Let me be the first person to say: the Internet was a bad idea.
Remember when they called it “The Information Superhighway?” Just like actual super highways allowed our parents and grandparents to go from point A to point B faster and more directly than ever before, giving them access to more parts of the country in a fraction of the time, The Information Superhighway was supposed to do the same for knowledge.
Imagine, the experts prophesied, the entire world’s collective intellect a mouse click away! Anything you’d need to know accessible to anyone, anytime, anywhere. Truly infinite wisdom. The possibilities were mind-boggling.
Then people started actually using the Internet and information wasn’t exactly the first thing they clicked their mice on. Or the second thing. Or even the third. Mostly they clicked on cat pictures. Or porn. Or Willie Wonka memes.
Explore the deepest reaches of the ocean? Not now. I want to watch Gangnam Style again. MRIs of Alzheimer’s patients’ brains to further understand grandpa’s condition? Maybe later. I've got to check out Panda Cam.
The Internet will allow the world to stay connected, they promised, to share the human condition, united in one social universe. Or maybe we'll just tweet each other Instagrams of food.
Before the World Wide Web, if you wanted to show 600 friends, relatives, co-workers, or ex-classmates what you had for dinner, you’d have to: 1. snap the photo, 2. wait a couple days for Fotomat to develop the film, 3. get everyone in a room to show them the prints or 4. go door to door. Now it’s just point, click, share. (Bragging about your meal is a very First World thing to do.)
The Internet will open the lines of communication, they said, enabling billions freedom of expression! Or it'll just give trolls a place to spew their anonymous hatred. We always had crazy people, nut jobs with weird ideas. That’s okay. It’s America, that’s what makes this nation great. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. It’s why the bullhorn was invented, I’m pretty sure. Free speech! Damn the torpedoes! and all that.
Before the Internet, all the way back to say, 1992, they were solitary nuts. They muttered to themselves in their dingy apartments, out of everyone’s way. Maybe they’d say something in the lunchroom at work, have some sort of ranty outburst, a shouting match in line at McDonald’s. And that’d be it.
But the Internet gathers these nuts, like a giant, indiscriminating cyber squirrel, and stores them in one place for everyone to see. These nuts are all strung together like a big nut necklace, hanging around our country’s neck, choking the life out of us.
Left wing. Right wing. Mental hospital wing. Doesn’t matter, there’s strength in numbers. Suddenly any crackpot idea, any kooky theory, no matter how farfetched, has authority and gathers steam because a group says it’s so. More than ten people think it, so we must give it as much attention and weight as if millions did.
And forget the truth. The truth is pretty much the last thing you should expect from the Internet--- whether its obviously Photo Shopped pictures of Obama pledging allegiance with his left hand or Marty McFly’s DeLorean displaying various dates as the future he went back to… Between the Nigerian Princes who can’t cash a check and the Canadian pharmacies that want to give you a boner, there’s not a lot of truth out there.
What promised to be educational and enlightening turned out to be just a way to sell us stuff, track our whereabouts, and waste what precious time we’ve got on earth. Oh, and to look at porn. Like so many other great inventions, the Internet was a great idea at first. Then it fell into the wrong hands… ours.
This has been “Something Else Entirely:” Off-topic observations posted on an irregular basis by a cranky old guy on his porch, waving his fist at the neighborhood kids...
“Your Uncle Walter's going on and on
‘bout everything he's seen and done.
The voice of 50 years experience,
he’s drunk, watching the television.”
— Ben Folds
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