The Internet has changed my life.

I was reminded of this the other day when I reached down to pick up a Rabid Wolf Spider that was scurrying across the kitchen floor. Wolf Spiders, which are hunters that chase down their prey without the use of webs, are pretty fast. As it turns out, they’re even pretty fast after you’ve already picked them up. He (She? It?) scrambled across my hand a couple of times before I finally got decent grip on him (her? it?). At about this time, I felt a minor pinch on the end of my finger – the spider was trying to bite me.

What does this have to do with the Internet? Plenty. A few years ago, I had a pretty significant “thing” about spiders. I’m not going to admit that I was afraid of them, but they certainly creeped me out. In other words, just a few years ago, if I’d witnessed a spider of this size (about an inch long, I’d say) scurrying across the floor, I wouldn’t have screamed and jumped on a chair, but I would have definitely pounded it into oblivion with the nearest blunt object.

So here I am, holding this large spider in my hand, it’s fangs gripping tightly on the end of my finger, and I said, “The little bugger is trying to bite me.” Please note, for the record, that I didn’t scream and toss it across the room, which was what it intended and, frankly, the first thought that crossed my mind. Instead, I quietly contemplated how nice it was to know that the vast majority of spiders are unable to pierce human skin – particularly the thicker skin on the end of my finger – with their bites. That’s just one of the many things I learned from sites like What’s That Bug?.

You see, my spider thing bothered me; I was uncomfortable being creeped out by spiders when I was certain it was irrational. So I spent considerable time researching spiders on the Internet, figuring that knowledge was the key to overcoming my spider thing. And it worked, as evidenced by my chasing around a perfectly harmless (though certainly imposing-looking) spider and picking it up.

This instant-access information has truly altered my behavior. Now, when someone in the family gets sick, I don’t call the doctor without checking WebMD first. (And that included the time I was doubled over with kidney stones at three in the morning.) If I want to know what the weather is going to like, I turn to instead of the TV. When I’m looking to buy something, I sit down at the Mac before picking up the car keys.

I realize this makes me sound like a geek of sorts, but it’s true. And I suspect it’s true for you, too. Email, blogs, internet phones, instant messenger… all of these Internet applications have changed our primary methods of communication. But the plethora of information available at our fingertips has changed our lives.