Wednesday, July 2, 2008

My "Friend" The Internet

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!


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.


April said...

Emo kids... "Life is pain"

Lil Sass said...

I mean, your post is attacking those who comment and NOW.YOU.WANT.COMMENTS?! ;-)

You know what else the internet has done? Ruin good old fashion dating. At the risk of standing here buck naked in front of you and confessing upon our first "meeting" ... the internet has 'helped' the completely moronic, socially awkward fool into scoring dates. However, as I have learned via these aforementioned internet dates, a lot of people are funny in writing. (See, I'm funny!) We can think and process and edit and steal ideas. And then the drinks and appetizers come and you're sitting there staring at each other without a damn thing to say. Cause you've already spilled your beans on your 14 page profile and your mind isn't actually as witty as your emails are. And then you stumble over your words and spill your drink and the dinner is cold and you leave ....

Oh internets I love you

Aub said...

I know of the unspeakable horror that is the Internet date. The whole concept is pretty much bizarro "pizza theory." Even when its good, it's bad. And no, Internet "funny" does not translate well under date conditions. If you at least get the "lite" version of what you experienced via profile, web chat, etcetera, it would be OK. But when you expect Newcastle and get (assjuice) Pabst Blue Ribbon, there's a serious problem.

AnnaC said...

So, there is so much here... let's see.

I am addicted to the comments in the exact way that you describe. Everytime I move the cursor to the comments I am screaming, DON'T DO IT! IT CAN'T END WELL! Then I proceed to read all of the ugliness that exists in the world, mostly in the heads of people who are unwilling to say anything aloud even moderately close to what they are willing to write.

What scares me about the comments feature is the what years of doing this kind of insensitive commenting (I liken it to bar talk, when generally men get too much to drink and start to say really awful things they think are funny and then try to one up each other, help me) will do to real life conversation/interaction. Granting that the majority of the people doing the commenting are people who don't generally talk this way in public, now, I am still worried that as it becomes more and more common to comment like this, it will eventually lead to this kind of behavior in real public as opposed to virtual public.

It's like the cell phone ... at first when people had cell phones, they still looked for some kind of private spot to have serious conversations. Slowly (or quickly depending on your outlook on this thing) as the young folks who can't remember having a private conversation on the phone started to become adults, this notion that you shouldn't be having your most intimate phone conversation on the bus in your loudest outside voice has completely left our social consciousness.

Ok... I like run on sentences... and it has NOTHING to do with the internet.

To continue on the oh so many things there are to say about this post...

I read four or five newspapers online everyday as well as checking into the AP wire periodically to see what is going on. Three of the newspapers I read are local newspapers (in three different geographic locations. You can clearly see from this that I am a news JUNKIE. Mainlining news all day doesn't make me an expert on journalism, but I have had a fair amount of time invested in the perusal of the product, therefore I will make commentary.

We are definitely living through the stupid years when it comes to journalism. The internet has certainly done its part to bring about this state of affairs, but so has for profit owned media.

The media moguls just don't get it. They ignored the internet for a long time and now that they are playing catch up, they continue to display their ignorance.

No, I don't read newspapers for the ads, but no one ever did. Except maybe those folks reading local papers who wait impatiently for the colorful inserts. Still, not the same thing.

I read the papers for the NEWS. I appreciate a well written article.

I really appreciate a follow up story.

I do not appreciate the police blotter as news item.

Newspapers, particularly the online versions, seem to believe that I will not read a story that is a day late even if it has more and better and more accurate details. Worse, they believe that I won't read a long piece that has actually taken some time to develop. At least the local papers I read have this erroneous assumption. Most of what I see is crap.

I frequently read long pieces from the NY Times. Many people read long blog pieces. SLATE doesn't ever seem to have pieces that are less than four pages long.

So, yes there are many ignorant folks on the comments. Some who don't read through the entire article before they decide to comment. But there are also a fair amount of people just out there reading the news! How about hitting some balls to the outfield? I am hoping that the belt tightening at many newsrooms will not lead to more stupid articles --- but I am not holding my breath.

Aub said...

I knew you weren't one of the offenders, so I already had faith in you, Madame annac. That goes for everone I've "met" on this forum so far as well. That's why I felt confident in supplying you with a juicy morsel of hypocrisy by writing a blog decrying the negative societal effects brought about by the Internet and Internet commentary...for the sole purpose of facilitating such commentary. I'm hopeless.

Miss Grace said...

What about internet porn? Give credit where credit's due.
I was going to get involved in this, but then I realized that everyone else has given an awful lot more thought to it than I have, and I live in perpetual fear of exposing myself as a dumb blonde.

Aub said...

Internet porn? Um...I...don't know what you're talkin' about. [presses "ESC" key]