Food • Arts & Culture • Sheffield Life • Branding & Media


My initial courtship with what’s now a significant other in my life had the most mundane and ordinary of beginnings. For one thing, our first date wasn’t in a swish location – ‘we’ started in a stuffy and crowded office.

Neither did I have the thrilling luxury of a one-to-one, intimate encounter. Instead I had to sit at a special computer, within the buzzing features desk of the busy weekly magazine where I worked.

Back then, in 1998, no-one I knew expected anything different. The doorway I was about to open wasn’t the swing one we now take for granted, forever at the tips of our click-ready fingers. In many ways, this 24-hour culture was still the stuff of science fiction – a mere technological twinkle in the eyes of the Geekarati.

Yes, dear reader, I’m talking about the first time I set up my first private, web-based email account. Of course, I already had a virtual address, provided by work and strictly used for business.

Only once I started my personal, pleasure-based relationship with email, another tantalising world opened up to me. Keeping in touch with friends, ordering gig tickets, shopping, sharing photos (or as back then, a never-ending supply of silly jokes)…all this and more seemed so much simpler, quicker and…well, fun, than ever before.

You can guess how the rest of my email relationship has developed. There are times when I love its capacity for brevity, others when I curse the reams of messages I inevitably sift through, but really could I give email up? Would I want to? Never!

Other later communication milestones in my life also started out in this similar, nonchalent manner – YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook were once optional amusing extras in my life but now I couldn’t imagine my future without them.

Still, while I’m devoted to social media, I can understand the bewildered reaction many people still have to this vital part of my life. ‘Why,’ they might ask, ‘do you Tweet about an event you’ve just been to?’ Maybe I’d watch their confused faces when I tell them I share photos of the latest cake I’ve just baked with those I’m virtually connected to.

My answer to such bemused protests would be simple. My online presence works for me because I enjoy feeling connected and sharing with others. My life feels richer for it. I’d like to think the effect of my internet comings and goings is a two-way street.

Of course, the internet is a double-edged sword. For every person who gains connections, there’s one who loses their grasp on their close tangible, relationships. You know the scenes so well they’ve become well-worn cliches. The teenager playing video games until his thumbs bleed, the lonely married virtually cruising for company…

As a journalist, I’ve written endless ‘internet love cheat’ stories. On the other hand, I think of another batch of articles I’ve brought to the world – the ‘online reunions of long-lost mum/dad/sister.’

All in all, I look at the internet in a positive light. For me, it’s not a ‘faceless’ world but one founded on freedom.

Whether that means sharing knowledge, information and opinion or building friendships beyond physical boundaries or pioneering modern ways of balancing careers with home life – just like the Easter eggs being devoured this weekend – the world wide web was made for sharing.

So am I right? Do you think the internet is friend or foe?

Let’s share!

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