the UK who has never used the internet?
Daft question, I know: if you are reading this, you have already discovered the wonders of the web. But perhaps this week you - and I - could do more to help explain to others why we find it useful.

Today is the beginning of Get Online week, and the BBC, with its First Click campaign, is putting in a big effort across radio and television to help spread the message that the internet can make a real difference to anyone's life.

Vanessa Feltz

Vanessa Feltz presents Net Rescue, 2000

But, as I found out on Saturday when I went on the Vanessa Feltz show on Radio London to talk about the campaign, some people are going to be hard to convince.

Vanessa told me she had never been on the web or even sent an e-mail - and she confessed she thought it was mad that she was being made to promote the idea on her show.

This seems especially ironic, since a web search tells me that in 2000, BBC1 offered a "week-long series in which Vanessa Feltz discovers if and how the Internet can make life easier".

When she asked me to explain why I found the internet indispensable I burbled a bit about online bargains and checking the weather and I fear she was not won over. But I'm not giving up that easily - if we can't woo to the web a media personality like Vanessa Feltz, how are we going to make an impact on the rest of the nine million refuseniks?

I decided what was needed was not abstract meanderings about a life-changing technology, but some concrete examples. So I set out to record the various ways I used the internet over the weekend - and work out what my life would be like without it. Here is what you might call my weekend weblog.

Friday 1900: The weekly grocery shopping arrives at the door, ordered online. No money saved, but that's an hour we don't spend at the supermarket
each week.

2030: Watch this week's edition of Have I Got News For You via the BBC iPlayer. I'd forgotten to record it - without the internet option I'd have missed the programme.

2230: Reading a long book about politics downloaded onto an e-reader. I still read "real" books, but the electronic option is great if you don't want to lug a heavy hardback with you wherever you go.

Saturday 0800: Out for a run with the dog while listening to the podcast of the Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode film review. I'm addicted to Dr Kermode's fabulous film rants - and Simon Mayo's deadpan asides - without the advent of the podcast, I'd rarely hear a programme which goes out on a Friday afternoon.

0900: The postman arrives with a book about conspiracy theories ordered from an online bookshop. An impulse buy, bought with one click the day before, and already in my hands.

1230: My nephew, who lives in Uganda, is on a rare visit to London and drops by for lunch. He has an interest in technology, and I start telling him about a story I've written recently - he stops me and tells me he knows, because he follows me on Twitter. I find that social networks are helping to keep me in touch with friends and relatives I rarely see.

1600: I spend a frustrating hour trying to install Windows on a Mac computer so that I can try out the latest version of Skype. Give up, and use my son's computer which runs Windows. Have a high-definition video chat with old friend who I haven't seen for months. Messing around with computers can be a huge waste of time - but they can transform the way we communicate.

1900: A quiet evening in, watching the television - and keeping an eye on the constant flow of commentary on Twitter about Strictly Come Dancing and X Factor. Some kinds of TV just work better with a sarcastic online chorus to enjoy.

Sunday 0930: Reading the Sunday papers - yes, the old-fashioned dead-tree variety. I now get a lot of my news on various digital devices, but do still find paper quite a compelling "form factor" with toast and marmalade.

1045: In the garden, planting bulbs while listening to the Archers Omnibus via a smartphone app which just about works as long as I don't stray too far from the household wi-fi network. There is a plotline in the Archers involving elderly residents having computer lessons - wonder what that's about?

1400: At my computer doing some work for Monday. I listen again to the Vanessa Feltz show via the iPlayer, and then set about editing a clip from an interview with Martha Lane Fox, the government's Digital Champion. Unable to meet her on Friday, I asked her to record her end of a phone conversation on her smartphone and then e-mail it to me. The audio quality is not bad at all, and when I've finished my edit, I upload it to the BBC server in seconds via my fast home broadband connection. The internet has transformed the way I work, though it has also meant that it fills far more of my waking hours.

Work, rest or play, my life would not be the same without the internet, and I cannot imagine getting along without it. But everybody is different, and many of the nine million who are not online will feel that they get along quite nicely as they are, thank you, and could we please stop preaching at them.

One person, however, surely needs to get with the programme. Vanessa Feltz told me that when listeners send e-mails to her team has to print them out for her to read. So maybe they can now print out this blog post for her. Vanessa, are you listening? Come on in, the water's lovely.


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  • Comment number 1.

    I browsed the First Click web pages the other day and found them to be admirably vendor neutral. I didn't see any mention of what operating system options are available, be it proprietary or FOSS. The worry is that this will lead people to believe that the only choice is what's in the main stream shops, which will result in more users getting locked in to the Microsoft way!

    I, personally, would have been happier if there were a page detailing the different types of system available along with the pros and cons explained. After all, there is a chance that a new user might find themselves with a Linux netbook or Android tablet! Perhaps even a Linux system that someone has put together for them, although I'd hope that anyone kind enough to do that would also provide the required support!

    Going through your diary of internet use for the week, I don't think there's anything listed that couldn't be done with a typical desktop Linux system. Even video calling with Skype is, I believe, available. Perhaps not in high def, but that would hardly be a priority for someone getting to grips with everything else available on the internet for the first time. It's worth pointing out what won't run on a Linux system. Windows malware. This weekend, my son came running to me thinking my old laptop had something like 279 trojans. He'd hit one of those spoof/scam virus scanning websites. I don't think his expectation was that I'd laugh my head off at the news and then explain that he'd been had by a con that often costs Windows users dear!

    So, Rory. Maybe now is a good time for you to do that in depth Ubuntu review. Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat has just come out and it's a pretty good one! For example, I don't think Ubuntu One was available when you last skimmed over Ubuntu. That, in itself is a subject I'd like to see a detailed assessment of in terms of how it improves (Or otherwise.) the typical user experience.

  • Comment number 2.

    So, basically, you can't live without a computer, because it lets you listen to the radio and watch TV at your own convenience, improve your "watching TV experience" and occasionally speak to people without using the telephone?

    There are some much more worthwhile uses for these types of technology than you have outlined in this article Rory, and if I was a "net refusnik" (which I'm not), I don't see anything that you've written here that would change my mind.

    Can you REALLY only try to convince people about the benefits of technology by telling them that it's something to check the weather on? Perhaps you need a different job than being a technology journalist :o)

  • Comment number 3.

    I have to admit I've never shopped online for groceries, but I regularly use online shops (for Books, and such), and surely you don't save an hour? You still have to pick each item and put it in your 'virtual' shopping basket, and worst of all, someone has to be AT HOME to take the delivery... (although for an elderly pensioner or disabled person this must be a great service).

    Unfortunately, my Mum, who's a pensioner and lives alone, simply cannot afford to buy a computer and monthly Internet connection on her current (and soon to be worth much less) State Pension.

    None of your examples could be honestly classed as 'life-changing' technology (e.g. Friday 20:30 missing a TV program???)

    I'm all for promoting the Internet and getting as many people as possible to use it, but am very wary of people telling pensioners living in the current UK 'poverty' climate that you simply 'cannot get by without an Internet connection'.

  • Comment number 4.

    I am with Vanessa on this one having friends who lost all their holiday money ordering foreign currency online, my sister having been scammed of about £5,000 buying tickets online from a website with the URL of the band she wanted to see so she entered her card details. The tickets never arrived, near the time of the concert the site went down. Weeks later her bank contacted her to query payments going out of her account. At first she thought it was a few small items then the bank said actually it is £5,000 plus. The bank reimbursed her in full.

    The company Martha Lance Fox founded with Brent Hoberman is under investigation by the OFT.

    Rory, your weekend, if you did not have the internet you would have spent less on shopping.

  • Comment number 5.

    It occurred to me only last week how narrow my Internet usage is. Out of the millions of sites out there I regularly use/read only a small handful, maybe 6 or 7.

    I find the endless range of gadgets and devies boring and pointless. Pads, MP3 players, smart phones, etc. I have no want or need for them. Electronic readers so you don't have to carry a book? But you still have to carry the reader AND you've now got something worth stealing. Those are headaches and worries I can do without.

    I think it maybe highlights just how lazy and over demanding people in general have become. Demanding everything yesterday and doing stuff on-line "because it's more convenient". Convience has nothing to do with it, it's more the point that it means there's one less thing that you have to plan and prepare for. Lord knows how we all managed 25-30 years ago.

    But the real problem surely is that the on-line experience isn't the same for everybody. With some people lucky to get a connection that's barely as quick as the old dial-up standard. For those people they don't have the luxury of watching programmes they missed on-line and looking at webpages loaded down with features crawling into view. Until everyone has basically the same level of access there will be people who "opt out".

  • Comment number 6.

    Well, rather than put the cart before the horse, wouldn't be more sensible to ensure the whole of the UK can connect to at least a 2MB broadband? Typical piece of shallow thinking by the government (whatever their hue).

    As for your persuasive arguments in favour of using the internet, they do show a rather shallow existence. The internet and computers waste far more time and money than they save.

    As for the expense, I concur with what has been said previously. Try paying for a broadband service out of your state pension.

  • Comment number 7.

    Saved an hour shopping for groceries? what universe are you living in? The internet shopping never hs the options that you require, you can only every buy "packaged" fruit or veg its a total waste of time and often a lot more expensive as well as the fact that it costs more as you have to pay for the delivery. And payment is inverse to the delivery slot, so to save an hour lord alone knows how much extra had to be paid.

    As for trying to load windows onto a mac to run Skype, why not just download Skype for Mac? even IT idiots like me manage that.

    Internet is by far and away not an essential, it is a luxury item as all of the items on your list demostrate.

  • Comment number 8.

    I used to do pretty much everything on a pooter, including gaming, programming and interactive website building.
    I eventually realised it was hugely unfulfilling environment giving little return for much effort, a waste of human labour on a global scale, so now the net is my shopping channel, it's a good shopping channel, and I pootle around on the BBC website.
    I also stopped watching the TV and don't miss that at all.
    I am now amazed that anyone even finds the TV interesting to look at if I visit someones home and they have it on.

    You need fulfilling hobbies to replace these things, the TV and the net are actually crutches for people who have nothing better to do with their lives.

  • Comment number 9.

    I've got to say, Rory, that your weekend weblog isn't the best advert for the web. Life doesn't end missing a TV programme, you could take a radio into the garden and you've ended up spending the afternoon working. You've also impulse bought a book at one click and if you don't want it its a pain to return it. If you'd been in a shop you may not have bought it, or its easier to return. You've shopped online which has saved an hour (minus teh time it took you to place your order - unless you eat the same food every week) and missed out on perhaps saving a fiver. In fact probably the only real positive is videa comminucation (skype) with friends, as long as its cheaper than a phone call.

    The web IS a useful tool for many things in everyday life - finding a specific shop, maps, information on days out and local services, product reviews, a wide range of live sports/news coverage. Suggesting that the X fcator is more entertaining if you a re reading Twitter at the same time is not exactly compelling - watch with a friend or family and have conversation, perhaps?

  • Comment number 10.

    I think the biggest way I've sold the internet to people who don't yet have it is communication. this has got to be one of the biggest draws for me as well, due to the global spread of my friends and family. the internet gives me a range of ways to speak/chat/video to people.

    Being able to watch television at any point is great and I hope spotify "type" streaming is the future of music, but a lot of the internet is currently at the crossroads of useful versus distracting. (90% of twitter content produced by 10% of users(?!)).

    So until the internet really starts maturing over the next 5-10 years and decent broadband outside urban areas develops then the lost 15%+ of the population will take a long time to make the move. and this is not a bad thing, the internet is just a tool, not the b all and end all of life.

  • Comment number 11.

    So really, when it comes down to it, Vanessa Feltz has her life organised and you don't. That online ordered book could have kept a live bookshop open .A real book can last a hundred years and is recyclable whereas your gadget consumes valuable non renewable resources. That online ordered food- you could perhaps have picked out fresher produce for yourself or found a few bargains.
    Here's an irony for you- I am profoundly deaf, the internet provides the best and easist way for me to communicate with friends and relatives and businesses. Yet disability funding does not recognise the value of internet communication for the deaf with funding for hardware or broadband, nor are NHS GP practices required to provide online appointments nor public services to provide a secure speedy online communication system.
    The money spent on BBCs first click campaign might have been better spent campaigning to provide the deaf with internet services as a right, just as the mobility challenged get mobilty allowances.

  • Comment number 12.

    I first got 'hooked' onto the internet several years ago when I first completely lost my voice due to chronic larygitis. I also suffer from 50% hearing loss so for me the internet is an essential way of life for me as it means I can communicate easily and quickly with friends and family here and abroad. It also helps with my shopping as again because of arthritis I would be unable to carry home a weeks shop so getting it delivered is a god send to me. Being able to research anything at the touch of a button, play games and communicate means that my life is still enriched, otherwise I would live in an increasingly isolated world. The internet makes my world bigger and I am sure that there are a lot of other people that would benefit from it. I also feel sure that help would be available for them to connect easily and cheaply. I bought my first computer from a local recycle scheme that took computers from business users when they upgraded and cleaned and sold them on to users like me. As for the expense of broadband usage, it is getting cheaper and cheaper all the time and surely in a lot of cases family would help out financially to ensure that elderly parents were able to communicate so much more easily and maintain more of their independence.

  • Comment number 13.

    Personally, I agree with Rory. My life has been totally changed by the internet, and I really can't see myself without it.

    I am currently on a years work placement from University, and so the internet has allowed me to keep in regular contact with my friends (both back home and from uni). It also means I can easily contact my placements officer if need be, and for me to send the monthly logs that I have to do.

    I met my girlfriend on line, and it has meant we have enjoyed over a year together now, despite being 3/5 hours apart (depending on if I'm at home, at Uni or on placement).

    I use it to watch / listen to Cardiff City matches that I cannot get to, and use it for most of my tv viewing.

    Personally, I think the internet is brilliant.

  • Comment number 14.

    9 million people haven't used the internet in the UK alone? That is an amazing statistic. I literally can't live without the internet as my job depends on it, it went down recently for a couple of hours twiddling our thumbs thinking about what we used to do in the olden days...

    I saw this article online which summed up the pre internet days quite nicely:

  • Comment number 15.

    As an IT Manager I deal a lot with technology all day, every day, yet to the horror of those around me at work - and my kids, I don't Tweet - no account, see, and I have no use for Facebook. I like my privacy.

    I think there is a massive over-dependence on technology and computers. I'm lucky enough to remember the 70s and 80s when we had no computers, no internet and all shops closed on a Sunday. I think it was better in many ways. I've noticed it increasingly at home - particularly this weekend as I was looking for it: I was on t'interweb looking at the latest F1 gossip, my wife was checking her email and one of the kids was also on a mind-numbingly dull pre-teens website - all on laptops, all in the lounge, all 'watching' X-Factor. Except me (honest!). Cos it's total drivel for the masses and a huge cash-cow for Cowell. (There - I said it! ;0) ) Yet none of us was talking, communicating verbally, interacting with anything or anyone other than the laptops or TV. I find that sad and said so. And was told by all and sundry to be quiet so they could concentrate!

    So - is tech better for us? I don't think so. We order stuff online from Amazon, the weekly shop is done online, I bought some mp3s last week online, all so we don't have to go outside our cozy little castle and interact with those 'other' people out there. And then we all bemoan the loss of the small shops that we knew as teenagers or the retail parks that are now deserted and used as late-night race tracks by the teenagers with over-powered hot-hatches and nitrous-powered egos because - and we do it too - we can go and see the item we want in store, poke and prod it, play with it - then order it online cheaper elsewhere.

    Then we're told there's not enough power - we need more electricity. "Yay!" We cry, and agree that wind-turbines are good for the environment - just NOT IN MY BACK YARD!! (as a photographer I find them a quite fascinating subject actually).

    I'm not sure anymore if technology is our servant or our master.

    The jury's still out...

  • Comment number 16.

    She prints all her emails? I dread to think how much that costs in paper and ink.

    As Nickinfrieda points out in message 3, many services are only any good if you're at home... I'd suggest that most of the people in a position to pay attention to someone like Ms Feltz have plenty of time at home and may very well be elderly or disabled. And if they're not... it's best to get the skills to use online services in place *before* you develop mobility difficulties. Guess how I know.

    Supermarkets: The first time, sure, I spent an hour or so browsing up and down the aisles looking for the things I wanted - but now I have a "usuals" list and I can do a perfectly adequate, if unexciting, bi-weekly shop, within about 15 minutes, delivered to my door at a convenient time in the next day or two. I can also browse the special offers, and if I spot something I'm not sure about (do I have cupboard space for 4 bottles of half-price fizzy drink? If I buy this chicken, should I also pick up some more gravy granules?) it takes about ten seconds to actually *check* the kitchen.

    Top-up shopping: My milkman has gone online, so if I suddenly run out of bread, or loo roll, or dozens of other day-to-day items, a couple of clicks on my laptop or my phone and it's delivered to my door the next morning with my pint of semi-skimmed. Yes, if you can wander to the shop in twenty minutes or less then you might as well do that. If not...

    Gift shopping: Without the net I'd have to get a taxi out, find a gift, get another taxi home, wrestle with wrapping paper, find some kind of packaging material, then yet another taxi out to the Post Office (the big town one, as the local one is inaccessible to wheelchairs) and *another* one to get back home - the taxi fares would quite possibly cost more than the gift, not to mention the time involved! With the internet, I can use my time and energy for browsing, and it takes only a minute or two to arrange for the seller to gift-wrap the item for me and send it directly to the recipient's home.

    And for all the people blathering about "laziness", consider this: it's the time and energy that these services save me, that leaves me enough time and energy to work. From home. Via the internet.

  • Comment number 17.

    I'm currently disabled and cant leave the house due to mobility issues. The internet is a lifeline.
    - I can shop: for food, but for anything else I need too, and have it delivered. The postman *loves* me.
    - I can use skype to conference call into work (I am still working remotely full time) or other international conference calls I need to attend. I can also video chat with colleagues.
    - I can access print material that I would have needed to go to the library for via various databases (Jstor, google books, my institutional repository) meaning I can undertake research (ie my work) from home. In the past I would have had to haul myself to the british library, or wait weeks for library loans to come through.
    - I can keep chipper by being in constant social contact via facebook and twitter, even though I am housebound. It does wonders for your mental health to be able to interact with others who do not know your physical situation - or really care - you can be yourself without the added disability.
    - I share calendars online with my husband and my family so we can easily plan visits, babysitting, etc. Makes life a whole lot easier.
    - I can get access to information much easier. For example - what is wrong with my cat? does she need to go the vet? (in 2 seconds - found out the answer is yes). Weather, news from home (I live far away), gossip - all without leaving my sickbed.
    - Now getting into the geeky stuff. I can access computer technology (National Grid Service) from home, if I want to run some computational experiments. I dont need to walk down to the server farm and make sure stuff is uploaded manually.

    Without the internet, my life at the moment would be much impoverished. Oh, and did I mention the job I have I found online, the house I live in I found online, and I met my husband through internet dating? :)

  • Comment number 18.

    I find the term "refuseniks" pejorative.

    What if people don't actually want to join the online world? What if people are happy not to become reliant on the internet and world wide web?

    As someone who feels their right arm has been cut off if I'm away from my email, Twitter and forums for more than a few days, I look back wistfully to the days before I was "connected". Life was slower, and in some ways better. Yes, better.

  • Comment number 19.

    I have to say Rory, that the examples you have given here would hardly make any non-believer I know rush out and buy their first PC. The internet is a great tool to help you live your life, not a medium through which your life should be lived. Many people I know actually enjoy shopping, and not just for clothes, but any chance to interract with other human beings is relished, the thought of isolating yourself indoors, having everything delivered would be abhorant.

    This is where I believe you have missed a trick in trying to persuade Vanessa or anyone else on the value of the internet. Community is important to people, and not just their geographic one (especially if this has broken down), but social networking between like-minded people has shown the real value to many of the internet. I, for example, am a keen amateur photographer. In my local area there are only a handful of others with the same interest, and most of those are either at a different level to me, or interested in other facets of the hobby. However online there are hundreds, if not thousands of like minded people who I can discuss and share with. I know of people who have had their lives enhanced considerably by finding other people who share their hobbies, interests, and even their illnesses and troubles.

    If, after the time, money and ingenuity that has been expended on the internet the best example of it's day to day use we can find is "Go Compare" then please can someone pull the plug

  • Comment number 20.

    It's interesting that the majority of the comments so far have been dismissive of the importance of the internet to these 9 million offline citizens. Others have touched on what would be the biggest draw for these new users. Communication! Never mind social networking sites, plain old email would no doubt be a revelation to these folk.

    But, it has to be done properly and they have to be genuinely interested and engaged. What the internet doesn't need is yet more poorly educated and equipped users who's machines get drafted into a botnet within 15 minutes of going online. I implore any new www user reading this to really get to grips with what they have become a user of and how they might become a considerate member of the community instead of inadvertently spewing spam emails and worse for us all to 'enjoy'.

  • Comment number 21.

    My wife arranged for me to have a surprise visit to Stockholm at the weekend - and that was pretty much a weekend spent not using the Internet. I came back feeling thoroughly disconnected with the world, and having no idea what had been going on...

  • Comment number 22.

    Internet access/Wi-Fi is something of a curse on family life.

    One example: instead of negotiating what we watch on TV as a family, deciding among various channels, those who don't get their first choice wander off disinterestedly with the parting shot of "I'll just watch it on the 'net' (now or later)".

    The world wide web is great for the "right now" generation - even more than with 24-hour news channels (imagine having to wait 15 minutes for the next headlines recap!), being able to follow breaking news in real-time is a real advance - but, for me, there is just one website without which I would truly miss if the internet disintegrated, and that is

    Informative and entertaining - indispensible!

    (...and better than the majority of the Corporation's television offerings, notwithstanding the creeping move towards the site as a promoter of iPlayer offerings to the exclusion of much else!)

  • Comment number 23.

    I work online, but every summer take a three week break in France in which I flatly refuse to use a computer or even look at a screen of any sort, including mobiles, tvs and sat nav.

    It's amazing how quickly you forget about the internet and how good you feel.

  • Comment number 24.

    Vanessa Feltz does use email but she has staff to do it for her and print out copies for her to read, just another, albeit quaint, form of I/O device. Presumably the same servants answer the phone for her and pass on messages and perhaps prepare her food for her. Too many people say they don't use the internet because others use it for them. If you go into a travel agent they use it for you to assemble your package. Shops use it to replenish their stock. We all use it indirectly.

  • Comment number 25.

    I'm completely sold on why the internet is good for me and the way I live, but I don't see quite why anyone should care if some people choose otherwise. It makes sense to support people that want to get online and just need some help, but what's the purpose in trying to persuade people that don't want to to change their minds?

    Ass for the various commenters that think their lives were better offline, shopping in person, and talking on the phone - do feel free to go back to that, no-one's stopping you.

  • Comment number 26.

    Vanessa told me she had never been on the web... doesn't seem to ring true given the "week-long series in which Vanessa Feltz discovers if and how the Internet can make life easier".

    Ignoring the web/internet confusion, how did Vanessa discover the usefulness without partaking?

    Was there a companion programme in which she investigated the tastiness of bacon without eating any pig-meat?

  • Comment number 27.

    If not for the Internet I would be rotting in a dead-end boring job in certain non-EU Eastern European country with totalitarian past and no discernible future. Instead I got a promising career, travelled around Europe, and settled down in the country I've grown to love dearly (the UK, by the way) - all would have been impossible have I not got online back in 1998.

    Just some examples of my online activities: video calls to friends, keeping up with former classmates and colleagues on Facebook, finding ways to save money, dating (well, the initial stage of dating of course), looking at leaked government papers (they did not want us to see), planning journeys, shopping for books/music/films, sharing photos, checking-in for flights, booking appointments with dentist (and finding the entrance to dental practice by using StreetView so I won't get lost tomorrow), finding new interesting exhibitions/events/showcases to see, getting free tickets for recordings of my favourite BBC shows, paying bills, managing my parents' holiday house in another country, getting early access to tickets for the gig of my favorite band, reading thoughts of several interesting people on Twitter, learning about Bolivian "death road" on Wikipedia, reading details of proposed development on my street on council's website (and sending my objections right on there), watching missed QI on iPlayer, checking my bank account and keeping it in control, etc.

    Yes, online one has to be careful not to become a victim of scam (just like in real life) - but honestly, it is not that difficult. And positive experiences and opportunities outweight that minor risk by a huge margin!

  • Comment number 28.

    My friend is disabled and partially sighted..he cannot access government services without it..the unemployed need the internet AT HOME to look for jobs..cut the benefits for the poor means that school kids,disabled,unemployed cannot be included in society..

    With 1.5 million government workers been cut we should have a system like Australia where most government services are on line and much more efficent?

  • Comment number 29.

    Long live the internet! At work we can send data to clients without having to risk mishearing over the phone or delays in the post, or the client can go online and get the data directly and save themselves some time. We get our groceries online because we don't have a car and I really can't carry a week's food from the bus stop. While I miss out on many reduced items, I also know exactly what I'm going to be charged so it's easy to amend my order if I can't afford it. Try doing that at the till when it's all been scanned! My best friend and I email each other our digital walking photographs so we can share memories and only use materials to print the really special ones. We can check up to date train timetables and fares so we're not hanging around at the station longer than necessary for a day out. My church saves a lot of money on admin by emailing rather than posting. My sister and I can go to local special events we would never have heard of without stumbling across them on websites. It's brilliant! However, I do agree that a real, solid book you can hold is far better than on-screen text, and games are no substitute for seeing real friends in real life. Life would be good without the internet, but I prefer with.

  • Comment number 30.

    [i]"... to help spread the message that the internet can make a real difference to anyone's life.[/i]

    What nonsense!

    I make extensive use of the internet but I don't think that people who don't are missing anything of really life changing importance. They don't need encouragement bordering on coercion from the gadget obsessed either. Those that are curious have plenty of opportunity to try it and the number of people who don't use the internet will reduce to almost zero after a couple of generations anyway.

    My parents are in their late seventies. My mother regularly uses the internet and makes full use of an iPhone. She finds them fun but would be happy to give them both up tomorrow because, as she accurately puts it, there are more important things in life. In contrast, my father shows no interest whatsoever and misses nothing of significant importance because of it.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm all for the widespread availability of learning resources for those that wish to try the internet for the first time but actively herding people toward it on the basis that it will materially change their lives is ridiculous.

  • Comment number 31.

    I have to agree, Rory, that your use of the web seems pretty shallow. I find it essential and your blog probably wouldn't even persuade me to sign up, if I wasn't already.

    How do I use it? For work, overwhelmingly. In fact, if the Web did not exist I probably would not be able to live in the S Wiltshire countryside and would be struggling for work (I'm a freelance writer). I write all my articles from home, use the web for research into companies, issues, etc. Use the phone to follow-up. Send my copy by e-mail to the publishing house. Send invoices as Word document attachments to e-mails. As most of the publishers I now work for are overseas, I would be stacking shelves at the local supermarket if not for the Web. Or, at least, I would have to live somewhere like London, in order to get to offices and beard potential commissioning editors in their dens.

    Just today, I have been in touch with the bank about a potential fraud being perpetrated on my bank account - I spotted it quickly because I have online banking; without it, I would have known nothing about it until I got my next statement. Measures are now in place to stop it.

    I have had some e-mail correspondence about an invoice I sent to clients in Germany last week - quick queries, clarification received, money on its way. Imagine if that was done by letter! (Phone isn't an option when you have to send documents).

    Also discussed, with someone else in the same company - by e-mail - my schedule for a trade show in Dusseldorf I will be attending. We can compare diaries and schedules online, and they are up-to-date. I can even give clients access to my diary, so they can see when I am available for their assignments and when I'm not.

    Last week, had an online conference with people in Surrey and The Netherlands for an upcoming magazine. We compared documents, layouts, running order, who-does-what and content. Saved a lot of time and money, compared with all getting together at a central point. We also all have the same minutes and records of the meeting, to hand, already - no room for misunderstanding.

    I shall be delivering an article due in by close of business to day, on time - and I haven't finished it yet.

    I shall be having a videoconference later this week about another magazine. (FYI, Rory, we use Skype and we all have Macs - as an earlier correspondent said, don't load up Windows, download the Mac version. It's easier and works better.)

    I needed some additional info from a client who is not in his office at the moment. I e-mailed him, he got the e-mail on his SmartPhone, he e-mailed back the details of where to find what I needed - on a website.

    And so on and so on.

    Oh, and over the weekend I caught up with some friends on Facebook, had a quick debate with some Americans about whether Robert Heinlein was or was not a crypto-fascist, sent a fairly strong Tweet to a reporter who had got some facts about Sheffield hopelessly wrong and belatedly watched an episode of Spooks on iPlayer. I believe we may also have done some online shopping - the next day or so will confirm, one way or the other. And I got to play some golf.

    I've been using the Interenet since about 1993 or 4 - it made the job I have been doing for the past 15 years possible. For me, it is as essential as a car to a rep.

    Actually, reading your blog again, Rory - I think you should ask yourself if you really need the Web or if you just need to organise yourself a bit better. If you could free up some bandwidth for those of us who REALLY need it, it would be appreciated...

  • Comment number 32.

    I'm a programmer, I use the internet. However, the only blogging sites I use are LiveJournal and Dreamwidth, and that only to keep up with what friends are doing (too often they only announce things there). I don't use Twitter or Facebook, I have no interest at all in accessing anything from my phone (except phone cals and the very occasional text message). I do use email -- but with my family and several of my friends I much prefer to spend an hour or two talking on the phone. Skype is useful primarily for international calls (where it's a lot cheaper). When I go on holiday I don't take a laptop with me unless it's for over a couple of weeks, and I certainly don't allow an employer to contact me at home so that I can work there (if they want me to work in my 'off' time they can pay me at 3 times my normal rate: so far none have taken up this offer!)

    I agree with others, if people don't want that sort of thing then there is very little to persuade them. A bit like trying to persuade people who live in London to get a car, they are fine the way they are.

    And yes, the 'net is a big time-sink. Just getting rid of 'spam' (looking for real emails which have been wrongly classed as 'spam') takes several hours a week, and it becomes very tempting to "just check" to see if there's anything new on blogging sites. And then there's the maintenance -- I can do my own, but that still eats time, for people who know little about it the time can be a lot more.

    Would I miss the 'net? Yes, I would. But I can't persuade my mother to even look at it, there's nothing there that interests her...

  • Comment number 33.

    I'm nearing 60 and been somewhat resistant to technology being forced upon me. I admire people who keep up the resistance and don't have their lives dominated by an umbilical cord to the computer. I don't have a TV, though do have radio, but am not interested in keeping up with every programme I may have missed. I came off facebook when inundated with people wanting to become my friend, known and unknown - my life is busy and peopled, and I'm not interested in vicarious living, though I know others who live more physically or emotionally isolated lives for whom Facebook is an important strand for connection. However, the computer for me is extraordinarily valuable for keeping up valued connections with chosen friends and colleagues: personal letters and business that needs to get around to a number of people at the click of a switch. And Skype is brilliant for those free calls around the world. I like to read the headlines quickly and follow further comment on what interests me,rather than what interests the reporter. It's good for buying train, plane and theatre tickets - and I can waste time surfing the internet, but I'm not sure that's a plus. My 97 year old Mum was offered a computer course in her carehome, she declined; but I guess I might be glad of internet connection when I'm in her position.

  • Comment number 34.

    Rory, maybe it is Vanessa who should be trying to convince you instead of the other way around?

  • Comment number 35.

    On reading the "weekend weblog", the only activity I can see where the internet, or just a computer, would be necessary was the last one at 2:00pm on Sunday. However, that is only because your job dictates that it is necessary. Had you become a stonemason, cleric or surgeon, I doubt you would actually need a computer for work. All of the other activities are either for fun or, in the real world, could be done easily without a computer or the web.

    If the aim is to bring more people to Get Online, then surely there are better examples to support that side of any debate that "I can shop online" or "I can watch or listen to something I missed". What's wrong with "you can save paper" "you can save yourself some money" "the internet makes planning ahead much simpler" "it's a great resource for information" "oh, and you might find it fun"?

    I used to be a technophobe but, for work, being computer literate became a necessity. I have, as a result, become a technophile. Using a computer and the web: There are things I do for fun, things I do because I can and things I do because I have to. I used to do pretty much all of the same things without a computer or the web. I did things for fun, because I could and did much the same job without a computer. Computers have definitely made my life easier in certain areas, but they are no replacement for "real life".

  • Comment number 36.

    When I wanted to watch Have I Got News For You last night, it was unavailable to me. Is the BBC running a rationing process so that only some people get to watch the programs they love.

    Other than that, I do enjoy the Internet age and get a lot of information quickly from the net. For, the immediacy of information and knowledge is very useful, but - and it is a big but, one needs to be wary of the source of the information, and always look to support what is displayed with other sources.

    However, I do not miss the internet or computer and can go weeks even, certainly days, without switching the machine on. There is, however, a real problem with this in so far some of my software then takes over the machine to download updates which effectively kills off the first hour of use on the machine!

  • Comment number 37.

    quite simple, use the internet, don't use the internet. There is no compulsion.

  • Comment number 38.

    Personally, I don't really see why we should spend time and money promoting the internet. I think 9 million is already a pretty low figure.
    Most of us "get" it and use it to a greater or lesser extent.
    Those who don't "get" it, whether for cost reasons, lack of knowledge, no need or requirement, can carry on as before. It doesn't matter, their world carries on and so does ours.
    It's like people who don't have TVs. It's unusual, but it doesn't matter.

    Natural promotion is the best way forward rather than making people feel guilty, or making them feel that they are missing out.

  • Comment number 39.

    @ 7. Peter Swettenham:
    Actually, most online grocery shops sell fruit and vegetable as single items. You can also select certain items as "favourites" (items you buy every time when you go shopping, like milk, eggs, bread etc) so you don't have to search for them again. Delivery charges vary from store to store, some even offer free delivery.

    I personally like shopping at the grocery store but I tend to spend more money when I do that because you see so many more items when you walk down each aisle. So by ordering online I actually only order what I need and I save time because I don't get distracted.

    The internet may be a luxury item for you but for thousands of people it is essential, I could not live without it. I have relatives living all over the world and I communicate with them via the internet. I have to use it for work. And when I don't know something I can quickly search for the answer on the internet. I do get sidetracked though, sometimes I search for one piece of information and I notice something else that I find interesting so I spend quite some time clicking from one thing to another. Waste of time? No. I filled my time finding out about things I didn't know before.

    I use online forums where I discuss things with other people, I have made new friends via the internet (yes, I've met them in real life), I stay connected with people I don't see very often.

    Rory's example wouldn't convince me to go onto the internet either. I tricked my mum into using the internet by showing her how easy it is to find out more about her favourite subjects (art and literature) and she's hooked now. She plans her holidays according to date and locations of art exhibitions she wants to see. Before the internet she would have had to subscribe to a magazine to find out about this.

  • Comment number 40.


    Maybe, just maybe, not having everything we want a click away would do us some good....?

    I fear that the ME ME ME, NOW NOW NOW nature of the internet is helping to make people impatient and incapable of sustained thought or remembering things for themselves. I now struggle to read large chunks of text like I used to; I find my brain reading as though I'm looking at a webpage, namely read the first line then start jumping down speed reading. Then getting to the bottom and remembering I am reading a book and maybe I should have read all of it! (And I have 2 degrees before people call me thick....)

    Worse than that I think it can make people shallow and vain. I have banished several friends from facebook because I am so sick of them telling me every time they go into a shop, or what they are having for supper. I think all this social networking is a very good way of staying in touch with people that you otherwise wouldn't bother picking the phone up to (as well as those you would).

    I use the internet every day for work and for personal stuff. It's an amazing bit of technology there is no doubt.

    I fear it is forcing people towards living lonely lives with less real interaction with people and I am sad the BBC is going to be dragged in to supporting a scheme that I would say has no net benefit, as many have posted above.

    There ARE downsides to this technology....and the idea of getting pensioners using it (even ignoring the cost) is laughable. I'm 38, I run my own company, I used to work for a software house and yet if my computer really decides to play up even I can't do much about it. How on earth can you expect a little old lady to use it? And what gives anyone the right to impose it anyway?

    Let's not forget that it suits the government-military-industrial complex down to the ground to have a subservient nation of web addicts sitting in front of their terminals waiting to be told what to buy next, what to believe next and how much tax to pay. Oh, and being able to monitor every aspect of their lives to boot, where rather like a credit score someone's life can be effectively turned off at the click of a mouse. Not yet, but only a matter of time I think. We are sleepwalking to a point where the state will have given itself such powers. Remember the Key Escrow debate? Didn't think so. The Government has access to everything we do online.

    And let's not forget either that when we get to the point where evertything is done online we will have no village shops, no physical banks, no insurance offices, no bookies, no travel agents. An elite we never really see will make money from every one of us at every click of our mouse and I feel we will be impoverished for it.

    Inefficiency breeds jobs. Not many people get that I find. But the efficiency of the internet will kill off the need for so many conventional jobs and I don't see where the replacements will come from. All I am sure of is that every penny spent online came from somewhere and that in our economy that somewhere is based on oil. So that impulse buy shipped halfway round the world has consequences and when the jobs dwindle and everyone has to find new jobs, that has consequences too.

    Nasty, unnecessary, pollution-filled plastic things that need charging non stop and which get thrown away every 2 years are well known to be responsible alone for offsetting power savings made elsewhere....and that's before the pollution they cause in their manufacture and when they go into a landfill.

    And no one will realise that that little old lady is ill because she hasn't turned up to buy her pint of milk for 2 days. The village shop will have been shut for years.

    I really struggle to view all this as positive, and I am sad that the Beeb is going to be involved with such a biased project.

    So come on Rory. Walk to your local shop, say hello to the little old lady next to you in queue and if you're going to buy something on impulse make it some local cheese or something.

  • Comment number 41.

    Oh and would you believe it!

    Top story on BBC News right now:

    Cyber crime among top UK threats

    Couldn't make it up.....

  • Comment number 42.

    I'm quite suprised to see that your examples don't actually make any mention of what the internet and the web really do for people, instead referring simply to entertainment and a bit of shopping.

    The only thing you mentioned which relly demonstrates the power of the web is the skype conersation.

    What about the fact that any one wanting to learn anything can do so via the web. It has made information available 24 hours a day 7 days a week which would otherwise have been inaccessible. There is no way I could have educated myself to the degree I have had I not had access to the web. It has levelled the playing field in so many ways for so many people.

    Surely these facts are more worthy of mention that you listening to the archers or whatever and catching up on a bit of iplayer.

  • Comment number 43.

    Missing the point, missing the point, missing the point. The article was useless at giving practical examples but those of you complaining that your own internet experience does not necessarily merit the campaign to get more people on line is fundamentally flawed.

    For those that only use 6 or 7 sites, what about the time when you need important information? Here are some examples:

    1) Online banking for those who wish to save on paper statements and save the time of going to/calling the bank;

    2) Legal Information, including free legal advice on any number of issues;

    3) Information on medical services and in some cases receiving services via online source (NHS Online etc);

    4) Communication has been mentioned but people may downplay how important this is for some. I've set my mom up on Skype and she is 3,000 miles away. Ok, initially a bit tricky but now she skpes people in 4 different country and this is important to her because she is a very social person;

    5) Emergency info. During the earthquake in China a couple of years back, relatives abroad with net access were able to get messages home, whereas phone networks were jammed for a while. Public service announcements can be disseminated more widely online than in other ways.

    There are numerous other key uses for the net. The point is not how many sites we visit a day but having the capability to access important information when we need it, whoever we are. Primarily, the internet is about educating ourselves and the fact is, in this day and age, the adage of "knowledge is power" applies most appropriately.

  • Comment number 44.

    It's all the world's libraries, and more at my fingertips.
    With the inernet (not just the web), I can:
    - research any topic.
    - research reviews and price comparisons for major purchases
    - buy and sell items
    - keep in touch with friends and family
    - find and communicate with like minded people all around the world
    - participate in puzzle contests, and play chess at any time.
    - work from home!

    Most of these things can be done without the internet, but I find I save time and money with it.

  • Comment number 45.

    Re those on about skype.
    Rory specifcally mentioned HD video calls, which are atm only available on the Windows application.

  • Comment number 46.

    On-line Groceries - absolutely. It takes about 5 minutes to review 'My Usuals' and book a slot, why would anyone want to face the hassle of driving, parking, wandering the isles and then wait for ages in a queue behind someone who finds the concept of paying at the end a shock?
    Holidays, train tickets, flights, hotels,books, tellys, cookers, fridges, cameras, furniture, plants, seeds, bulbs, tools, presents, shoes, boots, coats, tents - all bought on-line in a few minutes rather than the hassle of shopping.
    On-line forums aren’t just for childish bickering – I can discuss ideas/hobbies/interests with knowledgeable, friendly & global friends anytime I wish. Want to learn something new? I could either take time of work to go to the library whose opening hours are arranged for the benefit of the unemployed and be faced with a couple of dog-eared books, screaming kids and clueless librarians; or go on-line and enrol on a course, or watch a video or tap into the trillions of pages of information; all in my time, at my convenience and for little or no cost.
    If Vannessa Feltz wants to live in the 19th century, good for her. She probably earns enough to pay others to connect to the 21st, but for the rest of use with better things to do than live their life at the behest of traditional retailers and service providers the internet is a god-send.

  • Comment number 47.

    I access the internet at work during my lunch break to keep up with the news. Otherwise I never use the internet. When I had access at home, I was paying a fair amount of cash for nothing so I got rid of it. I like the contact I have with other people when buying groceries and books in real shops. The majority of tweets are inane rubbish (yes I have had a look) and if I want to see a friend's photos I like to meet her for a glass of wine and a chat, not see them on Facebook. If I did not have to use a pc for work, I would be quite happy not using one at all. I'm definitely one of those people who it will be difficult to convince that it is better to be "connected"

  • Comment number 48.

    I use the internet extensivly because :-
    A) I am an computer systems technician
    B) I am frequently on-call over night and access from home saves me a journey to work (and time)
    C) I spend much of my time abroad and I have family in Australia so it makes communications much easier

    Having said all that, I have little interest in social networking sites. Great for those who want a cyber life rather than a real one but, for me, they are a solution looking for a purpose.

    Use of the internet is fine for anyone who has a need for it but it is far from essential.

  • Comment number 49.

    I am a touring musician, travelling to a different city every day as similarly daft entertainers have done for centuries. Without the internet - and particularly my tiny weeny mercifully light iPhone - living and working would be much, much harder and a good deal more miserable. In the last week it has enabled me to plan routes and find theatres, check train times and last tubes, find bargain hotels and pay for them, look up closing times for supermarkets in random places, keep up-to-date with new work coming in and send invoices, house-hunt, look at my mum's latest family history researches, keep in touch with family, friends and (via Skype and a helpful boyfriend) even my cat. Last night I travelled back down the A1 getting home at 2am, but I ordered my shopping online on the way, which means that on my one day off I don't have to plod like a zombie around the shops.

    Internet? I'd be properly lost without it.

  • Comment number 50.

    I've been a user since about 1990, and oh how I wish I wasn't.

    I'm an IT professional by occupation and I'd love to open a carpentry shop and never use the internet again.

    Books, TV and pens and paper, all cool, but the internet is 99% usfeul info free.

  • Comment number 51.

    A relatively interesting blog post and then the comments starting off with a linux fanboy whining on as usual about how terrible windows is.

    I've never understood why some computer users feel the need to convert others to their chosen operating system - they are the modern equivalent of those people who knock on your front door and tell you that you are going to hell if you don't join their religion.

    I've used windows for the best part of 20 years and I've never had a virus. If you get non-techie people using linux they are going to have their own problems.

    But back to the blog post, as an expat in the Middle East the internet internet is indispensible - using a cheap vpn service I'm able to get around the UAE's voip blocks, and watch Iplayer! And I can keep in touch with friends around the world.

  • Comment number 52.

    There are a lot of comments stating that there are better examples of what the internet can do than those presented in this article, but surely the point was to just document what he did over the weekend - i.e. the day to day stuff that we all take for granted. That has more impact for me than just making up a load of possible uses.

    Certainly I only really notice my dependence on the internet when I don't have access to it. I recently moved house and had some downtime while an engineer took three weeks to install a phoneline (mobile broadband didn't work in my building either) and it was incredibly frustrating. All of the day to day stuff - whether it's TV, e-mail, checking your bank balance, looking up driving directions on google, or whatever else - has more importance for me, so I thought it was a good article.

  • Comment number 53.

    You don't really have to go further than Donald Clark's inspirational lecture on the massive potential for online learning.

    I regularly tele-conference with people from all over the world who I wouldn't get the opportunity to talk to otherwise. This weekend I had a problem with a website I was building and fixed it through talking to colleagues across the globe. Of course, I'm an internet professional, so a slightly different angle - but look at the difference Google Maps make when you're planning a journey, house hunting, or just feeling nosey.

    I'd probably be here for the rest of the day if I tried to list all its benefits, suffice to say I couldn't cope without it.

  • Comment number 54.

    Historically, whenever new technologies have arrived there has been some resistance. Of course many innovations do not deserve to be embraced but the internet is so different. It enriches and enables. It is an incredble phenomenon that early science fiction writers didn't have the imagination to predict. Sadly, the majority of Earthlings do not have Internet access but those of us fortunate enough to have it should be amazed each day by this wondrous ever-improving human invention. Scorning it or refusing to accept its significance is like denying there are rainbows or shooting stars.

  • Comment number 55.

    Within two hours of my nephew being born this year my brother had posted photos of him on Facebook. Compare this to when my my eldest nephew was born 14 years ago, I had to wait a week to see a photo of him, because that was how long it took for photos to be taken, processed, and then posted to everyone. My elderly Aunty who doesn't have internet had to wait for me to print the photos and send them to her.

  • Comment number 56.

    How do I.....?

    The above 3 words sum up my main use of the internet, huge reference starting point for so many things and at my fingertips where ever I go.

    I think this debate is over.

  • Comment number 57.

    Ditto @48....

    I started to use the Internet in 1995/6 and can't do without it for all the reasons given by 48.

    Having said that a computer is now just like a television and get's the same press like televisions did say in the 1950's so if you wan't to use it, use it, otherwise don't.

    Computer literacy does not equate with having/using a home computer in most cases, kids that are supposedly computer literate don't really know one end of a computer from another, this is mainly due to computer illiterate teachers at school so your really not missing out as much as you may think.

  • Comment number 58.

    One good thing about the internet: it has allowed us to add our opinions to this article! I'm on the side of the naysayers. The internet is very useful for some things and a big timesuck otherwise.

    However, if you would like to hear someone seamlessly and convincingly integrate the promotion of the internet into their programme, try genial octogenarian Desmond Carrington.
    (you can hear it 19 mins in... )

  • Comment number 59.

    I use the internet for news, shopping, catching up with family and friends who live a long way away, and for sending work home to save me lugging paperwok everywhere. What that says about my lifestyle might not be all good! I'd say the internet is a happy choice, but each to their own. It simply isen't essential. I too prefer real conversation over a dinner table.

    But the best reason for the internet in my life? I met my boyfriend abroad and our relationship really grew over the internet when I returned home. As a result, he now lives with me in Britain and we plan to get married next year. So for me, it was the best tool for a specific purpose. And now? We are real people together, which I infinitely prefer to seeing him on Skype!!

  • Comment number 60.

    I'm delighted to find Feltz isn't online. Now I know there's a place I can go where there is no risk of seeing or hearing her.

  • Comment number 61.

    Im afraid your typical day of web use would hardly attract anyone to use the internet. As others have said, you missed a tv programme - how awful!! And as for keeping in touch with 'friends', surely you would be in contact by telephone if they were really friends, and not just strangers you know from facebook.
    I recently used online shopping for groceries, and whilst it meant I didnt have to physically go to the supermarket, it still took me at least an hour to complete the order online, and of course pay for delivery. Useful but not essential by any means. Having said that I do like Amazon for books, though if high street shops sold their books at the same price I would probably buy books there (you cant beat a browse in a real bookshop).
    I also wonder about all the energy you use in seemingly having at least one electronic device (laptop, pc et) continually on during your whole waking day (and probably whilst sleeping as well). If everyone did this I darent think of the electricity demand, which in turn means further global warming given current technology.

  • Comment number 62.

    Of course you can live your life without the internet, it is just that the internet genuinely makes some of life's tasks easier. It is strange that when I go away for a week where there is no inernet, at first I am a bit 'itchy' that I can't check my mails or read the BBC news but after a couple of days I have pretty much forgotten about it.

    As an aside, and referring to post 1 - I wish people would stop banging on about Linux. It is starting to become like you are some kind of IT evil menace if you are not using a Linux desktop. Before I get lynched by the Linux Police, I will say that I run a Linux server (mail server and firewall). It has been running for years on a battered laptop and doesn't have a GUI - I hardly ever have to touch it. Linux as a desktop is quite frankly not very good. It is confusing and impossible for a non guru to fix if it goes wrong. There are so many distros out there that choosing one is hard in the first place. My Dad got sold a laptop with Ubuntu on it last year and I spent the next six weeks on the phone trying to help him. He is now back on a mac-book and happy. If you are trying to convince none-internet users to use the internet, don't pick Linux to do it with!!

  • Comment number 63.


    Oh my goodness .... WELL SAID, kernowman!

    You couldn't be more right. People MUST contemplate the bigger picture, before it's too late. The internet will prove to be the end of civilisation as we know it.

  • Comment number 64.

    I am 72 years old, and I couldn't live without the internet. Of course, I am hard up, and Vanessa isn't, so many of the advantages to me would be meaningless to her in terms of saving money. As with many other people, I hate supermarket shopping, and ordering on line not only cuts down the tedium, but also saves me the time and cost of driving a round trip of 24 miles. One of my biggest savings is belonging to an online oil bulk buying scheme which enables huge reductions on my heating bills. Vanessa would probably also not be impressed by the fact that I find online banking much easier and convenient than any other method.

    However, my life has been enriched in many ways which would not have been possible without my computer. My knowledge of international politics has increased hugely through reading international newspapers, and a couple of years ago, I flew to Pennsylvania to meet up with a group of ladies I met on the net, which was a once in a lifetime opportunity. In the past twelve months I have been able to help one distant grandchild with her college assignments, and participated in another grandchild's first year at university through pictures and regular emails. I have had two very cheap but enjoyable short breaks in Cornwall, armed with a list of dog-friendly beaches, and a trip to Marrakech on special offer, with much reduced car parking charges, none of which could not have been found through a travel agent.
    Perhaps most satisfying of all, I have been able to research my family history, and have solved a family myth/mystery which has been around since my mother was a child, and this has led to me doing not only my own tree, but also that of my husband, and now a few close friends - Fascinating!
    And, most useful and reassuring, when my husband was diagnosed with cancer, not only did we get all the information we needed but we also got in touch with others in the same boat, which provided us with support 24 hours a day, whenever we felt we needed it.
    Thank goodness I was dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century by my husband, who bought our first computer ten years ago. Those who are still resisting just don't know what they are missing!

  • Comment number 65.

    I think the internet is excellent there is so much you can do with it and you can gain so much knowlege from it and is so easy to research the information that you require.
    I do have worries though that UK broadband on online technology is falling behind due to the goverments low target of min 2mpbs speed which in all honestly is far too low and for the future of the country they should be setting it higher so all people have the facility to watch HDTV on computer or play online gaming.My personal feeling is the goverment should pay towards next generation broadband as well as improving mobile broadband speeds which again is falling behind the rest of the world partly due to UK broadband core network not being as good as it should be

  • Comment number 66.

    Your Public Libraries also provide great access to information online through their online databases which are often accessible from home. Also, many belong to a collaborative online service called Enquire ( they will answer questions online, or reply via email if more information is required. A great way to experience getting online and fulfilling your thirst for knowledge via the Library.

  • Comment number 67.

    Vanessa probably does use the internet. She'd say that she could live without oxygen if she thought anybody would be interested...

    I use it every day for all sorts of things but, if I go away and am not able to access it for a few days, I feel a great inner calm descend.

  • Comment number 68.

    Technology permeates our entire society - ignoring the internet would be akin to refusing telephones, radio or tv - which were revolutionary ways of communicating once upon a time

    My major point would be information - people don't realise just how much they would lose without the net

    Having an argument - look it up, need last week's football scores - not going to be in the papers anymore, want to find out some trivia like how old is the pm? FA cup final 1974? Without the internet we would be stuck with fixed forms through our radios and television, or a limited amount of books, it boggles the mind to think that if we didn't know something, we couldn't find out the answer - it's a huge change that people are missing out on

    But I would say - leave out gimmicks such as twitter and apps, if we're trying to get the elderly to join the online community keep it basic, they don't need a constant barrage of nonsense from twitter and confusing terms like smartphones - useful things like banking, shopping, news and iplayer are where we should start

    And the identity fraud scares clearly aren't helping - people fear typing their cards into online shops, when they are taking as much a risk when they use a reader in a shop - use basic common sense like sticking to websites you know and you are at no more risk than using an electronic payment device in the high street

  • Comment number 69.

    Rory Cellan-Jones.
    (Alana and her Salamander)

    "Vanessa told me she had never been on the web or even sent an e-mail ... a web search tells me that in 2000, BBC1 offered a "week-long series in which Vanessa Feltz discovers if and how the Internet can make life easier"."

    will you be following up on this 'discrepancy'?
    are the memories of the other "..nine million people in the UK.." as reliable as Ms Feltz's?

  • Comment number 70.

    @ post #51
    Thanks for your useful input.
    As it happens, I strongly believe - with some degree of actual technical authority behind it - that new, or indeed any internet, users would be far better off not having to cope with Windows malware. You may have been lucky and/or skillful enough not to have had problems but millions are not so fortunate. Fair enough, an inexperienced user will have difficulties with any system. Computers are complicated yet versatile tools, after all. It would be nice, however, if these 9 million hitherto offline people were aware that one of their potential fears stopping them going online was wholly avoidable.

  • Comment number 71.

    I don't think Vanessa Feltz is telling the full truth - she must have an iPhone, she seems like the kind of person to jump on a bandwagon like that, which means that she must have been on the web at some point even if she's never sent an email.

    I also imagine Feltz to be the kind of person to exaggerate or say things for effect...are you sure she wasn't winding you up Rory? It's worrying that someone as opinionated as Vanessa Feltz doesn't take the time to use the Web to research the many topics she often spouts on about.

    With regards to all the Luddites above, if you don't like it, don't use it. However, don't ever criticise the Web and Internet at large - living as you do in a modern Western country, everything you do is affected in some small way by the Internet and related computing technologies, with a list too long to go into here. The sort of wistful longings of people wishing for a simpler time is aggravating; you can't stop progress, and what these people are failing to realise is that while they were spending their Saturday nights watching The Generation Game all together on TV, rapid advances were already being made in Internet and computing technologies by those with a bigger vision. Rapid progress is still being made now (if anything, it's getting faster and faster), and these technologies affect every part of our lives, not just in ordering Amazon books and checking Twitter. I agree with many above that Rory's uses of the Web seemed incredibly banal and superficial, but he's probably missed out all the other indirect interactions he's had with the Internet...using the bank, reading his emails (on his iPhone no less) etc.

    #14's link is good though - finding 'magazines in the woods' was a right of passage for many a male teenager, and Teletext was just like a really blocky, useless Internet for Turner the Worm and Bamboozle...

  • Comment number 72.

    7 Peter Swettenham wrote:

    Saved an hour shopping for groceries? what universe are you living in? The internet shopping never hs the options that you require, you can only every buy "packaged" fruit or veg its a total waste of time and often a lot more expensive as well as the fact that it costs more as you have to pay for the delivery. And payment is inverse to the delivery slot, so to save an hour lord alone knows how much extra had to be paid.

    As for trying to load windows onto a mac to run Skype, why not just download Skype for Mac? even IT idiots like me manage that.


    Internet shopping offers exactly the same items as your local shop, because that's where it comes from (I'm using the major retailer as an example) - they do sell individual produce and despite being initially sceptical about quality, I've found it to be as good as I would pick (you can even write a note for the picker - eg 4 green bananas, 1 yellow)

    You pay for delivery, yes - and if you live near the shop it would be foolish perhaps, although faster, and that's why they now offer a pick-up for less cost, but if like me you have a round trip of 12 miles, then the weekly two hour trip is worth the few extra pounds (and you can offset by seeing every single offer in the store in one page) to reduce it to about ten minutes

    and seriously - online shopping is ridiculously good value, I refer to a certain major auction site and major sales website named after a rainforest, in particular - you can find anything, cheaper prices, and nowadays free delivery on most things!

    As for skype - I agree Rory was being foolish, but I think he wanted to see the new version which is windows only (skype for mac is different), the foolishness was trying to install a windows system on a mac for such a trivial reason, far too much effort

  • Comment number 73.

    I almost have a second life through the internet, and not in a bad way. As someone from the other side of the world and working in a global industry my life would not be the same without the internet. I can wave hello at a friend's new baby on video chat, show research via weblink to colleagues from London to Los Angeles, easily find and buy music that has been out of print for years, research information about anything, learn about almost anything for free anytime... etc. The wealth of information and communication possibilities are so incredible that until you use it, you don't understand how much you are missing.

  • Comment number 74.

    No-one has commented on the use of the internet for information, it isn't all about shopping! Being a silver surfer my biggest use, apart from booking holidays and hotel rooms etc. is using it as an encyclopedia, you can look up just about anyone or anything!

  • Comment number 75.

    I'm going to defend Rory's online shopping.

    We do over 90% of our grocery shopping online

    - I can make up the order over the week ahead so I don't forget anything - yes, I could write a shopping list, but I'd lose that...

    - I can make up the order in bits of spare time rather than having to do the shopping in one big batch

    - I can look up recipes online and order the required ingredients easily

    - I can even edit the order on my phone via an app

    - the delivery charge (I pay £10 per month for as many deliveries as I want) is cheaper than the cost of petrol for me to drive to the supermarket and back

    - there's often more choice via the online shop than in store, and the quality is better than my local supermarket's

    - I do have to be in for the hour when the van is going to arrive, but I can do other stuff during that time. It takes me 20 minutes to drive to the local decent supermarket, and another 20 to drive back, never mind the time spent there shopping, and queuing, so having to be in the house for an hour doing other things is hardly any inconvenience.

    - I automatically get the same delivery slot unless I request to change it, so I can plan around that. If the driver is going to be late, or can deliver early, he gives me a call to let me know.

    - I may miss out on some special offers - but on the other hand, I only buy what I need, rather than being tempted by things on offer that I don't really need...

  • Comment number 76.

    pculbert #61.

    "And as for keeping in touch with 'friends', surely you would be in contact by telephone if they were really friends.."

    some of us have friends who live in other timezones (!!).

  • Comment number 77.

    @40 - Blimey I missed your post when I first read through these comments.

    I think you do make some good points. I think that over-use of the internet is not good if it is at the detriment to everything else. But it is like all things in life that anything and everything in moderation isn't going to be bad for you.

    I can't see hoards of pensioners suddenly embrasing the internet, some will, most won't I suspect. The people I know of that generation are an example of that in that most do not even have a PC. However my friends and relatives of latter years who do use the internet find it very useful for things like shopping and banking (they tend to still write and use the telephone rather than email). Unfortunately we are already past the point where you can walk to the local shop or get the bus to the town for your shopping. If you don't have a car to get to the shopping centre by the industrial estate, you are in trouble.

    As for the government wanting us to be a nation controlled by a terminal, then I have good news. We just had an election and got rid of that lot!

  • Comment number 78.

    @ Jedra, regarding the Linux desktop usability issue.

    Of course you are entitled to your opinions and your experiences will colour how you perceive desktop Linux. However, with the right support in place, I can honestly see no reason why it should be 'hard' and 'for geeks only'. For that reason I've come to the conclusion that, although I don't primarily use it myself, Ubuntu really is the best choice for new users as a general purpose desktop. Come on Rory, we need your review!

    Also, let me try to explain why you will come across a lot of people like me who try to encourage the use of Linux. Basically, I'm not technical enough to be a kernel hacker, so in return for the years of solid service my Linux desktops have given me I try to support newer users where I can and also serve as part of GNU/Linux and Free/Open Source's marketing department. You don't hear people complaining about the latest Microsoft advert on television, so why should a FOSS community member trying to inform people of the alternatives be any more bothersome?

  • Comment number 79.

    #64 from kazibeth - what a wonderful, inspiring comment. A fine antidote to the suffocating chicken-little pessimism of #40 from kernowman. "How on earth can you expect a little old lady to use it?" - slightly patronising, wouldn't you say!? And clearly groundless.

    Obviously it's possible to live without owning a television, and it's possible to never read any books. We know this for a fact because there are real people who do so. The Internet is no different; it's something that can enrich your life - if you have the imagination to wonder whether your present lifestyle might be open to improvement.

    #40 is particularly astonishing because it is the most direct statement of Luddite thinking I've ever encountered - even including praise for inefficiency!

  • Comment number 80.

    It might be best if the government concentrated on first getting all politicians, civil servants and NHS consultants on the internet too. I could name a big list of NHS consultants and civil servants who still ask for communication not be email but by fax!

    By they way try getting the data on how many Nursing Homes and Hospices supply WiFi for their patients/residents (some do). Similarly what about NHS hospital in and out patients!

  • Comment number 81.

    We CAN live without The Internet. We did so, most of us, quite happily, 20 years ago, even 10 years ago. (And it's not the most important invention of the 21st century, as one TV ad says - it was started in the 1960's.) I think 'Kernowman' (12:21pm) makes some very good points.

    I like it for looking up information that I could get, say, from a library but without the speed, and email is handy if you can find anybody who ever bothers to check their inbox (a lot more rare than you would think.)

    Other than that, I think it a very poor subsititute for interacting with real people. People who depend on 'social networking' strike me as 'a bit sad.' Shopping, banking, catching TV you've missed? All solutions in search of a problem. As I say, we USED to manage to do things before.

    I wouldn't care less if The Internet suddenly ceased to exist this very moment. It would have no impact on me. (Even if it meant no-one read this post - how would I know who's read it and why should I care?)

  • Comment number 82.

    My parents, in their 70s, have never used the internet and have no intention of. They have never used a cash machine either.

    While I wouldn't be without it at home now, I do think we are at risk of doing far too much online, spending too much time and money.

    The examples given in this article would definitely not persuade my parents or I imagine many other people to suddenly get online.

    What about the wealth of advice available, the excellent sites such as the BBC one? Being able to catch up on a programme you have missed and finding out someone follows your boring Tweets is not enough to persuade someone with no experience of the web to find out more.

    What was better, was the Radio 4 item today with Linda Robson talking about going to her local library after finally being persuaded to try out an internet course. She was genuine and realistic. To be honest, I just don't believe Vanessa Feltz.

  • Comment number 83.

    Interesting comments, and shows a wide range of opinions, which is what you would expect, but most of the people responding are already converts to the cause, and don't need the shove to get online.

    Interesting to think that if TV had been better, the internet probably wouldn't have been so successful so quickly. We stopped watching TV two years ago, and rarely turn it on these days.

    Lots of folks local to us who 'might' be converts, but most are retired and probably don't have the knowledge or the funds to get online, and having spent most of their lives without it, cannot see the need for it now, just like HDTV, mobile phones, satellite TV etc etc., all things which are nice to have but ultimately not necessary.

  • Comment number 84.

    This is a difficult one - personally I use my laptop and mobile constantly - but are they critical to my lifestyle, or sometimes do we just find uses for all the gadgets we now accumulate? As a 'home dad', probably the mobile (as only a phone, not a means of accessing the web) is critical, so the school can get hold of me in emergency situations if I'm 'out and about'. I use the laptop for everything decribed above, but I don't think I could necessarily persuade somebody this functionality was indispensible. I find accessing the web very addictive and probably waste more time on it than I should...however, it can be very useful for instant access to such things as train timetables.

  • Comment number 85.

    @ 26, Alana and her Salamander wrote:

    "Was there a companion programme in which she [Vanessa Feltz] investigated the tastiness of bacon without eating any pig-meat?"

    I believe the good lady is Jewish so your suggestion is entirely possible!

  • Comment number 86.

    Personally the internet has been great for me, if nothing else it has provided me with a much better living than I would have otherwise.

    However, like a lot of other others, when I first read this article I thought - oh my god, its a bit rubbish isn't it? Watching TV programmes and avoiding going to the shops - is that the best we could do? and I also realise that I'm online a lot less than I was 10 years ago, so maybe it really didn't live up to the hype..

    However to counter that, this is my totally arbitary 3 best things on the internet:

    1. Skype - leaving a video connection to someone in Spain open for a whole morning, feeling as though you are in the same room as someone thousands of miles away truly feels like the future.

    2. Wikipedia - being able to look up anything you come accross in a book, newspaper article, or on TV and find out a (reasonably) full amount about it - totally inconceivable when I was younger

    3. Last FM - growing up in the 80s with 1 hour of John Peel a night to hear new music, and no way of hearing it when you're at school / work - compared to the whole history of music on random play


  • Comment number 87.

    @ Nick Poole,
    Yes, people did go without the internet before. But now we have it, it has made various tasks an awful lot easier, and an awful lot cheaper.
    By your logic, we should go back to living in caves, just because we used to in the past.

    I don't see how catch up tv, banking or shopping are "looking for a problem". They all make existing activies a lot easier, cheaper and more convenient.

    TV - means I can do other things, and watch the shows when I want. Means if I have watched soemthing, and I think a friend will find it interesting, I can send them a link etc.
    Banking - in an age when bank branches are closing quite often, online banking is important. Plus, internet savings accounts quite often give better rates of interst.
    Shopping - as already mentioned, can save a lot of time and money.

    As for the social network part - I don't see how wanting to keep in contact with my friends at home and at uni is "a bit sad". In fact, its quite the opposite. If I cut myself off from my friends by just using online tools and not ever seeing them, now that would be a bit sad.

  • Comment number 88.

    The Internet is a huge money making CON
    Paedos love it with easy access to vulnerable children -
    fraudsters and identity theft villains love it -
    marketing people selling crap love it -
    nerdy geeks love it - because they can become billionaires very quickly
    now even with reduced pensions and government cuts they say everyone should be on broadband much to BTs delight but 9 m vulnerable ignorant uneducated naive old people should not be forced onto the net
    to make some criminal richer which is what will happen. and then the police with budget cuts will be unable to chase these villains in Russia who get their ill gotten gains moved via the banks to their offshore accounts -SO keep OFF the net - and save electricity as well as your identity!

  • Comment number 89.

    My own personal feeling (as an avid user of the web) is that it makes you lazy and helps you develop a lack of patience in real life situations, because people become used to getting everything they want more or less instantly. For those people who do everything online (including socialising), it can also affect the quality of your communication. It can also be a bit addictive. Why wouldnt it, when you can have groceries delivered to your door, watch tv and listen to radio on the same box, conduct friendships, etc. There is a real scope there for people in certain circumstances to lose their lives to the net.

    And yes I include myself in that observation so I'm not just having a pop at others.

    Vanessa, do yourself a favour, stay away. Its definitely over-rated. I think when life gets too easy, people suffer as a result. I am one who believes that challenges and difficulties (such as going to the grocers when its not convienient) are little tests that keep us on our feet. I think the day we defer those challenges and tests to a small box on a desk is the day that we suffer as human beings.

    Human beings develop through adversity and difficulty. Thats how we improve. We dont improve ourselves by having it all too easy. That small box on your desk is busy removing that adversity from people's lives. What do you think happens to people as a result?

    When life gets too easy, is when weakness creeps in. Those are my observations from my (very heavy) usage of the web.

    Vanessa trust me on this, when you have realised what I (a web addict) has realised, it will take you as long to wean yourself away from it as it did for these people to drag you into it. And its not easy if you are a naturally lazy person (like me).

  • Comment number 90.

    Reading all these comments simply confirms what I already knew -

    Some people have enquiring minds, some don't.
    Some people have imagination, some don't.
    Some people use technology, some let technology use them.

    T'was ever thus! (And age has nothing to do with it!)

  • Comment number 91.

    My mother uses a computer - she is 87.

    She uses it to write books because, for her, it is easier and faster than using a typewriter.

    She tried the internet, but does not use it because it is harder and slower to use than a telephone; she points out that she can cover far more detail in a 5 minute phone call than spending 5 minutes writing an email.

    But you can phone over the internet! And do a video call! Is it easier, she asked?

    I thought about it. No, it is complicated to set up, it goes wrong more often, and you have to update the software on a regular basis.

    I have decided that my mother has wisdom that makes the IT industry and the politicians look completely stupid.

    Why does anyone need to be online? I am because it works with my business model. But if I did not need it for business, I would not have bothered.

    According to Rory, it will save you money! How?

    My mother's computer is ancient - so she would need a new one.

    £500 or there abouts.

    She would need Broadband.

    That is another £15 per month on top of her phone line.

    Depending on what software she uses she may need to pay for upgrades.

    Computers use electricity, so do routers.

    Computers go wrong - that costs an amazing amount of money for someone who is not technical or hasn't someone kind that will fix it for you.

    All in all, I cannot see any reason why my mother, a highly intelligent, well educated and sharp witted person, should be connected to the internet. As she points out, it would make her life more expensive, far less efficient and would fill it with hassles she does not want or need.

    The pity is, she keeps asking about it because she and her friends are feeling like they are being forced into using it - by government, by family and now, by the BBC.

  • Comment number 92.

    As an ex-pat living in the USA I couldn't imagine life being possible for me here without the internet

    Leaving aside for the moment the fact that by profession I am an IT support tech working for a webhosting company, I need it more than anything else to keep in touch with things back in Britain

    I think it was one of my favourite authors - Bill Bryson - who once said something like "move to the USA and see your country disappear !"

    America is the most incredibly parochial country I have ever been to (and my country count is somewhere in the mid 50s at the moment). Many people don't know anything about events in the next state and there is breathtaking ignorance about the world outside. The TV news program "World News Tonight" would be taken to task were it in Britain as frequently there is no news at all about what the rest of us think of as "the world" !

    The internet has been my saving grace since moving here five years ago - and the BBC site and all its associated parts are especially important. And before any of you back home start jumping up and down about my not paying the licence fee - I would happily pay for a subscription to everything that the BBC provides, and have told them so in an email.....

  • Comment number 93.

    Just thought of something. When advertising anything financial, the advertiser is obliged to point out that investments can go down as well as up, that your house may be at risk, etc. I think the BBC First Click campaign should add the following to its promotions:

    "Remember, your connection can slow down and fail as well as speed up, your life will be filled with internet scams, your computer will be obsolete in the next year and you will be persuaded to buy a new one, you may lose all your personal information, anything you say may be made public and used against you, you will be exposed to gratuitous violence and obscenity, you will feel like throwing your computer through the window daily, you will feel invaded, everything that was easy will now become really really complicated and you will wonder why you ever signed up to the damned thing in the first place. Internet access has not been proven to make anyone happier."

  • Comment number 94.

    i have an 85 year old friend who follows her extended family and friends scattered around the world on FB. she plays online scrabble and is proud of her scores. she buys flights and a range of other goods and services. she skypes giving her access to family which she simply couldn't afford on a pension. i cannot believe i am reading the negative comments especially from people who clearly use the net. i do believe vanessa because i have friends who like her believe it might just all go away! i am just sad i was born in the 1950's because i want to see the next 50 years of internet use. i think the BBC campaign is money well spent and hope it is successful.

  • Comment number 95.

    I would be more surprised is she lived without cake. Only joking Vanessa.

  • Comment number 96.

    the BBC is openly encouraging people to get online now there is nothing wrong in that but they are also encouraging them to use the internet communication service skype without first explaining that to use this service you first have to agree with thire user licence which will not let you use the service without first agreeing with the licence and unless you first read the licence from start to finish you will not notice that by agreeing to the licence agreement you also give the skype service the right to pass any information that they gather about you and your internet usage to thire partners and you are not given any chance of opting out as if you do not agree to them doing this then you are not allowed to use the service so i think that the BBC should think twice before it encourages people to use the skype servic without first explaing the licence more fully

  • Comment number 97.

    Is it wrong of me to think that the Beeb should be spending the licence fee on making programmes instead of running campaigns to get more people online?

  • Comment number 98.

    I've been using the Internet for 16 years now, and I cannot begin to imagine how much I would've missed if I hadn't.

    Let's start with broadening of horizons.

    There are many hundreds of books I would never have known existed, let alone been able to find to read, if the Internet hadn't been around for me to find them. Book stores and libraries only have finite space, after all.

    There are many thousands - literally - of people I would never have engaged in conversation if I hadn't had the Internet at my fingertips. IRC has introduced me to people who live in countries I've never been to, and introduced me to lifestyles I certainly wouldn't have known existed. It's shown me the diversity of humanity, and given me an appreciation of how different any one person can be to another - and how the same.

    IRC even taught me about group dynamics - watching it fall, gloriously and terribly, from an ideal of freedom of information as a single entity - "The IRC" - to a disparate squabbling abundance of networks, ruled by tin-pot dictators with bloated self-importance at every level.

    So, too, forums; going from glorious places of shared information to places to be exposed to spam. The evolution of the forum (Usenet / BBS Groups -> Web Forums -> Blogs), the shared experience controlled by the group, to the blog, controlled by the individual, is a fascinating one.

    Witnessing the second and third and fourth waves of inhabitation of the Internet, too, has been fascinating. The allegedly socially awkward geeks and nerds of the first two waves were far more social than the alleged social revolution of sites like Facebook and MySpace; the early Internet was a groping towards enhancement of social life, with email and IRC - and the modern Internet is a way for egotists to be egotistical, bloating the importance of their lives by babbling endlessly about them to anyone who will listen on Twitter or Facebook or MySpace. Not to mention the overall degradation in typing and communication quality I've seen; the original users of the Internet now are often easily spotted: they can spell.

    On the other hand, the modern Internet has advantages. My reality is, as it were, augmented. In the past few years I've travelled around the UK much more, resulting in being thoroughly confused and lost. Without the Internet, and access to it by my phone, I would've been forced to wander aimlessly in search of, say, an ATM machine. I would've had no idea what pubs were good to go to, what areas had good nightlife, what areas to avoid at night due to high crime rates involving mugging, and so on.

    And there are at least 600 bands I would never have heard of - many news stories I would never have read. These two are obviously because of the increasing censorship by the mass media, something I doubt I would've noticed had I not been able to read outside their ridiculously narrow provisions.

    The Internet is a great and wonderful tool, and those in power - corporate power and governmental - are doing a wonderful job of making it all about them, and not about you. You can buy things! Yay! You can talk about pointless rubbish like how some dumb bint who acts in films has hairy armpits! Hurrah!

    Me, I'll keep using the Internet for what it was made: communication and freedom.

  • Comment number 99.

    @WelshBlueBird1: You're right, I would be suggesting we live in caves, *if* that were the logic of my point, but it isn't.

    It's these people who say they "can't" live without something when demosntrably they did so only a few dozen months ago (Eg Englishmaninvegas.) It's this myth of the essential I am challenging.

    I do not dispute that going online makes a lot of things easier or at least more convenient, in some cases. In some cases there is also a downside.

    However, if you miss a TV programme *it really doesn't matter.* It's only a piece of entertainment and, if you were busy doing something else instead, that should be sufficient.

    There are times when you can use a tool and times when a tool uses you. See Riggadon's comment. I know which I prefer.

  • Comment number 100.

    Nick (#99) - you are of course right...

    We increasingly live in a world where the media in particular do a really good job of telling us what we can't live without - when of course this is palpably not the case

    As an example - whilst there are some very good programmes to be found on TV even here in America (where the way everything is put together is simply awful !) and back in the UK - I have never regarded having a TV as a 'necessity of life'. If people need to be in touch with news and possible emergency situations, a cheap radio will suffice

    I do find the internet invaluable as a source of good information in addition to all of the everyday functions I can carry out using it


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