The internet has changed everything and I can say that with some authority since I spend an inordinate amount of time on it, both at work and at home. Of course it goes without saying there’s good and bad stuff about this relatively new phenomenon and it also has the unique characteristic of being both a time saver and time waster. I mean, let’s face it. All those hours you used to spend at the library seeking just the right book to support the rather spurious arguments you were making in your final history paper have been replaced by a quick search on Google Scholar where in just minutes you can find a multitude of like-minded authors making the same spurious arguments. And imagine the time and money you could save if, like me, you register for a course, free of charge at Harvard which, when successfully completed, will garner you a frame-worthy certificate to proudly hang on your office wall confirming to everyone that you really are as smart as you think you are. And I’m pretty sure you’ll be successful even if you check off the box promising not to cheat, which is important because this is Harvard and there’s an expectation of rigour associated with the ivy league. And let’s not forget the shopping. The internet has given new meaning to the “let your fingers do the walking” ditty as now one visit to your fav “bricks and mortar” store to nail down sizes will suffice and all future purchases can be made with just a click of the wrist. No more driving through traffic, combing the mall parking lot for a spot or paying exorbitant fees to occupy a ten by eight section of pavement for a couple of hours which, if factored out on a yearly basis, would probably cover the rent on a small penthouse.
But it’s not all “raindrops and roses” or, like my Mother says “peaches and cream”, as anyone who has ever whiled away more than a few hours managing a fake farm, building towers out of oddly shaped blocks or shooting throngs of attacking aliens, knows. The internet has led us down some less savoury paths, ones which are perhaps better off having not been chosen. Not that it hasn’t been exciting. I mean we can now connect to just about everything and everybody at the touch of a button, but there’s a flip side to that coin. You see it’s given rise to an odd sort of epidemic and since it’s caught up with me I’d bet a buck or two that it’s caught up with you too. What you ask, is this affliction to which I refer? Well, let’s just say that, of late, there has been a rash of people who, despite their better judgement, feel compelled to reconnect with old pals, most likely because they have shown up on their “people you might know” block on LinkedIn. Or maybe one day, with nothing else to do, they decided to google everyone in their high school yearbook, just for fun. Which would be fine if that was where it all ended. But it doesn’t. I have to confess that this new trend confuses me a tad. Because when I think about it, I realize that communication tools have been around for some time and yet have not traditionally been employed in this manner. Perhaps they’re just so free and easy now, like my course at Harvard. Regardless, the bottom line is that one day, when you least expect it, you will open your inbox and find an email from someone who hasn’t contacted you in 40 years, and it will go something like this:
“Hey! Long time, no see. Saw your pic on [insert your favourite social media site here] and can’t believe you haven’t changed a bit. So what’s been happening?”
Before I go on, let me stop for a moment and explain that I have actually successfully connected in this way with one or two people from the past and have very much enjoyed becoming reacquainted. In fact some of you may be reading this blog but these are exceptions to the rule. Because even as a shallow person who is no stranger to the niceties and nuances of meaningless chit chat, and who, if I have to say so myself, is pretty darn good at it, I find most of these “blast from the past” conversations to be a bit of a stretch. Honestly, “what’s been happening?” Would that be over the last 40 years? Let’s see, where do I start because 40 years is a pretty long time and this could take a while. I mean it took Moses 40 years to get the people of Israel out of the desert and some pretty significant stuff went on during that time. And don’t get me started on that “you haven’t changed a bit” malarky which could only be true if I was prematurely wrinkled and gray at 20. Or just maybe I have had tons of “work” done, as they say, in the interim. And you gotta know I’m not going to share that information with someone I haven’t heard from in 40 years. The bottom line is you’ll probably share an email or two, promise to get together next time you’re in town, and then promptly forget that you did.
So here’s my advice. Next time you get the overwhelming urge to entertain the ill conceived notion that the internet should be used to connect with people from your distant past, think again. I’m guessing that in most cases you’ll quickly realize there was probably a pretty good reason that you didn’t stay in touch in the first place and won’t hit the send key. And please don’t worry about taking as much time as you need to decide. After all, what’s another 40 years between friends?