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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about life before the Internet, and life before computers. How was life different? Was it worse? Was it better? How?

Of course, there is a generation of people and children whose entire lives have been lived on computers and online — they know no other way to live. Conversely, there are huge populations in the developing world who have never known a life of high technology, and have never explored the World Wide Web.

So I am launching another Open Source Reporting project I hope you will all participate in. The idea is to list some aspect of your life that you now live online, then explain how you used to do that before the web existed, and then explain how it has changed your life — for better or worse.

While my interest is most keen in the subject of media, I am open to exploring any area of your life that is different than it was in the past. I’m going to kick off the list with various ways that my life has changed, and I hope you’ll use the comments below to add your own thoughts. If there is enough interest and feedback from you, I’ll return to this subject and summarize what you all have said.

Living Life Online

Now: I organize regular activities with friends by email or Evite.
Before: I called them up on the phone.
Change: More time spent on computer and less on the phone. More writing and less talking.

Now: For a breaking news update, I go to Google News.
Before: For a breaking news update, I would check CNN or a local TV channel at the news hour.
Change: I have many more sources for news all around the world. I am on a comptuer for more time, and spend less time watching TV.

Now: I buy gifts for people online.
Before: I went to a store, and bought the gift. If they lived in another city, I then boxed the gift and mailed it to them from the post office.
Change: Much easier process that takes less time. I probably buy more gifts than I would have in the past.

Now: I use Yahoo Calendar to organize my schedule from multiple locations and multiple computers.
Before: I wrote items on a paper calendar that sat on my desk.
Change: I can have items emailed to me so I remember them better. I am dependent on having an online connection to see my daily calendar.

Now: I get all new music online through various music services, or by borrowing music from friends. I have had a Tower Records gift card for the past 15 months, and haven’t spent it yet.
Before: I would go to a music store to shop for records or CDs.
Change: I listen to a wider variety of music than in the past, and I go out shopping much less for music. I spend about the same amount on music as in the past, but get more music.

Now: I use the Netflix online service to rent various DVDs each month, and also visit the local video store from time to time.
Before: I would only rent videos from the local store.
Change: I go out less to rent videos, and spend more time researching movies on Netflix before choosing what to see.

Now: As a freelancer, I deal with various editors mainly through email messages.
Before: I would have to call editors with each question I had.
Change: More time on computer answering email and composing email. Less time on the phone.

Now: If I meet someone new, I find out who they are by Googling them and searching for their name online.
Before: If I met someone new, I would talk to common friends to find out more about them.
Change: I know more about people before getting to know them personally, or my perceptions are slanted by what I find out about them online.

Now: When I write something as a journalist, I get instant feedback from readers via email or from searching Technorati to see what bloggers say about what I wrote.
Before: When I would write something for a magazine or newspaper, I would only hear about it if someone wrote a letter to the editor, who then passed it along to me.
Change: I have an instant feedback loop and can find out what people think in a more comprehensive way. I can spend more time with feedback than with original writing!

How has your life changed online? Share in the comments!