The Effects of Computers on People's Lives

By Sharon Penn

There is no doubt that computers have changed our lives dramatically. From the introduction of the personal computer in the 1970s until the present time, the increasing capabilities of computers has had an increasing impact on society. These changes can be seen on a personal level, in business and even in the political arena, and the effects are sometimes surprising.

The Information Age

Because of the computer, we are now in what is termed the Information Age. People have instant access to information on the Internet that was previously either hard to find or unavailable to the public. A shift away from an economy based on traditional industries has taken place, and our economy now deals with manipulating information. Computer networking and communication has promoted the global economy, and on a personal level consumers can do comparative shopping for quality and pricing at the touch of a button, right from their home or office. Video calls, once considered "space-age technology," are commonplace, allowing friends and families to keep in touch over distance. Research and advice on a broad range of topics, from real estate to child-rearing, is available online. However, people must evaluate the validity of the information they receive on the Internet, because many Internet sources are not credible.

Online Resources

Not so long ago, college students sat in classrooms and consumers went to the mall to fulfill their needs. Nowadays, the computer has provided more options. Online universities are flourishing and traditional colleges and universities provide opportunities for students to take courses online. The flexibility provided by online education is ideal for students who are juggling other responsibilities like work and family. Even those who take classes sometimes make use of coursework available online. Shoppers now expect goods and services to be available over the Internet, and a few minutes can yield a wealth of information about products and services. Placing an online order can be quick and easy, with stored information regarding payment options and addresses.

Social Networking

Social networking on websites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube has become more and more popular, first with the younger generations and then with everyone else. People stay connected to each other and rediscover old friends. Sites like Linkedin are professional social networks with more than 100 million members. These websites connect people in business to form a broad network of professionals where they exchange knowledge and business opportunities. Companies are now using social networking websites to disseminate information about their products and their industry in general, driving sales.

Warnings

While many of the effects of computers on people's lives have been positive, there are some ongoing concerns. With personal information available online, some people have fallen victim to identity theft and have lost time and money correcting the situation. Child safety is another issue, and parents are learning that they must monitor their children carefully when they are using the computer. Other issues of concern are our dependence on computers, and what will happen if service is disrupted. The workplace has changed because of computers, and workers sometimes need to be trained in new computer programs.