Growing up, my dad was pretty technology-savvy (which is funny because I would definitely not say the same today about the man who only ever calls me for help with his phone/computer), and I don't remember a time without a computer in our home.
When I was in elementary school, we had Prodigy... remember that? I used to send emails (is that what they were called then?) to my cousin, Casey, in Colorado, but that was the extent of my online knowledge. I don't remember thinking much about it, but I was young.
In middle school, I sauntered into my dad's home office one day complaining that I was bored. He took this as an opportunity to introduce me to AOL and helped me create my very first screen name, Coffee123 (if I remember correctly, the coffee was because I described myself as hyper, and my dad suggested 123 when my favorite number, 13, was already taken). Suddenly, a new world of chat rooms (I cringe at the thought of this now) and instant messaging was opened to me, and I was completely hooked on the possibilities of the Internet.
Throughout high school, I primarily used the Internet to socialize with people I knew in real life and to illegally download music (thank you, Napster) like everyone else I knew. Being grounded from the computer was literally the worst punishment EVER (honestly... this would still be the case for me)!
In college, the Internet allowed me to stay in touch with high school friends AND to connect more easily with my peers on campus. Thanks to those oh-so-important away messages, I was in-the-know about social events both near and far. This was also the time when Internet research began to trump book research, mostly for the sake of convenience.
In my adult life, with Internet access on a multitude of handheld devices, I not only have endless knowledge at my fingertips, but I also have constant access to social networks. The Internet has allowed me to be "present" for things I can't see in person when we've been separated by distance. I've watched friends get married through live feeds. I've watched their children grow through photos, videos, and status updates. Our relationships have continued because we've been able to connect in this way.
Erin Cobb. We navigated the blogging world together, and she introduced me to TPT (and has since become its queen).
I started participating in linky parties and got to know my girl Alison, who has genuinely become one of my best friends... even though we've never met in person (which is weird to even admit because I feel like we've been friends forever). I can't tell you how many nights I've stayed up texting and emailing with her about school and life. I'm a better person for our friendship!
And then I took on a writing challenge and became dear friends with Michelle, who has turned into a real-life friend and mentor. She has been an endless source of encouragement when I've fallen into blogging ruts and pondered throwing in the towel, and she's proven to be an terrific instructional coach, even though we work miles apart! Also? She encourages me to drink red wine... proof that bloggers are good people! :)
I could go on and on about the wonderful online friendships I've made, not only with other bloggers, but also with my readers and people I've met through various Facebook groups. I feel like the Internet makes it easier to find a network of people (whether they be people you know from real life or not) to support me and challenge me.
I can't even imagine my life without the Internet!