Monday, July 04, 2016

Good Buy Yellow Brick Road

Good Buy Yellow Brick Road

This morning, I started thinking about the Internet.

Way back when, I guess around 1997, I bought my first home computer, a good old reliable IBM model. I signed up for one of those beep-beep-ding-bah-boop Dial-Up Internet Providers, and I began my journey into the realm of cyber-world.

And what a world it was.

Those were the days of Yahoo!, Excite, and Alta Vista, the mainstays of the search engines before Google came along and hogged all the traffic. I had no idea what to look for on the Internet, but soon discovered these "web pages," little bits of information about this and that — nothing really too important, but a new source of information.

I decided that I wanted one of those web pages as well. I had no idea how to make one or where you could make one, but I forged ahead anyway. At some point, I discovered a site called GeoCities, where you could set up your own personal space, and the race was on. I discovered that my Corel WordPerfect had a utility that allowed one to write and process the page in HTML. I made up a webpage on The Beatles, and lo and behold I was on the Internet.

I remember spending hours learning the anchors and codes of HTML. I'm not sure I ever got it right. I'm still not sure I have it right.

I quickly saw the Internet as an exciting new frontier for creative people. Graphic arts and web design became new fascinations, especially for young people.

I also traveled along the World Wide Web, the WWW as it was called, to discover all kinds of wonderful and naughty adventures. There were wonderful photographs posted, and a 600 by 400 pixel shot filled my small screen. There was AOL, and who knew what that was all about? There was free music to listen to in Real Audio. Then, of course, there were some sites that offered naughty nude photographs and racy movies. I was stunned by what one could see, in grainy 200 pixel boxes. It didn't matter. The Internet was breaking the rules, and I loved it.

Not so much anymore.

Today, the Internet has turned into little more than a worldwide shopping centre and movie theatre. The Internet is the land of Amazon, Ebates, Groupon, YouTube, See-A-Boob, Ding-Dong, and Sing-Along.

The best of my experiences are gone. A site called Yahoo! 360 allowed people to create a personal space to write and share blogs, and my calendar filled up with sharing thoughts with people from all over the world. Just as it became so much a part of everyone's life, Yahoo! 360 shut down. Then, another site, called Multiply, filled the void. Unfortunately, the owners soon decided to change Multiply into an Indonesian based shopping mall, which eventually failed.

The chat rooms preoccupied folks for a while, but now they have all but vanished.

These days, people talk about the importance of "social media," and the millennials "connect" by way of Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Vine, and many more. These sites befuddle me. At best, these sites provide a lookie lou kind of experience, and at worst, they have become a place to slag anyone and everyone who is not you.

Of course, we can't forget the dating sites. The touch-and-feel pleasures of actual romance have given way to photo-shopped profile pictures, somewhat suspect personal descriptions, and catfishing scammers. Dating sites trade on one thing: loneliness. For that, I hate them. They are just shopping centres by another name, except their clients are not shopping for a pair of ruby-red slippers. Most are shopping for some kind of analgesic to soothe their feelings of alienation and the heartache of a solitary life. Yes, I know. Sometimes, people meet the loves of their lives. These "soul cyber-mates" are like a bad case of Internet Explorer. They cash and crash when you least expect it.

The only real interpersonal site is Facebook. I don't mind Facebook, but it is mostly a middle-aged housewife's haven. I'm not sure how many recipes we can share. I'm not sure how many baby photos one can manage. I'm not sure if I really give a damn about anyone's family tree or a look-how-much-Billy-has-grown photo montage. And I'm really not sure that I care about your new beau, your old beau, or your method of finding the perfect beau — it's all beau-shit to me.

Well, perhaps I am being too unkind.

Oh, I'll have to cut this short. I'm bidding on a Roy Rogers collectible figure on Ebay, and I'm afraid someone is going to snipe over my bid at the last second.




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