Good things the Internet has done and does
July 12, 2018 5:55 PM   Subscribe

My S.O. considers the Internet a force of oppression. I don't disagree with her that it functions that way, but I want to show her what else it's capable of. What I'm looking for is non-tech-utopian examples of ways the Internet has [checks notes] "made the world a better place." Bonus points for anything involving inequality or social justice.
posted by nímwunnan to Computers & Internet (53 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
It's given much wider voice to members of marginalized groups who wouldn't have had / still don't have access to mainstream traditional media.

It's become a platform for activism and organization; the Families Belong Together rallies and marches wouldn't have had such big numbers on such short notice without it.
posted by lazuli at 5:59 PM on July 12, 2018 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Anecdotally - when I was a lonely fledgeling atheist in an incredibly conservative family/region, and afraid to tell anyone that I was an atheist, the internet was a safe place for me to talk to other non-believers and get some support.

And then there was the time this happened.
posted by bunderful at 6:02 PM on July 12, 2018 [5 favorites]

Best answer: M-Pesa is a mobile phone based banking service that has "[been] lauded for its social value; offering opportunities for small businesses, and playing a significant role in reducing poverty" in Kenya.

it's not the internet per se, but it's the kind of thing that wouldn't exist without the technologies the internet is built on.
posted by GuyZero at 6:04 PM on July 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

I got a charity receipt from Wikipedia a few years ago and was a sucker for this paragraph:

“Your donation keeps Wikipedia available for an ambitious kid in Bangalore who’s teaching herself computer programming. A middle-aged homemaker in Vienna who’s just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. A novelist researching 1850s Britain. A 10-year-old in San Salvador who’s just discovered Carl Sagan.”
posted by AgentRocket at 6:05 PM on July 12, 2018 [13 favorites]

And to be clear - when you say "Internet" do you mean Reddit or like literally anything transferred over HTTP or TCP/IP.
posted by GuyZero at 6:05 PM on July 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Definitely offers a space for people identifying with minority or oppressed groups to connect, organize, and strive for positive change! The dark side here would be that it is an equally effective space for hate groups and such.

Movements like "me too", that can bring awareness to important issues and make people feel less alone.

It is a way for people to quickly and widely share information/events that are at risk of being covered up (examples might be police abuse or atrocities under oppressive regimes.

Online dating.... I guess? This one also has pros and cons and is a debate unto itself.
posted by DTMFA at 6:06 PM on July 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have a relatively rare cancer. Being able to connect with others with the same cancer has been super helpful. It’s not just moral support - it’s also learning about treatment options. In addition, I can easily look up studies instead of just assuming I should do what my doctor says. Without the internet, if I’d even thought of doing that, it would mean hours in a medical library - assuming I lived near one. So the internet can be really empowering for those of us with serious illnesses.
posted by FencingGal at 6:10 PM on July 12, 2018 [16 favorites]

Response by poster: GuyZero -- anything broadly involving internet technology. The mobile phone banking service is a great example I hadn't heard of. Thank you!
posted by nímwunnan at 6:11 PM on July 12, 2018

I inherited a set of photographic equipment—developing tanks, a bulk loader, photographic enlarger, developing trays, timers, mixing tanks, etc—from a family friend, a historian, who used to use them (in the 1970s and early 1980s) as part of a system to copy documents. When she needed to consult an archive or copy documents, she'd take her camera, set up a stand with portable lights and diffusers, and copy page after page, then take the rolls of film home, develop them, and print the copies. It was, and is, an expensive, time-consuming process that demands skill and practice. Because she's Australian, and many of the archives were/are in the UK, she'd also have to buy plane tickets, pay for accommodation, make an appointment at the archive, and so on.

These days, most of the information she would have looked at is digitised, hosted by the archives and libraries they're in, and is available for free, to anyone who can do a catalogue search. The internet has been completely revolutionary for historical and archival research.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:12 PM on July 12, 2018 [11 favorites]

I met my husband on an online dating site. My child would not exist without the internet.
posted by ficbot at 6:15 PM on July 12, 2018 [8 favorites]

This is fictional, but the book 180 Seconds by Jessica Park features a guy who generally dedicates his life to making people happier and their lives better via the Internet. For example, he rounded up guests for a six year old's birthday party when nobody invited came and got a guy to contact his long lost friend and volunteered himself as a prom date. Towards the end, his online friends return the favor by ensuring that he and his girlfriend can get across the country in an emergency when there is an airline strike.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:17 PM on July 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Ravelry has 8 million knitters hanging out on it. That one site has radically changed knitting in the last decade - it's a testament to the power of having a whole bunch of makers able to easily exchange ideas and patterns and show off their work. It's caused a revolution in the whole yarn-based textile arts space - not just knitting but crochet, spinning, dyeing, weaving, and a handful of other lesser-known endangered arts like sprang and nalbinding.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 6:20 PM on July 12, 2018 [23 favorites]

Millions of people meet their spouses via online dating, is that ‘good’? Especially helpful for marginal groups and the people who aren’t conventionally cool and attractive on the bar/party/socialite scenes.

I met my spouse back in the dark ages irl but a few years ago I met a great friend to play music with via the Internet, and that’s been nice.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:38 PM on July 12, 2018

Following on the example GuyZero cited, mHealth in countries in Africa where landline infrastructure isn't extensive but has been leapfrogged by cellular networks - it's premised on using SMS, and enables things like - to take one example - post-exposure prophylaxis consultation for health care workers.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:39 PM on July 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

Unless I am overlooking something, the mere idea of a video or story "going viral" could not exist without the internet, and IMO this kind of groundswell can galvanize public reaction and be a force for social justice.

Additionally, I think TED Talks, despite some valid criticism, is also a force for education and diversity.

What also came to mind is that when everyone has a camera in their pocket it can help to curb the more egregious abuses by authority.

Of course, none of the above is ironclad, so technology also has its definite downsides.

P.S. - I know my answer dovetails with some points that DTMFA made above.
posted by forthright at 6:40 PM on July 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It's a little thing, but a guy on twitter reported girls on a train in india that seemed suspicious, and the Minister got involved, the girls saved and the men with the girls were arrested.

It's also made it much easier to keep in touch with my family. When I went overseas in 1996, it was terribly expensive phone calls once a month and letters. By 2004 when I moved to Sydney, there were emails and at some point VOIP came in, and interstate phone calls became much, much cheaper. Then facebook appeared, and I can keep in touch with people with relatively little effort. It's not real relationships per se, but at least I know that they had another kid, or bought a house or something, and I feel comfortable reaching out and saying "hey, lets meet up", even if I haven't seen them for years.

Last night I chatted to my mum in Perth, Facetimed my brother and nephew (also perth), facebook messaged my sister in Vienna about how her holiday wasn't going very well, and how she needed to change her plans. I then spent a few hours on tripadvisor and google maps researching places to visit in czech for her, made her a map, and sent it to her before she woke up.
posted by kjs4 at 6:44 PM on July 12, 2018 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Have a look at the work of Esra'a Al Shafei, especially Majal and CrowdVoice.
posted by Paragon at 6:45 PM on July 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

Once upon a time, deaf people had to use special assistive devices to communicate remotely. For instance, they had to buy a TDD machine, which allowed them to communicate by text over phone lines, but only with other people who owned TDD machines. That was pretty limiting, because most people don't own TDD machines. Email and text messaging changed that entirely. Deaf people were some of the earliest adapters of the smart phone, becoming one of the major markets for the Sidekick, which was introduced in 2000. Now that hearing people have caught up, it's much, much easier for deaf people to communicate over distances with hearing people. Basically, the internet and smart phones have broken down barriers between ordinary communication technology and assistive technology for people with disabilities, and that has provided a lot of new opportunities.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:52 PM on July 12, 2018 [12 favorites]

Response by poster: These are great so far! Realizing that there's not really an end to the answers here. Might make a site to collect these. Anyone be into that idea?
posted by nímwunnan at 6:57 PM on July 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

BeMyEyes is an app that lets sighted people help blind people for real-time visual assistance.
Video calling in general lets people stay (or get connected) over distance.
Khan Academy and other MOOCs let people learn almost anything for free or low cost.
As a lesbian who came out in the early 80s and lived in a tiny town in Northern Colorado after I got out of college, I benefited from the ability to connect with GLBTQ people all over the world on net.motss.
posted by elmay at 7:06 PM on July 12, 2018 [5 favorites]

There are many trans men of a certain age who discovered that transition was even possible because of the internet. I don't mean "found community" or "found information", I mean that they literally had no idea AFAB trans people existed.
posted by hoyland at 7:12 PM on July 12, 2018 [8 favorites]

Here’s another medical issue. There’s a huge shortage of psychiatrists in rural areas, especially those treating children and adolescents. Skype has made it possible for them to receive treatment. Here’s one article on it.
posted by FencingGal at 7:14 PM on July 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

Thing is, the internet is a tool for humans. Humans can be awesome and they can be horrible. So the internet is awesome and horrible. For people who want to do good, it's a tool for good. For people who want to be shitty, it's that. It's merely another stage for us to act out our drama.

But there's a nice big chunk of good. Access to information is amazing. Stuff I would never be able to find in a small-town library because it was too esoteric, I can find in seconds. Blogs and social media give voices to feminists and activists. I'm a lot closer to woke with the internet than I would be without it.

The Internet Saved My Life: 10 Stories

5 ways social media made the world a better place
posted by bunderful at 7:19 PM on July 12, 2018 [11 favorites]

People can explore new hobbies easier than ever. If you want to learn soccer/woodworking/knitting/D&D/rock climbing, not only can you do that, in most cities you will have many options for skill level and attitude. It has never been easier to forge real-world connections with people you've never met before and would never meet in the course of daily life.
posted by cirgue at 7:20 PM on July 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

My parents read to my toddler via FaceTime a couple times a week. This has allowed her to have way more of a relationship with them than would otherwise be possible. They also LOVE seeing photos and videos of her, and the internet means I can post a handful of photos several times a week.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:24 PM on July 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Not to hijack, but I'd like to thank the questioner and everyone who is answering.

I work for a non-profit consortium whose mission is to support a free and open internet and in the past few years I have become increasingly concerned that the work I do, which I hope will be a positive in the world, has in many instances been corrupted and misdirected into the service of goals which are harmful to the sort of progress I would like to see. Some of what is happening on the internet is incredibly discouraging and at times I have bordered on despair about the value of this work -- on which I have spent a non-trivial portion of my time on earth. I know that some of my colleagues feel similarly.

I very, very much appreciate being reminded of the positive things the internet enables; it's why we got into this in the first place.
posted by Nerd of the North at 7:27 PM on July 12, 2018 [16 favorites]

It Gets Better

GoFundMe has helped people pay for medical emergencies, rebuild their lives after a disaster, and stay in school after their parents have cut them off for being gay.

Fic archive sites like and have given a voice to thousands of people who want to share their works; some of them have gone on to have publishing careers. has a huge repository of books, albums, movies/videos, and games that are now widely available instead of stuck in local-access-only libraries. Project Gutenberg has a huge collection of public-domain books and documents.

Legal research is much, much easier for the general public now - the fine details are behind paywalls (...but still online), but laymen can now find out the background and precedents for the aspects of law that affect them.

I'm on the west coast in California; I have friends in Seattle, Vancouver, New York, Tennessee, Texas, the UK, New Zealand, and Israel because of the internet.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 7:29 PM on July 12, 2018 [7 favorites]

I mentioned above that sometimes the internet is a tool for people behaving badly. Well it also makes it more likely for them to get caught.
posted by bunderful at 7:37 PM on July 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm a 46-year-old white woman from Texas who first hit the internet (USENET) in college in 1992, and aside from maybe four people from high school and college I'm email/Facebook close with (all of them after years of no contact and reconnection on FB) and a couple former coworkers every single one of my friends and in-contact acquaintances come from:

-My main USENET group from the early 90s, its IRC channel, and 20 years later the FB group where we all reconnected (one of my current housemates comes from here)
-Online journals, from back when we wrote them by hand, and the half dozen long-running message boards a lot of OLJ writers and readers gathered at in the days before comments
-The message boards from Television Without Pity, Hissyfit, and (another of my current housemates/the MOH in my wedding)
-Local bloggers in Dallas (husband came from there), who were pretty much our entire social circle when we lived there
-Twitter, especially Metafilter users on Twitter
-MaxFunCon, the yearly convocation of people who probably listen to at least one podcast on the Maximum Fun podcast network, and comprise half my social circle in LA
-The local women's atheist group that I found out about on FB because the leader of that group was a mutual with one of my friends from the line above, and did most of its organizing online. The core group of women from that group are the other half of my local social circle.

I had a last-minute "it is the fourth of the month and we are off work but not celebrating anything" party last week with attendees from almost every group listed above.

If it wasn't for those networks, I'm not sure I would personally know anyone who wasn't white and cis, and for the most part straight too. I guess it's hard to say since I literally do not know anyone from anywhere else.

Also, and possibly even more importantly than all that, the internet means I can almost never leave my house/garden but work a serious professional job with coworkers and customers all over the country more or less like I'm down the street, and I can do it without pants on. The internet has improved the pantsless lives of many many people.

Oh, also, in just the past couple of months thanks to youtube I have fixed: my sprinkler system, my refrigerator, the problem of needing really sturdy plant stakes when my containers are too loose-soiled and unsteady, a lamp, a sick fish (long live Ruth Bader Finsburg!), my pool, some bland boring chicken, and have put a dent in if not fixed my rat problem.

I know how to drive to places without having to carry a two-volume set of maps in my passenger floorboard, because I can take my TELEPHONE into the car and it will TELL ME WHERE TO GO in a pleasant voice of my choice. One time I picked Terry Crews, it was great.

I could buy a car without the dealership ever knowing I'm a woman.

The women's march and every other protest that's gotten average folks out into the streets nearly every weekend for the past year and a half.

I mean, just talking about internet-enabled mobile devices? I can sit in my hot tub and point my TELEPHONE at the stars and it tells me what they are. I can point it at ramyun directions in Korean and see the hangul literally turn into English on my screen. I can be anywhere in the world and obtain a cup of coffee or a bathroom and call home to VIDEOCONFERENCE WITH MY DOG (and my husband, we don't let the dogs have phones YET). I can send my vet a video of my dog limping and she can decide whether it's worth the difficulty of getting him there in the car to get an x-ray. I have a little plastic doodad on my keychain that always knows where my keys are, and I have a similar doodad plugged into my car that always knows where it is and also tracks my ultra-low mileage and charges my insurance by the mile. (Yes, creepy if you don't want it doing that, but I opted in.)

Many of my friends might very well be dead if they couldn't reach out to somebody at just the right moment, or know that there were people out there like them and who loved people like them, or that the way they were being treated wasn't okay with explanations why, or that there was treatment for whatever was happening to them.

Yeah, it's a shitshow too. I lived without it for nearly half my life, but I can't even imagine ten minutes of my day without it, and I can't imagine giving up all the good it's brought me.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:40 PM on July 12, 2018 [20 favorites]

Patreon and Kickstarter are both revolutionizing the way independent comics and games are made. I know creatives who are either supplementing their income or wholly able to survive on their art, in a way they could never do only five years ago.
posted by happyroach at 7:40 PM on July 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

You and your SO are, as I'm sure you know, both right. The internet is showing us knew ways that humans can be terrible at scale and it's definitely not the amazeballs democratizer we were promised, but what technology is?

I live in a rural area and the availability of YouTube to show people

- how to do a thing, especially a mechanical thing, they didnt' know how to do has saved people money
- that people like them exist and have fulfilling lives (as hoyland says, trans visibility is a really big deal for people who might not have other pathways for learning about it)
- the music and movies they want and not having to rely on what was on tv, cable or the radio. Huge!

I teach computers for a living and just the idea that there are people who can help with whatever the THING is, is a profound change from how the world used to be, especially in rural areas.
posted by jessamyn at 7:50 PM on July 12, 2018 [7 favorites]

The internet has demystified the process of preparing for, applying to, and paying for professional school. When I was graduating from college, you relied on your pre-law or pre-med advisor, and maybe some books like the USNews rankings books.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 8:01 PM on July 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

On the theme of staying in touch with people that kjs4 has already mentioned, there is a lot out there about Puerto Rico and how people weren't able to reach anyone to even know if family and friends were alive without any internet and phone (of which a lot is over the internet) after the hurricane. Sometimes it's easy to take for granted the advantages of a thing, until that thing is gone, so examples of the internet suddenly not being there might help with that point.

At the same time, at the end of the day the internet is a tool, and can be used for good or ill depending on the motivations of the people using it.
posted by yohko at 8:25 PM on July 12, 2018

It might be helpful to know if she's too young to remember what it was like trying to do the simplest things in the 80s before the internet started to make connect people (and also make information widely available). Modern impressive anecdotes are easier to show, but the world without internet was oppressive and limiting in so many ways that we couldn't even conceive of until after we had another point of reference, and even after then I think most of us tend to compartmentalize it and forget or not contemplate how stunted and isolated and railroaded we were, compared to how the internet today has empowered everyone around us in so many ways that we just take for granted and don't notice. If it's the case that she doesn't have a lot of experience of those times, that would change what I'd focus on.
posted by anonymisc at 8:52 PM on July 12, 2018 [10 favorites]

Best answer: A few years ago, for medical reasons, I had a second trimester abortion of a much wanted pregnancy. I can truly say it was the most traumatic experience of my life up to that point. The closest in person support groups for termination for medical reasons are about 800 km from where I live. I do not know anyone else in real life who has gone through it. As loving and supportive as my friends and family are, they could not truly understand what I was going through.

Somehow I managed to find an online support forum for people who had been through this exact same experience. These wonderful human beings saved my mental health and I do not say that lightly. Suddenly I could "talk" to people who had had to make the same terrible decision, and who lived with the same grief. In turn, as I have healed, I've been able to reach out to those just going through the experience themselves.

This would not have been possible without the internet.
posted by Secret Sockdentity at 9:04 PM on July 12, 2018 [8 favorites]

Through an ask.mefi question and a few Mefi private messages, my daughter and I flew to Philadelphia and met the guy who literally wrote the bible on pediatric ophthalmology. My daughter was spared an unneeded surgery based on the opinion of said doctor.

The internet connects people to the kindness and expertise of strangers without geographic or personal bounds.
posted by jasondigitized at 9:21 PM on July 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

I could be whoever I wanted on the internet. Nobody cared, it was all just accepted. It took me longer than I wish it did to turn those early dreams into reality, but the internet was there every step of the way with info, support, egalitarianism, and people to look up to.

I doubt... I'm almost certain I would not be alive today, let alone doing... Ok, if not for a dozen major things on the internet and a thousand thousand minor ones
posted by Jacen at 9:32 PM on July 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Miracle Messages helps people experiencing homelessness reconnect with family and friends. Some of those people are now no longer homeless. They use Facebook and other social media. It’s pretty cool, and they’re looking for volunteers!
posted by greermahoney at 9:53 PM on July 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, yeah. Gofundme and Amazon wishlists! I helped raise $6,000 to help a refugee family settle here. I visit them weekly now, and my heart breaks (with love) to see their happy smiles - especially the two kids. We never could’ve done it without the generosity of people donating cash and buying things for them off the wish list .
posted by greermahoney at 10:00 PM on July 12, 2018 [3 favorites]

A few feet from the couch on which I'm sprawled is a tiny, extremely ridiculous chi-terrier picked up by the side of the road in California who my friend saw on Petfinder and was moved to adopt. The work of animal rescue has been greatly simplified by the Internet. Bringing animals and potential adopters together has never been easier.
posted by praemunire at 10:09 PM on July 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

BookCrossing facilitates giving books away to complete strangers, and tracking them (the books, not the strangers). It's been doing so before it was cool. It promotes literacy, generosity and re-use and lets people reach out to each other through books.

Instructables faciliates people telling others about the things they make. Some of these things are pretty, some are useful, many solve a problem. It promotes a creative mindset, fixing things instead of throwing them out, and making leftover stuff into useful things.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:44 AM on July 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

I belive that social media has done great things for intersectional feminism, and also feminism in general.

30 years ago, when a woman would say "Me too" verbally, she and her experience would have been publically registered at a 0 (that is, no one would care/listen).

Now, with social media, a "Me too" registers as a +1.

And with 1+1+1+1+1+n "Me too"s we've got an army of women united by a single hashtag. This is powerful stuff.

We can also share our individual stories in a way that was unprecedented.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 5:15 AM on July 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

Best answer: It’s a good thing for people with autism or social anxiety. You can Google stuff that it seems like everybody else knows but you don’t. You can communicate without having to try to understand body language. Some things are easier to type than they are to say in person.

It’s good for people who have logistical or physical problems with getting out of the house. Almost all my socializing when my kids were babies was on social media. It was hard to work around nap schedules, bedtimes, and all the other stuff that babies need if I wanted to go out.

E-books are a wonderful thing for people who want to have a lot of books. Now I don’t need to buy another house to hold all the books I want!

The internet is good for people who don’t fit in where they are, for whatever reason. You can find people you do fit in with. You can buy things that might not be very popular where you are.

The internet is good for people who struggle with keeping papers organized. I do all my bill payments online- no more having to worry about losing a bill. Online banking means I don’t have to balance my checkbook, which I sucked at and hated doing.
posted by Anne Neville at 7:23 AM on July 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: lets teachers post and promote classroom fundraising projects for everything from basic school supplies to field trips.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 7:24 AM on July 13, 2018

Kid Ruki was born when I was 22. None of my friends were parents at that time. Even though we've never met in person, the women I met online back then are still part of my village. They helped me raise her, and we did a damn fine job. We all met through a progressive, intersectional feminist website that was fairly radical for the time.
posted by Ruki at 7:27 AM on July 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

E-books are a wonderful thing for people who want to have a lot of books. Now I don’t need to buy another house to hold all the books I want!
On a related note, I have been saved several times by the ability to check out e-books remotely from the library. When I was 15, I spent a summer stranded in a town where I had no library access and where the only books in the house were by Danielle Steele and Jackie Collins, whose entire oeuvres I ended up reading. And while that was, on some level, educational, I would not want to suffer that fate again. Now, when I run out of books on vacation, I can just use the internet to check out more books from my library at home. I can also do that when I'm sick or lazy and don't want to leave the house. Finally, ebooks get returned to the library automatically, which has saved me a fortune in library fines. I know that ebooks are non-ideal in some ways for libraries, but they can be a godsend for readers.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:33 AM on July 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

Google Maps (or equivalent) is a lifesaver. I mean, what does she mean by the internet? Just social media?

When I was growing up we had one newspaper delivered to the house. My school library had the three that pertained locally, and we occasionally bought a NYT on Sundays (in Toronto that meant a trip to the good newsstand.) Breaking news was delivered via TV and radio. If I wanted to read a long form article in Texas Monthly or check out a British paper I had to go to the big reference library downtown or buy a copy at a specialty newsstand. As a teenager my funds for that were limited. I would have found it difficult, impossible, or financially draining to seek out, say, First Nations perspectives on current events or LGBTQ perspectives. In fact, those perspectives didn’t exist. We say that our newsfeeds/algorithms silo us, but when I was growing up, the barriers to publication were huge and expensive. Like printing ‘zines on paper and mailing them out.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:59 AM on July 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I want to add that the 24/7 news cycle was just starting, so the amount of news you could get was limited to the length of the newscasts.

Also since I’m adding a comment I cannot emphasize enough that marginalized perspectives were unavailable To me. I had no idea they were out there or how to get them. My son can search on colonialism and get worldwide perspectives (good and bad.) I was limited to what was contained within the Dewey Decimal system, basically, with a bit of microfiche.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:04 AM on July 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

It's helped a lot of farmers in developing countries, who can now check market prices on their or their neighbor's smartphone and negotiate a better price instead of simply accepting whatever the middleman says is the price. IIRC, there's been some articles in The Economist about this.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:55 AM on July 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

White people are a lot more aware of the bullshit PoCs have to put up with thanks to everyone having a videocamera in their pockets and the internet as a platform.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:59 AM on July 13, 2018 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I just turned 52. I have a couple of chronic illnesses. Some days I’m pretty functional; other days I’m barely able to get off the couch. This makes it difficult to plan things IRL, and keep those commitments. The internet has provided me with a large community of similar folks who Get It. And when it feels like my life is contracting to a space on the couch, the internet has also given me many opportunities to expand my life. Yesterday and today as an example:

I watched a video for an online class, learned a new art technique, posted a creative work to the chat group, and got feedback. Today I interacted via chat with classmates all over the world, and two teachers in Europe. I received two packages of art supplies I’d ordered online, and watched a couple of YouTube videos of accomplished artists using these new materials... that I’d first learned about online. I had a conversation with a prominent SF writer about the disabled in creative communities, and about starting an inclusive workshop. I renewed my membership in a writer’s group online. I answered some interview questions for another writer’s blog, and will be emailing them out today. I downloaded an e-book. I explored an interactive map of an archaeological site. I did research on a myth for a story I’m writing, which I will submit by e-mail. (My acceptance or rejection letter will come by email, too.) Checked my online account for royalty payments for online sales of my product: I earn money even though I can’t leave the house some days.

Same day: I chatted on Facebook with distant cousins in the western US (from my couch in Florida!). I discovered these cousins last month via Facebook, just as one of them posted about losing family because their family supported the orange one ... we are mutually happy to fill in familial gaps for each other. I was able to reach out to a friend who was having a bad day. And...yesterday was my birthday, and I was flooded with well wishes from around the globe.

A generation ago, my aunt in a similar physical situation wasn’t even able to pick out her own library books. She did some crafts, but someone else had to choose her materials; sometimes they got it wrong. She lost all social contact but her immediate family and doctor, and had only 4 TV channels. And the same view every day. The contrast between her situation and mine is staggering.

There are many disabled people, or caregivers for the very ill or elderly, who rely on the Internet for social interaction, to purchase for delivery essential needs like groceries and clothing. Online we find mental engagement, community, entertainment, medical information (like when I found out a prescription a doc had given me was waaaay under the effective dose, so I knew to go to another doc before my problem became more serious).

The internet is as bad as people are bad. But it is also as awesome as people are awesome. Just look at any date’s Ask for examples of people helping strangers. (And I tried to find the one where Metafilter found that kitty lost in a big park, anybody know where that one is?)
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 12:35 PM on July 13, 2018 [6 favorites]

Best answer: My clients who are experiencing homelessness use the internet to listen to the local police scanner (which includes bylaw calls) to know when their campsites are going to be visited - so they can make sure they're home to prevent the camp being destroyed.

They can also find services, participate in some forms of local democracy (our region has a lot of online surveys put out by city hall, but also live-streams certain council meetings), get alerts to tainted (illicit) substances and prevent overdose/death, stay connected (often via facebook) to their extended family/friends even as they move around a lot, see/share photos with those same friends/family, get basic survival-related information (weather reports are a big one - particularly as we move into winter here), get details on how to use items that are donated to them without instructions included, access and use our local transit system's bus schedule, use google maps, etc.

I love love love the internet (and intentionally work hard to stay away from the shitty parts of it) but watching my clients use it to literally stay alive and connected is phenomenally inspiring.
posted by VioletU at 1:08 PM on July 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

My heavily forested county created a Facebook group where people 24/7 monitor the wildfire resources so now I can actually sleep during fire season instead of getting up all night to check the news plus we have which, if you don't know will send a text alert for important warnings like flood, fire, car accidents, fugitives on the loose.

Amber alerts.
posted by cda at 1:38 PM on September 27, 2018

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