The Virtual World: How It's Helped, And How It Could Be Better

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The history of the internet has its origins in efforts to build and interconnect computer networks that arose from research and development. Scientists around the world wanted to share and collect data from each other, so the collaborative effort to create a global worldwide system is what inspired the internet that we now use today. We no longer use the web for only research purposes; we connect with family and friends, play video games, and do so much more online. When we contrast the internet’s expansion with other communication inventions like the telephone, the web is just as influential. In the US, especially with the recent pandemic, large parts of the country cannot access a consistent internet network. Things like remote learning or zoom meetings can be difficult for people to utilize at their full potential. This month I would like to provide my perspective on the digital world, how it’s helped, and how it could be better. 

Covid-19 has drastically impacted the way we interact with the world. We now have to social distance and adhere to mask orders. Businesses have had to close or reduce occupancy. Birthday parties are regulated to friends and family, driving by with gifts instead of coming in and eating cake. Zoom meetings and virtual luncheons are now the de facto way to have social engagement. Without the web, the impact of Covid-19 could have been worse, so I do credit the technology that can keep people afloat. 

One population that we need to make a note of when it comes to internet access is seniors. As a CPS who has a supplemental certification in working with older adult peers, that demographic can struggle with staying connected to a community. Loneliness is a significant factor for depressive symptoms as someone ages. Seniors may not have internet literacy skills to take advantage of phone apps or video conferencing to maintain healthy social relationships. I would like to see more internet educational initiatives in physical pamphlets that could go over basic video conferencing so seniors can stay connected. 

In my teenage years, I lived in rural PA. While residing there, the internet was regulated to a dial-up connection. Satellite Internet was available but expensive. In 2020 the expansion of broadband is limited, and internet access is mainly through a personal phone. A plethora of other states also deal with a lack of reliable internet. I’ve seen news stories of kids going outside Taco Bell to remote learn because they have free wifi. I’ve also seen young mothers support four kids on her phone’s internet hotspot to get an education. The internet has to be affordable and accessible, so people can use it’s full potential when it really counts. 

As summer ends and fall begins, a somber note hangs in the air. I know that my family won’t be holding an in-person holiday gathering this year. Instead, we’ll be utilizing the internet, with video conferencing, to adapt our holiday plans. In cases like this, the internet is a great way to stay connected. 

The internet is a great tool. It can do so many things and help us reach goals or connect with others. I do think there are some areas where it could be more accessible so everyone can use it.

What do you think? How has the internet helped your life? Or how do you think it could be better? I’d love to hear from you!


Ziggy is a Certified Peer Specialist in PA and currently resides in Pittsburgh. He is a member of the Let’s Act committee, a group of peers devoted to raising awareness about mental health care. In his downtime, he enjoys reading novels and watching nature documentaries.

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