I love the internet. I really do. Anything you need, everyone you know, answers to anything, right at your fingertips. You can have all of these things just about anywhere, at any time. You can even do other stuff while you’re doing the internet – eat, watch tv, have sex- you’re really only limited by your imagination and whether you’re ambidextrous.
I was thinking today about how my life has changed since I discovered the world wide web. I’ve become more productive and less productive. I communicate with more people now, but spend less real time with people. I have felt validated by the things I have in common with so many people, and have felt isolated at how different I realize I am. I have seen amazing things I would never have seen otherwise, and have seen many, many things I wish I had never seen. (Most recently, a picture of Willie Nelson in a bubble bath. Try unringing that bell.) I have learned more about what I believe, and have also learned a great deal about what not to believe. Most of these things seem to balance each other out, so it’s hard for me to state an emphatic “love” or “hate”, but either way, I’d give up a kidney before I give up my internet access.
But there is one thing I could live without: living in fear. Of everything. The best thing about the internet is that it’s a great source of information. The worst thing about the internet is that it’s a great source of information.
As a result, I am now afraid of global warming, and am thinking about moving inland a little bit. I can now identify a tsunami when it’s about to happen, so I can’t enjoy the ocean anymore because low tide freaks me out. I have done the math, and figured out how many generations my kids will produce before the end of the world (roughly, 3). I am afraid of dying in a global catastrophe, but more afraid of surviving one, because I am now very afraid of people. In general. Not just the mass murderers, white supremacists and gay-haters, but I am equally afraid of the everyday guy because you don’t know if or when, but sooner or later, something just might set him off. Everybody’s angry these days.
I am afraid of North Korea because they want to nuke us. I am afraid of China because they own us. I’m afraid of the Soviet Union and I don’t remember why. I am afraid of the never-ending conflict in the Middle East; world war three is sure to originate there, if the superstorms and hurricanes don’t get us first. I’m really afraid that by the time I get to visit the west coast, the part of California that hasn’t yet dropped into the San Andreas fault will be nothing more than smoldering embers. I am afraid of Texas.
I am afraid of an American economy that doesn’t belong to America. I am afraid of politicians, banks, corporate executives. I’m afraid of our laws, and terrified of a world without them. I’m afraid of zombies, swine flu, bird flu, and am also afraid of flu shots. And vaccines in general. But I’m also afraid of not getting vaccinated. And mostly I’m afraid of getting stuck between two moms having the vaccine/no vaccine argument, because, quite frankly, that can get vicious.
I’m afraid of genetically modified livestock, inhumane slaughterhouses and what must be done to dish up an excellent fois gras. I closely inspect my fast food burger for any trace of pink slime. I’m afraid to sip a can of coke or open a can of soup without full sterilization protocol because of mice poop. I have convinced myself that I can actually see the toxic leeching of plastic into my drinking water every time I see a water bottle on the dashboard of a car. I’m afraid of anything that comes in a can. Or a box. Or basically any food that I did not grow myself. I am also afraid of food I grow myself. The seeds were probably genetically modified. Truth be told, I don’t know the implications of genetically modified foods, but it’s all over facebook so it must be bad.
I’m afraid to go into my basement or sit on the toilet or sleep with my mouth open because SPIDERS. And where are the bees going? What does that MEAN?
I’m afraid of religious zealots, especially smart ones, but the atheists are gaining ground in the scary category. I’m afraid of right-wingers, left-wingers, and am really afraid of anyone who says they don’t care. I’m afraid of the people on top, the super-wealthy, and even more afraid of the people at the very bottom, the super-uneducated whose numbers appear to be growing by leaps and bounds. I’m afraid of people who let passion override common sense. I’m especially afraid of those who don’t have common sense.
I am afraid of pharmaceutical companies and the production of the pill-popping culture. I’m afraid of taking medicine, especially the medicine one has to take for being afraid, because one possible side effect is fear. For that, another prescription must be written, and that one is sure to rip a hole in the lining of your stomach and cause anal leakage or a prolapsed bladder. Don’t consider surgery to treat any of those, by the way, because an overworked doctor sometimes leaves surgical instruments IN YOU. This apparently happens with startling regularity, which I never would have guessed.
I’m afraid to touch a computer keyboard or eat a lemon in a restaurant. I’m afraid of microwaves and rollercoasters. I live in fear of 4 cellphones going off around my head at the same time because my head might explode like a kernel of popcorn. I’m afraid of internet predators, Nigerians and Craigslist. Match.com hasn’t had a killer yet, but it’s probably just a matter of time. I’m afraid to click on a link or open an email I don’t recognize because of HACKERS. I’m afraid of who might be tracking me online or using geolocators imbedded in my pictures to figure out where I am. I’m afraid to believe any pictures I see because they were probably photoshopped, or to believe any quotes I read because, as Abraham Lincoln cautioned, “One should not believe all that he reads on the internet.”
I guess, like everything else, we all just have to sort through the information for ourselves, take what is good (a thousand uses for an old pallet) and throw away the rest (mice poop and spider bites). Personally, I try to balance every scary thing I see or read with a comparable uplifting story, a funny meme, or the old standby – kitten pictures. And if that stops working…well, maybe it’s time to rethink my internet connection.