For most, the Internet has become a ubiquitous part of daily life. Many people work online all day and then spend evenings streaming movies. With the convenience of online banking, fewer customers step inside their local banks, while millions of shoppers make purchases without leaving home. And the Internet has replaced the phone as a quick way to stay in touch with family and friends.
Of course, the Internet can do so much more than just bringing your favorite show to your big-screen TV. It's more than just a place to pay your electric bill and buy books. This incredible place called the World Wide Web is also a powerful tool for self-improvement. Here are five ways to make the Internet work for your self-improvement and growth:
1. Searching for Information
Enter any topic of interest into your favorite search engine and, voila, you have an enormous amount of information at your fingertips. What a great way to further your knowledge on an endless variety of subjects. But how do you know whether the information you're reading is credible – or complete nonsense?
Check your sources. Find out who is publishing the information. Government agencies, universities or well-known publishing houses are generally trustworthy.
Check the publisher's motivation. Keep in mind that many articles are simply advertisements for businesses that want to sell you something. And some sites are intended to push just one point of view.
2. Online Education and Training
If you've always wanted to further your education or upgrade your skills but haven't had the time, online courses may be the answer. Unlike with traditional brick-and-mortar schools, Internet-based learning eliminates the need for attending classes at specified times.
You may have concerns about the quality of online education. In fact, it has come a long way, and many who previously dismissed online learning have come to embrace it. Top-rated schools such as Stanford and Villanova University offer online professional certification and academic degree programs to students all over the world.
Ask yourself what your educational goals are: Do you want to pursue a degree or certificate, or just expand your knowledge? Do you want to advance in your career or become an expert on a particular subject? No matter your objective, there is probably an online education program to help you achieve it.
3. Join an Influential Community
Every industry and discipline has its influencers – thought leaders to whom others look for inspiration and direction. The Internet makes it easy to connect with these leaders and even form relationships with them. But how do you find them and make a connection?
Social networks. Find and follow leaders on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Pay attention to their interactions with others and join the conversations. Ask questions, pay a compliment or offer your opinion.
Go deeper. From social networks and Internet searches, you can usually find the blogs and publications to which your favorite influencers contribute.
Find groups and communities. Search each social network using the keywords of the community you seek. For example, on LinkedIn, you can find groups for industries, companies, colleges and special interests. Twitter chats occur regularly on a variety of topics. No matter what you do (or want to do), you can likely find a community of welcoming peers.
4. Organize Your Thoughts
When you're venturing onto the path of self-improvement, a journal or notebook can help you keep track of what you've learned and your thoughts about it. The Internet offers dozens of tools and applications to help you organize your notes and keep them in one place. For example, it's fairly easy to start your own blog, which is a great way to keep track of your thoughts, as well as share them with others. If you're not ready for prime-time, keep things private with a bookmarking or note-keeping application. Many are free.
5. Sharing and Supporting
Sharing nuggets of information with others who are in need is one of the best ways to use the Internet for growth. Because there is so much out there, the best stuff is often overlooked by those who could really use it. Whether it's through a tweet, a Facebook update or a blog post, your act of sharing could make a huge difference in someone else's journey. You'll also gain credibility in your area of interest, while building a community you can turn to when you need support.
The Internet is enormous and enormously useful. Try some of these five ways to harness its power, make it more manageable and further your own growth. You could find yourself reaching new heights and achieving goals you never thought possible.
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