I've been thinking about this since you posted it early this morning and it's a difficult proposition to surmise how life would be "if..."
I believe Jan got it right. With every quality determining the "good" or "bad" of life's description, extremes come into play.
Let's assume for a moment, that Ron Carnell was right a long time ago when he said he didn't foresee the internet as being as interactive as it so obviously has become (I do remember some things for whatever odd reasoning, and Ron Carnell saying he was wrong about something just sorta stuck in my head... )
It still would have been a technological marvel for business and the arts. Yet it was the fact that there are "people in there" kept me as fascinated as I have become. Otherwise it would have been another simple game of distraction with the added benefit of being actually useful.
For people who are lonely, people who are housebound by illness, the communication is not only a miracle--but a lifesaving joy. But it also can become a preference and can complicate mental problems such as agoraphobia, and yep, paranoia. The anonymity of the net also promotes people who feel powerless in their "realtime" lives to employ it as a vehicle of unhealthy expression at times, with no apparent repercussions. And yes, I can recognize all of that because I have seen it in myself.
(I can only hope that I grew from the experience.)
The internet is my playground now. I've met many people through my online adventures, and had I not, I suppose I would have found amusement elsewhere. (And tsk...I have a record of unhealthy choices.)
But I like to think that it's been a positive in my life--before the internet, I felt like a total alien in my social circle and yes, even my family. There were few that I could discuss poetry, books, philosophy, and all of the other things that I obviously enjoy through the hospitality of this forum--which conveniently places all of those in one place for me.
What would I have done without? Sadly, I would have done just that--without.
I think of Emily Dickinson sometimes. She wrote her poetry anyway--tying it in ribbons and hiding it under her bed all of her life. She had unusual talent and tenacity. I wonder how many other "Emily's" gave up because they had no one to share their passion.
The "people in here" remind me that there are people "out there"--and that just as there is more to me than meets the judging eye--there may be more to them too.
Sometimes I feel like I warp through space--I go out on my realtime adventures and yes, sometimes I think--"I can't wait to share this with my friends online"--and yes, I share all of your stories with my realtime family and friends--it is a balancing act.
To sum it up, I guess it's made my world a lot less lonely, and I like to think that I have more understanding for others because of the sharing.
I travel on this thing.
And Linda & Mike?