Monday, June 28, 2004

The Internet Revolution...
I did mean to write about this sooner, but circumstances beyond my control prevented me from doing so. I will make amends as best as I can.

Almost 10 years ago, with the emergence of the internet as a seemingly viable consumer service, we were harangued,
ad-nasuem , that this was a technology that would literally revolutionize life as we knew it. No longer would people have to stand in lines at the bank or local department store: the internet would let us bank and shop from home. We would no longer need a Post Office; the internet would give us e-mail. Education would be revoutionized; people would be able to learn a home and have access to all the great libraries and universities of the world.

In practice, none of this has, thus far, come to pass. The internet has not made life a great deal easier, nor more convenient. One only has to enter a local store to see this.
The commercial implications of the internet have still to be worked out: security, return policies and proceedures, etc.
The internet has not brought the world to anyone's doorstep, instead, it has brought us a terrifying, and often comic, new view of humanity.

I was thinking about this while I was waiting for my computer to be delivered with the rest of my household goods when I moved. I remember thinking about how isolated I felt without my computer, even though I'm perfectly capable of leaving the house and have a telephone and television. The "need" to chat online was quite literally real, almost as if I was hooked on heroin, without the nasty side effects.

I began to consider seriously why this was,and I came t the conclusion that it's because the internet brings humanity to your door, warts and all.

Since I've been online, I have seen many varieties of the human animal; morons, sexual deviants, online-lesbians, religious fanatics, the love lorn, the lonely, the timid, the crass, the boring, the illiterate. I've seen people carry on conversations that would have seen them ejected from civil society and perhaps arrested. I've been solicited for sex and received more porn than any human being could possibly hope for in even his most depraved moments. What the internet has brought me, personally, is a view of humanity that would be quite disgusting if it weren't so damn funny.

Where else could you learn the intimate details of anonymous individual's lives, except in a chat room (besides a confessional)? Can you think of another circumstance under which people will take advantage of anonymity to do and say things that they normally wouldn't have the guts for in real life? I can't think of anyplace else one can go, 24/7/365, and find people of all stripes, yakking about nonsense and the little odds and ends of their daily lives openly, and often crudely.

I have a few favorite species of humanity that I like to watch online. There is the "Internet beggar"; this individual is always earnestly seeking something that willmake his/her life complete. It usually revolves around sex or money. There is the "online lesbian"; a typically straight-laced woman that feels compelled to act like a deviant behind the aegis of a computer and modem. There is the "Internet crusader"; usually a male, this sort of person will get online and tell you exactly what is wrong with the world while he has a captive audience. In real life, he's probably brow-beaten by his boss, wife and children and close to a nervous breakdown.
The "attention getters" abound: these are folks that will say anything solely for shock value and the response they get. Suicide threats, sexual innuendo, foul language, scattalogical humor, et. al., are this person's stock in trade. The more outrageous, the bigger the response and the greater the temptation to be ever more outrageous. Finally, we have the "internet racist", a person who takes the opportunity to hide behind the screen to hurl all sorts of vicious invective, knowing full well that no one will ever find him. His rants are not solely limited to race or creed, either. Homosexuals, the disabled, etc., are all fair game.

Now, everyone has the right to free speech and association, and there is no law against telling a woman online that you are the next best thing to Brad Pitt when you really couldn't even be Brad Armpit. The internet gives people a freedom that normally they wouldn't have -- there is no responsibility attached to online life. Any fantasy, any illusion, you wish to spin and disseminate, is right there in your imagination, ready to be transformed into a pseudo-reality by your keyboard and a chat room. The ugly become monstrously gorgeous. The frightened become extraordinarily brave. The quiet get their chance to roar.

So, what did I miss really? I missed being a part of it. For while the internet may ultimately be nothing more than a silly way to kill time, it certainly does have it's interesting parts. Humanity is on display here and it entails everything that we enjoy: comedy, horror, information, drama, confrontation, competition and a host of other things, in a ready-to-use, user friendly format. Maybe one day we will be able to sit on our exalted behinds and have groceries delivered via internet, but in the meantime, one has to occupy one's time the best one can.

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