Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The "internet"

Fascinating phenomenon this network of interconnected computing devices. It might just catch on. I must say, though I was involved with advanced geekdom many years ago, I never could have imagined the mainstream popularity of sitting front of a computer screen and interacting with photons and phantoms.

But before I digress, allow me to digress. There is something strange and affecting about the web. I know that it, and its concommitant stylistic and technical limitations has spawned many a dialect and subdialect of standard written English. The hybrid E-nglish or IMSpeaking (I just made those up...spread the word and make me famous...alert Bill Safire if he's still alive) have been explored to some degree and the code shifting problems associated with the plethora of jargons is well known. What I'm finding, though, is that the web is creating a subculture of voyeurism which is unprecedented in history.

Google, the monolith you love to love, has allowed us to peer into the lives of all sorts of people. between random web hits from some half a sentence that some guy you knew 20 years ago put on a stupid blog that he...oh...yeah, well, besides that off chance encounter, job details, press mentions and all that has been laid bare. Aerial photos of houses and pictures of events, plus whitepages listings,'s all there and more. But, there's a new player in the "I want the whole world in my hard drive" game. Facebook.

I know...facebook is neither original nor unique but I just got into it so I get to decide how new it is. What Afcebook allows is for us to peek into the private lives of the people we just barely remember -- we no longer have to work at remembering people...the internet saves them for us. We can see what they look like now without having the awkward silence when we see each other by accident at some Sushi place that neither one of us likes. We are inspired to send random messages to people who share a name with someone we knew way back when, in the hope that either this is a long lost friend, or someone has a good sense of humor. We no longer have to move on and reestablish ourselves because we can take our entire history along with us.

Gone are the days of "whatever happened to?" because we can find out most anything about anyone. Gone is the wistful feeling of the long lost faces in the recesses of our minds. Is this a good thing? Does it inspire a sense of connectedness between the peoples of the world that I find that someone I knew from one circle somehow is attached to someone I knew from another? Will we all reduce the degrees of separation to 3 in an attempt to save energy? Should someone feel guilty because he looked at pictures of an old girlfriend or because she now sends messages to old boyfriends? Do we destroy the social boundaries which exist in real life because, on a computer, I can be friends with celebrities, co workers and my kids' friends, all with the same level of effort?

Is the world getting smaller because of the internet, or just messier as what might have been discrete time periods, filed neatly away, now have to comingle like so much comingling stuff.

I want answers. Just not good ones -- if I set my sights lower, I usually end up OK.

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