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How the Web Has Changed Us

When was the last time you thumbed through a cookbook? Or used a phonebook? Most of us now rely on a computer to get the most basic information in an instant.

Popular search engine Yahoo! is celebrating its 15th birthday this week, and they launched a survey looking at just how much our lives have changed since the Web took hold. Heather Cabot, Yahoo!'s Web life editor, shared the survey's surprising results on "The Early Show."

The survey highlights the responses of more than 1,800 Internet users ages 25 to 64.

"A majority of people told us they were 'clueless' about the Internet back in 1995," she said. "Some were confused and even nervous about it. There was also a lot of excitement and curiosity. Today, these same people say they cannot imagine life without it -- especially because of all the ways it has dramatically changed their personal lives -- and how we run our households."

The Internet has also actually replaced some of the things people used to do regularly. Cabot said participants listed things that have been replaced by the online world. Handwriting a letter was the top answer -- 78 percent of people surveyed said they'd abandoned the practice.

"Most of us now obviously communicate through e-mail instead of paper and pen," she said.

For 75 percent of respondents, the Web has replaced or partially replaced using cookbooks. The library has been replaced for 59 percent of participants. Also, 44 percent of the people surveyed said they now watch TV or movies online, and 71 percent said the Web has replaced reading the newspaper.

Cabot pointed out that people are also constantly in touch now through social media outlets, such as Facebook, Twitter and smartphones. Cabot said 67 percent of respondents said they couldn't live without e-mail, and 50 percent said they couldn't live without social media.

Cabot added, "Interestingly, in some other research we conducted, though -- people still told us that they rely on the telephone or face-to-face interactions -- especially when they want to share really important news. And that was the case back in 1995, of course."

The Web has also changed friendships. It's given us an ability to reconnect with people from our pasts. A majority of people surveyed told Yahoo! that finding a long lost friend or ex-boyfriend or girlfriend was the most life-changing thing the Web allowed them to do -- even more than finding a job.

The Web has also transformed the way we deal with our money, Cabot said. Fifteen years ago, only four percent of people surveyed paid their bills online. Today, nearly 70 percent of those surveyed pay online.

Cabot noted, "Close to half told us 'they could not live without the Internet to pay bills.' Since 1995, more than two-thirds of people we surveyed now rely on the Web to deal with some aspect of their finances from paying bills to investing to doing their taxes."

As for feeling secure online, Cabot said that's changed over time.

"Most of the people we interviewed were 'somewhat or very concerned' about moving their financial information online back in the early years. Then there was a decline as people became more comfortable with the idea."

She continued, "Now, we are seeing a resurgence of concern and that goes for sharing personal information, as well. So there's definitely a fluctuation as concerns of identity theft continue to linger."

The Web has also become a hub of business, and especially, a place to find deals. Among those surveyed, seven percent of consumers looked for deals and discounts online in 1995. Today, Cabot said, 70 percent of those surveyed now look for online deals.

Cabot said, "Even five years ago in 2005, only 36 percent used the Web to find coupons, so the popularity has doubled just in five years."

And only seven percent of people Yahoo surveyed said they actually purchased things online back in the mid-'90s.

"Today, more than one in two Internet users buy everything from groceries to furniture to cars online," Cabot said, adding, "In fact, the term Cyber Monday only came about five years ago! That's how fast things have changed."

The Web has also given people new ways to look at health and eating habits. The family computer, Cabot said, has become an indispensable tool for taking care of the family. More than two-thirds of people surveyed look up health information online today compared to only 10 percent in the mid-'90s.

"We've seen similar growth in how we prepare meals," Cabot said. "Seventy-five percent of people told us the Web has partially replaced cookbooks all together. Instead, they are using search engines, looking at food Web sites and food blogs for ideas. One in five people also use the Internet to manage their weight -- mostly for food journaling and calorie counting."