Friday, April 24, 2009

Thanks, internet. We're screwed.

It occurred to me today that this thing we call technology has profoundly varying impacts on different generations of people. Throughout time, new technological advancements are integrated, discovered and streamlined by the generation that saw their advent, and then all but ingrained into everyday usage by the children of those innovators. Take the airplane, for example. When it first came out, people were terrified to ride them. It was something daring young fools climbed aboard, not an everyday reality that would enable people to travel the world over. Yet over the past century, innovators took risks, improved designs, tooled and retooled engines and fuels and fuselages and now here we are, 100 years later and we see a world where going to visit our relatives is as simple as booking a flight. We'd be baffled if the mail took more than 2 days to arrive. We can catch a redeye to Las Vegas and act on our romantic impulses before our heads have time to take over. Since work began, man has been trying to find ways to save his only true, finite resource: time.

In the same way, I see the internet to my generation and that of my children. When the internet age truly began, I was just a kid. I would ride my bike to the public library, wait 20 minutes to get online (at 14.4 kbps, BLAZING fast) and explore an ever expanding world- email, webpages, HTML, pure information at my fingertips, from all over the world. But unlike many other technological advancements, the internet was a self-perpetuating phenomenon. Being able to share large amounts of information over simple phone and fiber lines allowed developers to share ideas; businesses like Yahoo and Google saw the unlimited potential of providing everything somebody could ever need right into their personal computer; countless computer nerds inexplicably received obscene amounts of money to help built the dot-com explosion, which would grow like a huge bubble and finally POP when people realized what they wanted from the internet and how much they wanted to pay for it.

Everything. For nothing. By simply hooking up your computer, we had access to a world of goods, services and entertainment. New languages were being born. Tiny acronyms that could have once been considered typographical errors now held great significance in the eyes of the internet generation. The parents were threatened, baffled, unsure how to react when their kids were the only place to turn when they realized that incorporating this new technology was their only option if they wanted to survive. When generations were united in sharing information, ideas and knowledge, we reached our apex. It was also at this point that our brains started to dissolve into mush and we decided to screw over our kids.

Because truthfully mom and dad, we were really just using the internet to steal music and look at porn. The advent of the flash video allowed us to take clips of our friends lighting their flatulence aflame and broadcast it to the world. Suddenly, everyone had a voice, and opinion, a blog, a social network, something to say and somebody to listen to it. It somehow stung less when somebody told you your writing wasn't good, or you weren't funny. We could say what we wanted without real consequence, because the only thing that might stand in our way was someone else's faceless screen name telling us what for, and who really cares. 176,214 other idiots think I'm hillarious!

The internet went from a forum of enlightening human idea exchange to the ultimate gratification for the laziest recesses of our human nature. Sex is at our fingertips, entertainment is only a click away. Spelling, grammar, punctuation are defenestrated by simple keystrokes. I can only imagine that there will soon be a way to obtain food through the wire too. We're on our way to becoming a collective world consciousness, all wired to one another, laying prostrate in our beds, feeding tube in our stomach and filling our minds with pleasing visual stimuli all day long. People thought the television was the downfall of American society, but the television couldn't give us the one thing we still desired- the feeling that somebody was listening to us while we sat slobbering in front of them. Now we have input AND output, and the cycle is complete. Prepare for final brain liquefication, because the tool they thought would help their kids grow up to be smarter than us has turned on them, and it seems that we're just a generation away from becoming illiterate, culture-devoid robosapiens.

If you don't believe me, listen to some of the music these kids are playing. Read the text messages and emails and comments they leave for each other on their blogs. Tell me what videos have the most hits on YouTube. The things the internet is doing to this young generation of kids is terrifying to me. That might make me sound like an old man, but who cares. It truly scares me to think that the next group of workers down the chute is going to be even lazier than MY generation.

And one more thing- stop digitally over-exposing your kids. By the time our babies grow up and learn to use the internet, they'll have access to more information about themselves than any generation has ever had. Considering the internet is practically the temple of Narcissus, I can't imagine that's healthy. But hey, what do I know. I just wrote this whole essay and published it on the internet. Kind of hypocritical, perhaps.