Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Behold the Power of the INTARWEBZ

I woke up with Metallica in my head.  Thanks to the power of the interwebs, it was easily available for my listening pleasure with the stroke of a few keys.  What an amazing time we live in!  I remember being small and thinking how cool it would be if I could conjure from the air my favorite television programs or songs - my version involved a million katrillion TV and radio stations, though - for example, if I wanted to watch "Golden Girls", I'd go to channel 96548, where they show All Golden Girls, All The Time.  The internet is so much better than my idea - not so many channels to surf through and you can even pull up specific episodes, not just watch the whole series on a loop.

I can't imagine having this power as a child; I can't imagine the ways my world would've changed if we'd had this stuff when I was growing up.  I can't imagine what sort of deviant I would've become had I discovered online pornography at 11, instead of just my friend's mom's boyfriend's stash of Playboys in the top of the bathroom closet.  Oh, the plagiarized pages I surely would've turned in as my own creative works!  And the forums and chat rooms - the meanness and snarkiness I would've dealt out, the rumors I would've started, the gossip I would've spread...and then it all would've turned on me and maybe I would've ended up being one of those kids you read about who commit suicide because of horrible bullying.  This awesome tool certainly must create some new challenges for parents and educators.

I got on the internet for the first time ever the night I graduated from high school; it was late May, 1998, and I was 18 years old.  My cousin Stacy had come to my graduation, and I was so glad to see her!  I decided to skip the graduation parties in favor of spending the night at her house - we didn't see each other all that often and it sounded like more fun than getting drunk and having to sneak into the house by curfew.

Stacy had a computer.
In her bedroom.
And it was connected to the internet.

Now, today, in July 2011, the fact of having a computer connected to the internet is sort of assumed - my phone has more computing power than Stacy's old desktop did - but in 1998, it was sort of a big deal, and I was mad jealous that Stacy had something so awesome.  (Stacy always had all the hot shit - the Michael Jackson doll and the Joey from the New Kids On The Block doll are the top two examples that stick out in my memory right now.)  Stacy is a generous soul, though, and after we'd eaten pizza she logged on and showed me how to navigate around AOL.

Holy crap, it was magical.  The whirring and dinging and hissing of the modem as it dialed up and connected in - I didn't even know it was taking forever!  The opening and closing door sounds of the chat rooms as people came and left, the blip of sound when a new message appeared.  And there was a whole new language - A/S/L?  F, 18, Louisville, KY  was enough information to determine if it was worth your time to bother chatting with the person on the other end of the connection.

I ended up in a chat room in Utah.  Someone made some snotty comment about Mormons and polygamy and, feeling like I had some authority on the subject (seeing as how my best friend was the Bishop's son and all), I jumped right in, defending the innocent Mormons and telling the attacker to check his facts.  Almost instantly, a private chat box popped up - "Are you LDS?"  "What's LDS?"  "I guess that's my answer - Latter Day Saints (Mormon)"  "Ohhh..."

He was in his late 20s, married with children, and very LDS.  We chatted until the sun came up.  It was surreal and informative and fascinating.  Here I was, in my cousin's bedroom in Louisville, Kentucky, and I was having a discussion about religion with a man on the other side of the country, living a life so different from mine - it was the neatest thing I'd ever seen.  (Did Google exist back then?  If it did, I didn't know about it - perhaps our conversation would've gotten more interesting had I known then what I know now.)

I was hooked - the internet was definitely for me and I needed to have it at my disposal as often as possible.  A few weeks later, Daddy came home with a big hulking state-of-the-art desktop, complete with AOL free trial start-up disk, and I was on cloud 9.  I met my ex-husband the same way I met that Mormon stranger from Utah, via AOL Chat.  When I was married and living away from my friends and family, the internet allowed me to connect with people back home and try to keep up on local events.  When I divorced and moved back to Kentucky, I had a ready-made group of friends waiting for me - all "strangers" I'd met on the internet via a local social networking site, all awesome and fun and unique and brilliant and real and not serial killers.  (Except that one guy, but we're not talking about him today.)

Today, I get my news from the internet.  My reading material that doesn't come from the local used book store comes from the internet.  I'm subscribed to, and read nearly all of, over 200 blogs - and most of them are written by complete and total strangers; strangers who make me laugh and cry and feel warm and fuzzy all over.  I keep up with my friends not through phone calls or letters or visits, but through their Facebook pages.  If I get an urge to hear a song or watch a particular show or movie, my desire is only a keystroke away.  Any ailments that befall our household can be cured with any number of home remedies shared by experienced moms and health professionals from around the world - or they'll let me know if we need to seek immediate medical assistance.  Any recipe can be found, any mindless entertainment is there to be enjoyed, any historical fact can be confirmed or denied.  It's an amazing thing.

How did the internet become a part of your world?  How do you keep your kids from watching porn online?  Or cheating on their homework?  Do you use the internet for everything, or are you still a fan of newspapers, magazines, and television?


  1. This post has 3 of my favorite things in it: Metallica, The Golden Girls, & the intrawebs (yeah,I say intrawebs, it's like we're almost the same person!)
    We got AOL my senior year of high school (1996) I remember using it just a couple of times for homework research but it wasn't until college that it really became a bigger part of my everyday life. Now,I rely on my phone or computer to provide me with every thing I need to know: news, bank balance, weather, random useless information. I pay all our bills online except the daycare they are old school and want checks (which I had to order because I didn't even have any). I still watch tv shows on the tv for the most part - it's a bigger screen and I like my vampires & werewolves as big as I can get em. And books, I can't give up real books! I have a Nook but I hated it and haven't touched it in months.
    This is a really long comment, I'm going to shut up now :)

  2. My first online biz was in 1995. I think my first order was for $295 (or$395) from a guy in LA.


  3. Yayyyyy.....Metallica!

    Amazing how very connected we all are thanks to the internet. I became puter-aware in 97...sat down with ann old system given by a friend and a bunch of books, along with a bunch of floppies to install WIN95. Took me 13 friggin' hours but I did it plus I taught myself puterese; babeee, look at me now!!

    On second thought, don't! It's blazing hot here in NY and I look like dogshit. No easy way to describe me at this point.

    Love your post, Nats!!!! Hugs!!

  4. Funny how that dial up fuzzy noise from AOL was so commonplace and now so obsolete already. And hells yeah, here's to the power of the internet - sounds like you are gonna help me with my current issue. Woot woot!

  5. I finally got on the intarweb sometime in the Summer of '98, via my brother's WebTV. I was already a big info geek, but my only sources of information up to that point were magazines, so I was pretty blown away by what I could learn on the internet. We used the WebTV up until the end of 2001, when our brother-in-law gave us his old computer for Christmas.

  6. Hmmm....We had a computer in the house since I was about 12 or 13 years old, but we got the "internet" via Prodigy in 1989,when I was 14. I remember that age because I started going to private school that year and hated it. We didn't get AOhell till my sophmore year of high school. I use the internet for almost everything-i.e. doing collage courses online, reading books, buy stuff (couse I don't like the mall to much) and paying bills.

  7. I remember my Dad used to delete the data off the AOL floppy disks so I could use them for school. I had a very brief run in with the internet in middle school. but didn't touch it again until my sophomore year in high school (2000!)
    I still prefer regular old paper magazines and I think I always will.


Please don't make me cry.


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