Jacking in – Staying Connected

For the last year or so I tried unplugging myself.  When I realized my Facebook account allowed me to keep in touch with 500 of my closest friends I have never met I closed it down.  At home we told the cable company to pull out the television cable (obviously we kept the high speed internet) and unplugged the  small box that allows us to (supposedly) receive free television over airwaves (it never worked well anyway).  And, as regular listeners to The No Prisoners, No Mercy Show realize, the web site we host become solely a way to post about each show.

I found myself missing those days when friends would all gather each Friday night for a game of Dungeons and Dragons.   In later years, those friends all having gone their separate ways, this became replaced by Friday nights at a placed called “Harry’s Smoke Shop”.  The place was a heaping helping of companionship, drinking enough coffee to float the U.S. Nimitz and smoking enough cigars and pipes to implode our lungs.  People from all walks of life gathered there…the Commissioner of Streets and Sanitation for Chicago, the Chief of Patrolment for Chicago, police sergeants, active duty combat pilots and even Rabinical students. Those were some of the best conversations I have ever had in my life. Before there was an internet, it was how we all stayed connected.

The internet came along and soon became the primary way people shopped. When Paul Barnett, from Mythic Entertainment, was guest on our show, he told us how his son was amazed that he still shopped in retail stores.   Soon the internet was in full swing and Harry refused to have anything to do with it.  “The internet is just a place for scammers to scam more people her told” me.  As a result, Harry had to close up shop and Marshal McLuhan’s global village became grim reality.

When Marshall McLuhan spoke about the “Global Village” back in 1962 the internet didn’t exist – yet today it is synonomous, or perhaps more appropriately embodied in, the internet.  Yet when I first studied the works of McLuhan back in college (more years ago then I care to remember) it wasn’t meant as a compliment:

“In fact, in an interview with Gerald Stearn, McLuhan says that it never occurred to him that uniformity and tranquillity were the properties of the Global Village. McLuhan argued that the Global Village ensures maximal disagreement on all points because it creates more discontinuity and division and diversity under the increase of the village conditions. The Global Village is far more diverse.”  – Wikipedia

When he co-authored the book “The Medium is the Massage” the title of the book as an accident.  Although it was supposed to read “Message” McLuhan thought it was great and told the printer to leave it alone.  Today, perhaps more than ever before, the internet has become a two edged sword and, at least in part, the Medium is the Message can give a hint why.

“By playing on words and utilizing the term ‘massage,’ McLuhan is suggesting that modern audiences have found current media to be soothing, enjoyable, and relaxing; however, the pleasure we find in new media is deceiving, as the changes between society and technology are incongruent and are perpetuating an Age of Anxiety.” - Wikipedia

The danger here, of course, is in interpreting McLuhan’s work, we may run afoul of the same incident that was portrayed in the Wood Allen movie “Annie Hall” in which McLuhan appeared.

 

Still, as essoteric as I originally found the Medium as the Massage, after pondering on it for some 25 years, plus having been hitting over the head with the mallet that is the internet, it begins to dawn on my in a moment of “discovery” that had my slapping my forehead I almost made a permanent dent in it.  I can look back on my college days before there was an internet and see the truth of the words – yes I was in college before there was an internet. In fact, when I began my  first professional career I had a Popular Science magazine I used to keep in my desk that had a two page spread diagraming what then was the entire internet.

Years later, I find that the internet, while keeping me “connected” also presents a sense of isolation I might not have felt before.  I can reach out through social media like Facebook, Google Circles and Skype to connect with people I might not have met before. Yet at the same time it makes me realize just how isolated I have become.

Not long ago I saw an advertisement for Dungeons and Dragons.  No, not the online versions, but the pen and paper version. On one side of the ad was a young man sitting in a darkened room, peering into a computer screen. On the other was a room full of people laughing and sharing good times. The sad truth is that the internet took those times away.  There is no longer any incentive for people to sit around a table and interact when all they have to do is log on.  The internet may allow us to keep in touch but it has taken away the touch of human contact. As McLuhan pointed out (or at least seemed to) the global village has brought anxiety of a type I would not have otherwise known.

So what am I saying? Take away the internet?  Anyone who suggests that runs the risk of the same reaction that Doctor Richard Bartle (Hi Doctor!) runs when he suggested getting rid of World of Warcraft if he could.  I suggest that the lack of an internet, at least for awhile might have a beneficial effect (that is, after I stopped having withdrawal effects) by giving us a real reason to reconnect. But as we all know, that is never going to happen (unless the President pulls the plug on the internet, which as we all know, he now has the capability of doing).  Until then, and somewhat reluctantly…

See you online,

Julie Whitefeather

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