Cruising the Web

Throughout the dark days of COVID, we’ve turned to our computers and smartphones to get us through the day. So much a part of our daily routine, we tend to take it all for granted. The internet started as an academic research project funded by the Department of Defense in 1969. Twenty-two years later in 1991, the World Wide Web became publicly available, changing our world. In 1994, 27% of U.S. households had a personal computer. In 2016 it had risen to 89%.

These days we connect with family and friends or conduct business via Zoom. Our kids forego traipsing to school as they log into their classroom. Touchless phone payments and virtual try-ons are becoming the norm. We document our lives with photos and videos on our smart-phones and share them on Instagram; we socialize and network on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. TikTok, a video-sharing social network site popular with the younger crowd, arrived on the scene two and a half years ago, presenting opportunities to sing and dance, make new friends and so much more. It recently introduced an education initiative.

We’re shopping online like crazy; consumer spending on Amazon from May to July was up 60% over last year. We’re gaming, from a quick hand of solitaire to computer games and mobile games on smartphones and tab- lets. When Apple developed larger memory for its 2007 iPhone, it made addictive games like Candy Crush Saga possible. Today, more than 90% of smart- phone users play a mobile game at least once a week.

The rise of streaming services has us binge-watching everything from Breaking Bad to the 80s soap Dallas and viewing movies and series created for a specific site through a range of services. Netflix, Disney, Apple TV and Amazon Prime are the fastest growing of these. Disney recently announced it would be offering 22 new series. Warner Bros is releasing its 2021 films on HBO Max.

We’ve explored tutorials that teach us how to play chess (watching Queen’s Gambit anyone?), cook, improve our home or about anything else you can imagine. Performances in dance ranging from ballet to hip hop, music from a Strauss concert by the Vienna Philharmonic or Madame Butterfly at the Met to a video featuring breakout rapper Bad Bunny can be easily accessed. A growing number of colleges and universities from Harvard to the University of Cambridge, England have made lectures available through YouTubeEDU or iTunesU, offering a wide range of classes from architecture to filmmaking and hypnosis therapy. Over a million and a half people have registered for Yale’s famous happiness course.

Art museums around the world such as the J. Paul Getty Museum are offering free classes on art history or, as at the Barnes, are focusing on a single work of art. Google Arts and Culture has partnered with over 500 museums, allowing users to wander gallery halls browsing museum collections with its “Street View." Researchers at University College in London found that viewing art reduces stress and anxiety. Just saying.

We have caught some of the over 3,600 eighteen-minute Ted Talks ( is a clearing house of knowledge from the world’s most inspired thinkers, according to its website). Among the 25 most watched talks are “How to Spot a Liar,” “The Power of Vulnerability” and “Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are.”

I suspect life will never really be the same when we finally crawl out of this pandemic. The World Wide Web has become even more integral to our everyday lives and it has every intention of remaining so.