Using the Internet

Posted Oct 19, 2002
Last Updated Oct 26, 2011

My grandpa used to be afraid of the internet. He always said that it was a terrible machine drummed up by crooks to steal money—that or made by the government to spy on your private life.

There are problems with the internet, but most of the fears are paranoid. There are programs out there that can block your private information from prying eyes. And when it comes down to it, what do I care if "someone out there” finds out that I’ve gone to whatever websites I like to go to? Big deal.

Is it an invasion of privacy for businesses and organizations who run websites to collect information, such as what other sites you have traversed? I guess it could be if you’re embarrassed about the sites you frequent. I know that my sites aren’t popular, but the Center for Dewey Studies, www.epistemelinks.com, and Designer.com are not embarrassing. And if someone learns about the fact, so what?

E-commerce and theft are a whole different ball game. My brother-in-law purchased a computer online within the last two years. The shipment was supposed to come within a week. It came a few months later. The same happened to a friend who purchased a computer. While both got their product eventually, delivery took so long that they could have bought the products somewhere else for cheaper.

The problem with most e-commerce businesses is that you don’t have the opportunity to call them yourself and complain. They don’t have phone numbers in many cases.

My brother-in-law still felt comfortable buying online even after his computer fiasco. But too many purchases on unscrupulous websites left his wallet open for scavengers. A few hundred dollars turned up missing from his account. A few days later, more money turned up missing. A website had acquired his bank account number. His final recourse was to close that account.

If you find the urge to make purchases online, you need to invest in internet protection software. McAfee and Symantec are two software companies that specialize in protecting your computer. Both produce firewall software that will protect your computer from hackers and prying eyes. Log on to www.mcafee.com and www.norton.com for more information.

The evils aside (mostly), the internet has a lot to offer. It is a convenient way for families to stay in touch when they live far apart. It’s good for finding information if you learn how to avoid the sleazy sites.

Something you can think about is building your own website. Even a person with minimal computer skills can build a website, and it can cost you nothing. There are servers out there that will give you free space to build websites. GeoCities, Angelfire and Tripod are three popular companies that will give you free web space. There are countless others, and many even offer technical support.

Why should you bother building a page? It’s a way for you to showcase your creativity and ideas, for one. While it’s not likely that you will take the world by storm, a personal website gives you a platform to express yourself to the world. People won’t just automatically pour into your site, and mostly only friends and family will visit your virtual gallery unless you do a lot of promotion, but it’s still worth it.

You could post family photos, family biographies, your resume, stories, art, or anything else. It’s good for people who feel creative but haven’t gotten an opportunity to express themselves in the more mainstream media.

Businesses can benefit from using the internet, even small businesses. It’s no secret that e-commerce hasn’t turned out to be the monster world-dominating entity it set out to be at birth. Corporations originally dazzled about the convenience of online shopping have been forced to learn about the reality of human psychology: people have little patience, and they like to go to the store and shop. They want to go pick out their CDs, smell the fruit and bring home their TVs. And they want to do it now. They don’t want to wait.

But that doesn’t mean that e-commerce is a failure. The internet is another tool for promotion and information. It’s a resource to promote the products and services a company offers. It augments a companies other promotional materials. If you can find a way to get a large quantity of people to visit your business website, it’s the most economical way to get in touch with your market.

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