I have a love/hate relationship with the internet. I think over the years we've grown together, each of us taking turns taking the lead. There's little more frustrating than waiting for a page to load, being disconnected, or getting that damnable '404' error. But, sweet bliss of discovery when what you want is what you get!
I live in the middle of nowhere by choice, preferring my tiny little burg without any amenities to the hustle of even small city life. I have to venture significant distances to find anything but the simplest offerings in the way of groceries or household needs. Forget buying a pair of shoes or clothes here.
But with the internet I can have it all.
I began my cyber life with Prodigy®...at about the same time they began their cyber life. Years later when I finally cancelled my membership they were in awe of my nearly virgin ID number. Yet they had provided me with many years of awe.
But at that time, despite its fantastic array of offerings, Prodigy® was not 'the net'. It was comforting and safe and user friendly. I forged many new friendships while online in that little self contained world and it was difficult to let it go.
But 'the net' beckoned. Just as I would tweak one of my computers until it nearly walked across the room, and then was still not satisfied, I felt the pull of what was out there. I was no longer satisfied to be just on the edge. I wanted IN.
I haven't forgotten my first taste of it. Text only, downloading everything to read offline and marveling at this information that suddenly appeared in my life.
Yes, it was a wonder, and yes, like almost everyone else the first word I typed into my first search engine was 'sex'...just because I could. I didn't learn anything new there, merely wanted to see if it would answer.
And answer it did, with information from everything about the obvious to the history of Middlesex, England. It was not nearly so easy to be specific then. But, likewise, it was not nearly so necessary.
I remember searching for a subject, and being rewarded with thirty or so hits. The same searches today net hundreds, even thousands of hits for the same subject. So we are forced to pare down our requests, to make them as search specific as possible, otherwise the endless information would be too daunting to consider.
I stayed with text-only internet likely longer than I would have simply because at the time it was free. The company was beginning, learning themselves, and allowing us to utilize their services as they grew. As hungry as I was for the net, I was more frugal in the feeding of that hunger. And I learned to download pictures, to unzip the large files, it was good background for my computer education.
But the real thing beckoned hard, long, sneaking into my subconscious when my guard was down. "Susan", it called, wooing me, teasing me, slowly needling my defenses with its 'come hither' taunts.
And so I joined the ranks of the undead...you know...those who find themselves still online at 3 AM. It'll pass you tell yourself, it's all new, it's fresh, it's just a passing fancy.
And pigs fly...
I've seen a lot of changes over the years, especially in scope. Anyone can have a web page, for free, and just about everyone does. Unfortunately this means that anyone can put anything online and it may not be the truth, or it may not be appropriate. We are then faced, as individuals and especially as parents, to discern what is valuable, useful, and decent.
Before we spread information we must be sure it's fact, not always an easy task. If nothing else, this hones our critical thinking skills, forcing us to delve a little deeper and not simply 'accept' something because it is written.
Parents of the world have stood up in anger over the unsuitable information available to their children, sparking all manner of blocking software to be created. It is my contention that there is a natural curiosity that kids have to seek out that which is off limits. Did we adults, as children, not play doctor, or giggle over our Dad's Playboy Magazines? And when did we do that? We did it when we were unsupervised. There was no blocking software to keep us from being inquisitive children. But that's as far as we went because instilled in us was the knowledge that we shouldn't. We tested the water but the war of right and wrong was not hard fought. It's the same as typing 'sex' in yahoo for the first time. You did it because you could. And then it was over.
Chat is an interesting avenue of the net. Literally hundreds of thousands of chat rooms litter the byways. A large majority of it goes something like this:
***Alacrity has joined #The_Pub
[ladyK] Hi Alacrity
[Alacrity] Hi ladyK
[mrboo] Hi Alac
[steve13] Hi Al
[Alacrity] Hi mrboo and steve13
[Alacrity] old enough
***steve13 has left #The_Pub
[mrboo] anyone want to cyber?
***Alacrity has left #The_Pub (connection reset by peer)
Not exactly how one wants to waste away their life, is it? But then again, is it much different than parking yourself on a bar stool someplace on a Saturday night? And by the way...'Alacrity' is my chat name (as you all scurry to your dictionaries).
There are interesting chat areas out there, I've found them. There are places where people gather and talk of computers, pets, medical concerns, and even the dreaded religion and politics. It's like anything else, you have to pursue them, you have to seek them out. It's a group of people with common interests, from all walks of life, from all countries, able by virtue of the internet to meet together. It's what YOU make it.
It always irks me to hear net-challenged people remark, "They're all weirdos". I'm on the net, and I don't think of myself as a weirdo. Strangely unusual, yes, but not weird. So, if I'm on there looking for casual conversation, and interesting information, it stands to reason that someone else is as well. It's similar to the alien life form reasoning...'how can we be the only people in this universe?' I'm not a stalker, a porno seeker, or a deadbeat. I'm a wife, mother, and working woman with an insatiable interest in learning what I don't know.
Oh sure, there are the perverted groups, but they are on your town's street corners too. On the net you simply do what you do on the street, you cross to the other side. For the most part they seek their own kind, and do not need someone who is not.
And as well, there are the stories of young kids lured into situations. Why are they lured? To seek love and affection and attention. Why do they need to seek it online? Why are they not getting it at home? A hug and a smile and conversation is free and easy. Dispense it liberally around your home. This works for adults too. We've all heard of marriages that have broken because of online relationships. But the spouse was seeking what was not theirs in their real world. It wasn't the net that caused the problem, the net is merely the vehicle. If it wasn't the net it would be the UPS guy, or the waitress at the bar.
If you go shopping to a store once a week and are always satisfied, you have nothing but wonderful things to say about them. If once in the 52 week span you experience a sour transaction, it is what you remember. It's human nature to remember the bad experiences, as if the other 51 did not exist.
So when you read in the news that 'the net' has caused a problem, you need to remember that the net was used millions of times that same day to join families separated by miles, to share pictures of newborns with spouses overseas, to give hope to someone suffering from an illness. It was used for shopping, for education, for travel, for news, for laughter, for love.
I have two friends, Joost in Holland, Diana in Canada, both wonderful loving people. Diana is a beautiful girl and I could listen to her talk in that precious accent forever. Joost is a handsome and successful young man living in a gorgeous country. I did not know why either of them was alone but they met online as friends, and grew to love one another. Joost, as it turned out, had a slight stutter. It was quite likely that girls did not ever look beyond that into the person he was. The net allowed Diana to know him on the inside behind the glow of a monitor before they spoke, and it mattered not.
But for the net these two would not soon be celebrating their first anniversary as man and wife and Diana's accent would not be tinged with Dutch.
But for the net you'd not be sighing and saying, "awww....that's sweet", as your eyes grow moist, for I'd not be sharing it with you.
Then again, but for the net....MY DINNER WOULDN'T BE BURNING!!!!
***Susan has left 'her homepage' (ping timeout)