Casualties Of The Internet (Part Two)

casualties

I love the Internet, but here are a few casualties of our increasing dependence on technology — Part Two.

Memory — Remember Algebra?  Neither do I.  It’s not important to me.  Nor do I remember the atomic number of zinc, how to spell concieve (conceive?) or the names of some of those odd little countries that used to be the Soviet Union.  I don’t remember any of that stuff.   But the Internet does.  It remembers everything.  Unfortunately, because of that, I don’t remember my Aunt Vera’s mailing address either, or my sister’s telephone number, or most of my friends’ birthdays — and these things are important to me.  My point is, for most of human history, people remembered things.  In fact, when stuff was really, really important, they carved it into stone — just in case.  However, since the Internet, we don’t remember much of anything — important or not.  We let the Internet do it for us and trust that some evil little hacker from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan or Azerbaijan doesn’t get pissed off, one rainy winter evening, and wipe it all out.

Bricks and Mortar Stores — When I was a kid, the butcher used to call my mother “Mrs. Fyfe.”  My sisters used to flirt with the checkout clerks at the grocery store.  My dad knew the guys at the lumberyard — by name.  And, once, the girl at the bookstore hid the last copy of Welcome To The Monkey House under the counter for me.  These were not unusual occurrences.  Everybody my age has similar experiences.  These days, however, I haven’t been to a bookstore since I discovered Amazon because there aren’t any left in my neighbourhood.  (I’m not sure which happened first.)  I just bought a Roomba and the first time I saw it was when I opened the box.  I shop at a grocery store that’s so large it needs its own GPS and find myself envying people in England who can shop at Tesco from the privacy of their own pajamas.  We are the last generation of touch-and-feel retail.

Blood and Bones People — I have nieces and nephews I haven’t seen since they were children, but I recognize their husbands and wives.  I’ve seen their homes, know what they eat for dinner, where they go on vacation and what they do for fun.  I’ve had conversations (and arguments) with people I don’t even know.  Strangers compliment me every day.  I play games with people who don’t have names and might very well be figments of a digital imagination.  And I have no idea where many of my friends live because I’ve never met them. The truth is, even though we might not want to admit it, in the 21st century, most of us have just as much human contact online as we do face-to-face.  The problem is electronic people might LOL but they don’t laugh; they can emoji, but they can’t cry.  They don’t spill their wine, ruin your makeup, squeeze your hand, slurp their soup, or kiss you goodbye.  And it is this indisputable fact — more than what and how we remember, or where and when we shop — that’s changing our society more radically and rapidly than ever before in human history.

Casualties Of The Internet (Part 1)

casualties

I love the Internet, but here are a few casualties of our increasing dependence on technology.

Telephone Books — One of the first was the telephone book.  When I was a kid, everybody had a telephone book.  The first thing you did when you got a new one was find yourself in it.  It was an opportunity, as a little kid, to actually see that you had a place in the bigger world.  However, the best use of the telephone book was, on lazy afternoons, looking up people with funny names.  One year, Mrs. Cranston’s entire 4th grade class laughed for weeks when Marvin L. Ramsbottom moved to town.

Maps — Before the Internet, maps had the ability not only to place you in the world physically but to distinguish you from the billions of other humans occupying it –philosophically.  Back in the day, every kid knew this and to prove it they would eventually write their name, their address, their city, their county, their state or province, their country, their continent, their hemisphere, Earth, The Solar System, The Milky Way, The Universe.  And it all started with a little finger pointing on a map.  Practically, however, maps were the exclusive property of dads and were notorious for being badly folded, badly drawn and just plain wrong.  Eventually, all maps ended in a parental argument over exactly when to abandon middle-class machismo, stop the car and ask for directions.

Money — Incredible as it may seem, before the Internet, money was a tangible object.  It had weight.  It made a noise.  It told us just exactly where we stood in the world — because it was finite.  We either had enough money or we didn’t, and after a few trial and error disappointments, we discovered that the world is full of choices.  When bus fare, movie and popcorn were beyond our financial capability — somebody was going to walk.  Of course, all kids knew money was important because their parents were constantly reminding them that a) they (the parents) weren’t made of money, b) it didn’t grow on trees and c) they weren’t going to throw good money away on that (whatever it was we thought we wanted.)

So, what have we learned?

1 — Smart phones have put us all in me-and-mine electronic ghettos.
2 — Technology doesn’t give a rat’s ass about our unique position in the world.
3 — The near infinite nature of digital money has destroyed our ability to make decisions.
4 — Technology can suck the fun out of life.

Emotional About Facebook

facebook11Sell my clothes; I’ve gone to Heaven!  Last week, the boys (and girls, too, I assume) down at Facebook thought we were finally mature enough to handle it and gave us emotions.  Wow!  For years, we’ve been hanging with our Cyber-friends, incapable of doing anything more than “Liking” and “Sharing” — kinda like first-term Kindergarten kids learning how to play nice with the other children.  Now, we can like, love, laugh and be happy — all at the click of a mouse — plus we can be sad and even hate.  Yeah, hate: the #1 bad boy for all millennials.  Cool, huh!

Here’s the deal.

1 — The new emotions were test-driven in Spain.  Curious choice?  Why not Holland?  Or India?  Or Canada?  Quite frankly, I’d pay money to find out who in the vast Zuckerburg Empire decided the Spanish were the emotional weathervane for the rest of us.

2 — We got one more emotion than Riley Andersen, the 11-year-old from the Disney movie Inside Out.  (She got 5; we get 6.)  Take that, you little cartoon rodent!  Goes to show ya the boys and girls at Facebook are willing to play hardball with the corporate big kids from The Magic Kingdom.  It’s kind of a subtle “our marketing department can beat up your marketing department.”  Personally, I can’t address this situation since I’m boycotting Disney right now because they refused to include Nala, from The Lion King, in their pantheon of Disney princesses.  Simba was raised by a same-sex couple, Timon and Pumbaa, and nobody bats an eye, but call somebody with a tail a princess and everybody’s all up in your face.  Damn species-ists!  But I digress.

3 — We still don’t get a “Dislike” icon.  There’s overwhelming evidence that all most Facebook users (Facebookers?) want is a way to “Dislike” those stupid cat pictures or political rants or the “share this post or you’re a heartless bastard” blackmail.  However, Facebook decided that it would be too “hurtful” and “negative” to let us actually dislike things.  I imagine when we get older, we’ll realize this cyber-guidance was for our own good.

4 — We can only have one emotion at a time.  As we all remember from puberty, adult emotions can be tough to deal with, but the folks at Facebook understand this and are making sure we go slowly at first so we don’t do silly things like “hate” something so much we make ourselves “sad.”

Anyway, I love these new emotions on Facebook.  I’m feeling all excited and virginal, and even though I can hardly wait to try cyber-crying for the first time, I kinda wanna save myself for the right moment.  Maybe I’ll just light some candles, open a bottle of wine and wait for somebody to post pictures of puppies — homeless puppies.