By Scott Roeben
How do you use the Internet?
If you ask that question of enough people, you begin to see there are more opinions on the subject of the Internet than there are vowels at a convention of Hawaiian lounge singers.
There's no denying it. Lots of people still have no idea what the Internet is. The best guess I ever heard was "Doesn't it have something to do with squid?"
There is yet another, slightly better informed, portion of the population that believes the Internet is no more than an over-hyped technological fad. These are the skeptics. The naysayers. The negativists. The traducers. These are the people who can't see even the most obvious benefits of the Internet--not the least of which are online Thesauri. The opinion of these individuals can best be summed up as: "Internet, schminternet."
Still others believe the Internet represents evil in its purest form, their case seemingly supported by evidence such as the innumerable home pages on the Web which take close to seven years each to download. Many of these people believe the Internet is a covert government plot intended to lull the masses into gazing into their computer monitors for hours at a time, thus violating their rights as citizens by keeping them from participating in any number of other government plots going on elsewhere.
Most folks who see the potential of the Internet, however, believe it is changing the world like no other technological advance in the history of the world--with the possible exception of bubble wrap.
But how do you use the Internet? For research? Entertainment? Travel planning? Sex? Shopping?
I, for one, use the Internet to become a god. Perhaps I should explain.
What makes a god a god? What is it that gods do, when it comes right down to it? When gods walk into Kinko's and rent one of those evil Macintosh creatures and draft their résumés, what do they put down?
Experience: Infinite. Strong damnation skills. (Thunderbolts a specialty, but also enjoy a good plague now and then.) Self-starter. Hardworking, but prefer to rest on Sundays. Requirements: Praise, obedience--also insist on a graven images-free work environment. Other strengths: Omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient.
You wonder why the number of Internet users has increased so astonishingly over the last few years? Because the Internet provides anyone the unprecedented opportunity to become omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient. That's all.
Omnipresence. For the first time, through the miracle of fiber optics, band widths and that thingy next to the keyboard that you move around and point to things with, we can be everywhere. Click here, and you're in Denmark. Click here, you're in Cameroon. Click here, you're in France. (All right, admittedly there are some drawbacks to being omnipresent.) In centuries past it would have taken journeys of days, months, even years, to send or receive news from distant lands. Our ancestors were forced to resort to such means as smoke signals, Morse code, drums and most often really loud screaming to convey information. Now we can gather information from the four corners of the globe in mere seconds. Unfortunately, the one tidbit of information we have yet to glean from the Internet is which linguistic whiz first came up with the idea that a globe has corners.
Omnipotence. That's what we achieve when we venture onto the Internet. Unlimited power. How? Language. Language is supremely powerful, and on the Internet, words rule. The Internet affords us the power to communicate to thousands, even millions, of other residents of our fair planet. It gives us the power to spam. To flame. To make up goofy jargon to our heart's content. Jargon is power. Just ask attorneys.
Anonymity is power, too. When we use the Internet we have the option of remaining anonymous, which in turn makes even the powerless powerful, the cowardly courageous, the ugly beautiful. In many ways, anonymity in cyberspace is like being invisible in the real world. If you were invisible, you could walk into a dressing room at a major department store and spraypaint the words "Wide Load" on the rump of a fat woman. No repercussions. No risk. Ultimate power.
Yes, I think that being on the Internet is like spraypainting the rump of a fat woman.
And we cannot forget that final godlike quality the Internet bestows upon us, that of omniscience.
Omniscience. The sheer quantity of information available via the Internet is staggering. We think that's the case, anyway. The people who postulate the numbers of Internet sites and users haven't really gotten their act together when it comes to concrete, verifiable numbers, but that's probably because they have to spend so much of their time explaining to their mothers how they manage to pay the bills when there are so few opportunities in the postulation field. But that's not the point. The point is that there is an amazing amount of information out there. (Probably.)
As far as I can tell, there is no conceivable aspect of any imaginable area of endeavor or thought that is not represented somewhere on the Net. Even the most absurd or disgusting or obscure subjects are covered in full, vibrant, graphic color somewhere.
All that we can know is out there, somewhere. The sum of all human knowledge is there. We can have it. We can know everything.
Gods. Everywhere. All-powerful. All-knowing.
And all just a pointer-thingy away.
© Scott Roeben, 2000. All rights reserved.