Living in the Online

by Tonya Engst, 1995

Adam and I brought a 56K frame relay connection into our house in the fall of 1994, and the connection is transforming me into a creature who lives in the online. I find it a puzzling, exciting experience.

In saying that I live online, I mean many of my things live online and never leave. In many ways, these things are the items that form and measure my life - friendships, photo albums, periodicals, accounting records, contracts, birthday cards, and love letters. As it turns out, a careful computer backup system offers more redundancy and reliability than filing cabinets in the bedroom and shoeboxes in the attic.

I've discovered that a fast Internet connection offers a great deal of timely, searchable reading material; paper periodicals now seem disorganized and wasteful. My new digital camera gets more use than my old film camera. Pretty soon I'll have album pages on the Web for friends and relatives to browse. And, lately I've begun writing even snail mail letters in my email software.

Not everything converts to the online, and I am painfully realizing what converts and what doesn't.

Last year's lesson was that weekends don't convert.

I'm pushing the envelope because of the equipment I have on hand and because many of my friends are pushing as well. I believe that millions of people are following us into the online. For some it will come easy, and for some it will never come, but there is a tremendous transformation at hand.

In 1995, the answer to all these questions is "yes." Based on my time in the online, and acknowledging a large gray area, I'm increasingly inclined to answer those questions with a startled, shakey "no."

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Last updated April 1998