“The Internet is clearly about more than sports scores and email now.  It’s a place where we can conduct our democracy and get very large amounts of data to very large numbers of people. ” ~Frank James

There are times when the Internet, and the world in general, can seem like a dark and lonely place.  It’s filled with perverts and rip-offs and porn. Oh my!  (It’s important that you say those last two sentences a la Wizard of Oz, “Lions and tigers and bears. Oh my!”  It’s just more fun that way.) No seriously, we warn our children about the dangers of the Internet, we send warnings to our friends (the ones with PC’s, anyway) cautioning them against opening emails with the virus du jour and shake our heads over Facebook’s latest change and how it affects our privacy.  (Then we proceed to post every detail of our day. Hmm.) However, I’m talking about the kind of cyber activity that gives me the warm fuzzies.

Perverts and rip-offs and porn! Oh My!

These past couple of years and especially the last two weeks have me looking at the Internet with fresh eyes.  There’s a whole lot of good going on here. (Now, you can hum along with the tune of Herman’s Hermits “I’m Into Something Good”. ) Some of the things that are making me sit up and take notice are little things important only to me, some are germane locally, while others have seriously been newsworthy.  (When I typed that last bit, the term “Sponge-worthy” floated through my brain.  Spontaneous giggles ensued.)  You all know I am profoundly grateful for the old friends the Web has brought back into my life and  I use many web-based applications to stay in contact with all my favorite peeps. The amazing thing is I’m not just keeping up with current friends, I’m actually making new ones.

It’s a little weird, but there are people  I’ve only met through email or blogging and I now consider them friends.  A case in point is my fellow blogger, Jessica.  She blogs on a variety of fun subjects.  I never know what she’ll post on: recipes, hip new products, a movie or book review.  She makes me feel so caught up.  You should check her out.  We’ve start emailing back and forth beyond the blogs and supporting each other’s efforts.  It’s been very cool.  Then there are bloggers I follow and who visit my blog from India, Great Britain, Israel and Canada, among other places.  It makes the world seem so small and friendly.

There is the whole library aspect of the web.  I can be writing and need a synonym, a definition or a quotation and it is quite literally at my fingertips.  The research that once upon a time would have involved precious hours is now reduced to a quick trip down Cyber Google Lane.  While I still do some research the old-fashioned way, they’re called books, children,  I can do a lot of the heavy lifting from my computer.  Doing research from my laptop has the added bonus of working with my schedule (quite often in the wee hours of the night) as opposed to say the public library’s more limiting hours, what with budget cuts and all.

I get a great deal of my news from online as well.  Seems everywhere I turn there are interesting articles or informative videos to peruse.  Yes, one does need to mindful that one does not allow one’s entire day to sucked away by the siren song of the computer.  All things in moderation, right?  I also love that the news can be and frequently is targeted just for me.  (You mean, you made this whole Internet, just for little ol’ me? Aw, shucks, you shouldn’t have.)  For example, I can go to my local Pleasanton Patch online newspaper and find out what’s happening in my neck of the woods.  You probably have one in your area if you are in the U.S.. The Patch will tell me what’s happening with local events, community needs, city issues, my friend Cameron even writes on our schools.

More than friends and social niceties, information and news, the last few months culminating in the past two weeks have been very illuminating in terms of what the Internet can do.  First, we watched in amazement at the Internet coordinated and driven revolution in Egypt and marveled at the impact social networking is making throughout the Middle East.  Then at home, there was SOPA and PIPA which had everyone online in an uproar (and rightly so).  These two innocent sounding acronyms inspired the now famous Internet blackout of January 18th and a blog rant by yours truly.  For now these bills have been shelved.  Apparently things just got too hot in Washington.  (Everyone, remember the words to “Hot in the City” by Billy Idol?  Sorry, this is rapidly becoming a sing along blog.)  I’m sure it was my piece that made the difference, right? Okay, maybe not.

Still, even with the whole SOPA/PIPA extravaganza, last week’s Komengate surprised me.  It took just one news cycle and Komen was back pedaling.  Which is good, because I thought they were flipping out of their collective pink minds.  Where do they think women without health coverage go for care of the female persuasion?  I mean, that’s where I went for annual exams, birth control and the occasional girl problem (don’t worry, male readers, I’ll spare you the gory details) in my twenties.  Those were the years when I was off my parents’ insurance but hadn’t quite gotten a good enough job to have my own.  Come to think of it, even when I had insurance it didn’t cover women’s care very well.  I still had to turn to Planned Parenthood.  They were a lifesaver.

In these days of unlimited campaign spending (gosh, thanks, Supreme Court) and aggressively active PAC’s, are we finding there might actually be an avenue to get the voice of the people through?  That there may be a way we can react quickly enough, disseminate information in such a way as to shine a light on our issues and our needs?  Do the people have a bullhorn, cyberly speaking?  Goodness, I don’t know, that makes me positively, well, hopeful.

A warmer, fuzzier Internet?  I dig it.

“The Internet is like alcohol in some sense.  It accentuates what you would do anyway.  If you want to be a loner, you can be more alone.  If you want to connect, it makes it easier to connect.”  ~Esther Dyson