Connected (For Better Or Worse)

Every so often, something happens that makes me glad to be old. Well, in this instance, I should say that several things happened to make me glad that the internet wasn’t as evolved back when I was nineteen or twenty.

These days, things which keep track of our lives are everywhere. Almost everyone in America has at least one camera on his or her person at all times, usually in the form of a phone. Many of those phones even take video. Many of those phones can access the internet. Thus, it’s nearly impossible to have a lapse in judgment that doesn’t have the potential of being saved for all eternity. This is such a part of how we live that it’s easy to forget that things weren’t always this way.

When I was in middle school and high school, the internet as we know it didn’t exist. Oh, I’m sure there were some geeks in a college dorm somewhere chatting in some DOS-looking IRC-type chat room, but chatting and internet use weren’t in every home in America. Sexting didn’t exist. TEXTing didn’t even exist.

It was about junior or senior year in high school when my friend’s family got AOL and I witnessed AIM for the first time. I thought it was the coolest thing EVER. People from all over the country could talk to each other about nothing! For free! Well, sort of for free, because you still had to pay by the minute back then. And, you could only talk to a few people because nobody was online. Not the point. It was COOL!

Fast-forward 15 years, to a time when people can drunk Twitter from a phone. I’m so glad that my crazy, high-drama years were lived out when I didn’t have such an ability. When I was in my dorm room having boy-related freakouts, I just wrote those freakouts in a notebook that I kept by the bed. Now, people Twitter that stuff, putting their insanity out on the front porch like a proudly-carved pumpkin. Baby bats at goth night will have their awkward proto-goth phases captured online for all eternity. Their friends will never let them forget their “white foundation” phase. Thank God, nobody got pictures of mine.

I have great empathy for the teenagers of today, having to deal with the awkwardness and stupidity of high school, knowing that everything they do can be put online to haunt them forever. Just when you think that something is gone and forgotten, a potential boyfriend or employer Googles you and finds out about that time you peed in someone’s plant at a party. It’s no time to be a teenager.

I’m not saying that the internet is what’s finally going to make “these kids today” lose their collective shit. People have been predicting that for centuries, and it hasn’t happened yet. I’m just curious as to what kind of legacy this will leave. Will it force us all to be better people if we know that we’re always being watched? Will we get better at accepting our own imperfections? Will liquor sales decrease?

Who knows. I hope I live long enough to find out, though. I would so hate to miss the ending of the book.

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