Jan 1, 1984 -- A year has passed since the first international "TCP/IP" (Transmission Control Procedure/Internet Protocol) network went online; effectually launching what would eventually become a worldwide technological and social revolution...
The date fell within Christmas vacation for students at Phillips Elementary School. I'm sure I hid behind a pine tree sometime that day--all misty breath and bad intentions--clutching a compact ball of fresh, Virginia snow. Winter's winds whistled while working my ears over mercilessly. Every gust echoed like a howl of laughter, accompanying the lashing of my icy, reddish-brown annoyances with heartbeats.
My target was in sight. Robbie--an over-bundled, blue-eyed, duck-in-a-lounger if I'd ever seen one--had waddled out into the open. He stepped slowly, unsuccessfully attempting to silence the pronounced crunch of powder crushing beneath cumbersome boots.
His breath was masked by a woolen reindeer scarf that mummified the poor boy up to his nose. Breath condensation and wayward spittle had iced over the wrapping in the area surrounding his mouth. Robbie's face remained squished up, transforming his eyes into cobalt slivers of unfettered determination. He was flawlessly Antarctic.
I wasn't sure if Robbie knew that I was behind my friend, the giant pine, which stood proudly in my front yard. In winter the old pine kindly scattered thousands of itchy needles that I would be forced to collect in spring. In summer, it yielded a child's treasure trove of molted Cicada bug exoskeletons--which were used to scare my sisters; prompting deserved beatings. Alas, I peeked out to discover Robbie had seen me and was now in full duck walk, headed in my direction. The pine had failed me.
My heart kicked against my chest cavity and my ears ceased their rhythmic throbbing. Cocking back my iced-over ammunition, I prepared myself for what would possibly be a face-numbing leap into action. I counted down in my mind towards the duel awaiting me a mere moment away. Robbie must have sensed my intentions and charged into battle. Five...Four...[crunch, crunch, crunch]...Three...Two...[Crunch, Crunch, Crunch!]...ONE!
"AUBREY!" yelled mom, ending the deadly dance. "COME INSIDE AND LOOK AT THE NICE PICTURES GRANDMA SENT YOU ON EMAIL."
OK, the story didn't really end like that. I really popped out from behind the old pine and pegged Robbie in the face. But he was a good sport about it, and I seem to remember the remainder of the afternoon consisting of grilled cheese sandwiches and friendly skirmishes between toy Transformers armies. But this whole convoluted story came about after I recently thought to myself "How would I be different today if I had Internet access from the time I was a child?"
My parents said it to me when we got cable television. I'm sure their parents droned similar sentiments as mom and pop basked in the awesomeness of indoor plumbing. Who am I to try and rock the USS Tradition? So, I'll just be a cliche and say it...Today's (Internet-proficient) kiddies are more than a little spoiled.
I was a kid once (yup, me too), so I understand the whole grownups vs. children dynamic. I haven't lost sight of the beauty in having what later might seem like impossibly grandiose dreams--spawned by limitless imagination; or your own secret world where adults with all of their rules, negativity and limits aren't welcome. Childhood is an amazing thing, and it saddens me that I couldn't grasp the enormous significance represented in every sunset as I journeyed towards its passing. Then again, if I could understand such things at that age, I would've been some freakish, Emo kid, I suppose.
That said, the problem I have with the Internet, is that it has blurred the imaginary line separating children (and those of childlike thought) from people who at least appreciate rationality. Most children are not rational. They come from the " I feel, therefore I'm right" school of philosophy as opposed to the "I think therefore I..." well, you know. Through my forays into this new global universe--inhabitants connected by keyboard and monitor--I've ascertained that Internet has created a world where...
- a child's ability to utilize traditional speech has an inverse relationship with the amount of his/her Internet use. Example: "This class is 'teh suck.'" (the suckiest).
- people who are probably undeserving of their freedom of speech rights (namely young children and morons) have an unlimited forum from which to spread stupidity...unchecked.
- people can shoot out snappy email or create an awesome interactive profile, but are absolutely terrified of making friendly contact with strangers in real-life.
- news writing (or writing in general for that matter) is no longer looked at as a respected art form by the masses.
- a position or argument doesn't need to be thought-out, because it's your Internet-given right to let the whole world know how you feel.
"Ah ha!" (I can practically feel you saying this now) "The journalism angle is the crux of your argument, Aubrey." Well smarty, you might be partially right. Yes, it does anger me that a good portion of Internet users truly believe that there's "nothing to" journalism or writing in general--but what really pisses me off is that by way of the Internet, these people have likely contributed to their own delusion. Comment sections, amateur news bloggers and celebrity gossip sites are all thumbtacks in my Hanes. In addition, the Internet has taught me that deep down, most of us (myself included) are just plain unlikeable in many aspects.
I can't read a controversial, hard-hitting news story on the Internet if it has a "comments" section. Why? Because like a dimwitted motorist passing a cop giving somebody a ticket, I can't mind my own business. I spin my head to check out car accidents, despite an innate desire to stray from the herd. I read rude, unfounded and just plain hateful comments penned by the wonderful Youtube community. I read the occasional gem on CBS Sportsline. I even partake in asinine commentary courtesy of the informed crowd at CNN. What reading these comments does is alert me to the presence of every English-speaking mental defective (to include racists, radicals and absolutists) with Internet access and free time.
Consequently, I've developed a rather undeserved superiority complex with regards to the average person. I know I'm not a genius or anything like that, but a steady diet of idiocy has fattened my already rotund noggin to bobble head proportions.
Perhaps, once again, I've taken a stance that (despite what I may believe) has more to do with my advancing age than any perceptible wrong. I mean, I really do love the Internet for all its wonderful advantages. It's infinite knowledge on tap, with videos of dogs riding skateboards to boot. But the fact remains that while the world has never been more informed and connected; I've never felt so isolated from the average person. Isn't all this connected-ness supposed to make me feel the opposite?
Am I simply unable to deal with what seems like minute-to-minute change in a world ruled by technology? Has the dreaded "Internet Divide" claimed another old soul? Did Robbie ever get revenge for that iceball to the face? Find out next time...on Catnip For Cuckoos.
And please chime in with your (thought-out) opinions.