People talk a lot about the happiness risks of the Internet, such as how online shopping or celebrity news can suck away our time, or how Facebook can foster comparison with other people.
The Internet amplifies aspects of human nature, so I try to watch out for its bad effects. But I also remind myself of how happy the internet makes me! I try never to take it for granted.
For instance, I’m often haunted by some quotation or anecdote I read somewhere, someplace, in the past. When I read it, it didn’t strike me as important, but now for some reason I desperately want to re-read it. So often, with just a few bits of information, the internet locates what I’m looking for, to my immense relief.
For instance, when I was doing my research for Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill, I came across an anecdote in a diary related to World War II. I loved it — but I lost it.
I’d read so many wartime diaries — from where did this story come? I was sure that I’d copied the passage into my huge trove of notes and quotations, but somehow it had vanished. I thought it was in Jock Colville’s wonderful Fringes of Power, and I actually paged through the whole book, but couldn’t find it.
Finally, I turned to the internet. Now, I couldn’t remember the story exactly. I hadn’t read it in five or six years. And search, search, search… Eureka! I found the story that had eluded me for so long.
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