Monday, June 27, 2011

Living in a Virtual World...

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again but sometimes, I forget what life was like before the internet came along.

Even though my earlier years of life were spent in the dark ages of having to use typewriters, having to go to the library to look things up using, gasp, one of those old-fashioned card catalogue systems and actually physically gathering around a water cooler to have a water cooler discussion, I’ve almost forgotten what those days are like.

It’s so easy to satisfy our need for instant gratification. You can google anything these days. You want to know what other movies that guy you recognize but can’t identify has been in? Look him up on IMDB. Want to know mostly-correct historical facts about something? Look it up on Wikipedia. Want to talk about a TV episode you just watched but no one you know watches it? Go to or Television Without Pity and join in the discussions there.

The list goes on and on. If you want a certain recipe, there’s a place to find it online. If you are trying to use up an ingredient in your fridge but don’t know what to make with it? Go to and type in the ingredients you have. Voila! Instant recipe suggestions.

Want to see what the weather is going to really do because you know your meteorologist will inevitably be proven wrong? Go online and look at a radar map. Want to know what the time is in Slovakia? Google it.

You get my point. We no longer have to wait to find out anything anymore as long as an internet connection can be found. Even then, the power of smartphones allows us to have Google at our fingertips.

It’s spoiled me. If I’m out and about and suddenly I decide I want to go somewhere else but don’ t know the location, I just google it and then enter the address into my GPS.

We never really have to wait for much anymore. We can make appointments with our doctor online, make appointments at the car dealership, track packages to see when they’ll arrive at home. We can do all our banking from home without having to ever go to a bank. We can order groceries. We can order contact lenses. We can order anything.

In fact, the only thing that the internet can’t do is spit out the item you just ordered from instantaneously and I don’t see that happening in the near future. Also, while you can make travel arrangements, you still have to physically go to an airport and fly on a plane. Maybe in a few centuries teleportation will be an option and thus, the internet WILL be able to do everything but, for now, we do still have to do some things ourselves.

The problem is that I’ve found I get used to things the way they are online. I read a lot of news stories, reviews and TV recaps online. I always enjoy reading the comments below because you get to see if people had the same reaction as you did. For example, after watching “True Blood” last night, I was a little surprised at exactly how far the story on the show now differs from the books on which it was based. It’s not all bad- “True Blood” is not intended to be quality TV but, rather, a fun, quite trashy entertainment experience. However, while I think it’s still pretty entertaining, I’m a little sad that they’re doing some things so very differently from the things that happened in the books. I know, I know…books and movies/TV are never the same and the books are always better but, well, I like them to at least have some things in common. The way “True Blood” is going, all that will be the same are the character names and the fact that it’s a world where vampires, fairies, werewolves and other supernatural creatures coexist.

So, it was cathartic to read other people’s comments on the internet this morning and find out that I wasn’t alone in my opinions. I don’t know why it’s so nice to find out that other people share your mindset but it’s oddly comforting. It’s the same thing as when I read a book and I don’t like it. It’s cathartic to go to and read some of the less positive reviews of the book and find comfort in the fact that you’re not the only person who wishes he/she hadn’t wasted the time on reading the silly thing.

The trouble with doing this type of thing online is that you get used to it- even though you’re not really having a conversation as much as ‘listening’ to other people’s opinions, it still feels like you’ve had a conversation and catharsis is reached.

The problem lies in the fact that I still read books and magazines in hard copy form. When I read an article, I’ve started automatically looking for the comments at the end of an article. This is not good because, well, magazines don’t have comment sections the way online publications do.

It’s a similar situation when I read a couple of books on my Amazon Kindle and then I switch back to reading hard copies of books. It feels weird not to have a button to flip pages and it’s a lot harder to read one-handed.

Technology has spoiled me. I don’t think there’s any other way of putting it. It’s not always a bad thing but I do confess, there are times when I go to a library and I miss that silent thrill that they used to hold. Libraries are never as silent as they used to be because there’s always the ever-present tap-tap-tap sound so keyboards clicking because that’s how you look up books in a library nowadays. I miss those wax-smelling wooden libraries with the heavy drawers crammed full of hand-typed index cards that told you what books the library held. Sure, it’s quicker to look things up online but there was more ceremony involved in the old way. It made it seem more of an ‘event’ to go to the library. I used to hold my breath, hoping that a certain book I wanted would be there on the shelf. Now, I can look it up online and not have to spend the time going to the library.

Libraries aren’t the only place that have been changed by the internet but, for some reason, they come to mind as one of the major places that have undergone a technological transformation in the past 20 years. I’m sure it’s the same for hospitals, schools, banks and other institutions.

It’s not a bad thing. As Bob Dylan sang, “The Times They Are a-Changing…” It’s just that with technology moving at the speeds they are now, they’re changing so rapidly we don’t have time to catch up before they’ve changed again. Life is more convenient with the internet. It moves a lot faster. We get more done. We get more answers. We learn more.

It’s just that once in a while, when I find myself googling something like, “does mulch really stop weeds” when I already really know the answer, I realize that I’m spoiled rotten and I don’t really need to look it up just because I can.

Granted, I do anyway because I’m an internet junkie but at least I know I probably shouldn’t.

And knowing is half the battle…right?

Happy Tuesday!

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