This is really only tangentially related to plants and gardening, but I've been thinking lately about the internet.
My thinking was started by a series are articles in Slate by a man who has decided to give up the internet for 4 months. The articles are full of references to the internet as an addiction, and a time waster. His latest is titled, If You Grow Up on the Internet, Are You Better Equipped To Use It Responsibly? About how young people feel about the internet.
Which got me thinking. I grew up with computers, but the internet didn't really come into my life until my late teens. And do I regret it? Not even a tiny little bit. I just wish I had had it sooner. I discovered (or, rather, rediscovered) gardening in my mid-teens. I didn't know a single gardener, with the exception of my uncle who lived 7 hours away and I saw maybe annually. I got stacks of books out of the library, and started learning to garden by trial and error. Mostly error.
Then, the internet came along -- at the library, at school, and I had access to information. To people. I traded plants and information with people on garden web. Most importantly, I discovered the incredible community of people that is The Rose Hybridizers Association, where I learned most of what I know about my deepest gardening passion, plant breeding. Let me emphasize that: In roughly another year I will have a PhD in Plant Breeding and Genetics. I have certainly learned a lot about the topic here in graduate school. The fundamentals, though, the real foundation of what breeding is and (perhaps most importantly) why I LOVE it, I learned from the amazing people on-line.
And there is so much more... I have a small collection of great garden reference books, but I have at my finger tips the ultimate reference of all, Google. I can, in moments, learn of an incredible new species of plant, get professional and amateur reviews of it, find a source to buy it from, find out how many chromosomes it has, and virtually anything else anyone knows about it.
I would certainly be a gardener without the internet (I don't think anything could keep me from being a gardener) but I wouldn't be nearly as good at it. Certainly I loose a little time watching cute kitten videos on you tube, but that is more than made up by the fact that I can learn in minutes what would have taken me hours to find in the library.
Long live the internet!