I haven’t posted in a while. My longest ever actually. I seem to have lost my connection with the internet this week.
Not literally you understand, I’ve just temporarily lost the urge to keep up.
I blame camping, I always knew it was unnatural. Last weekend we went to Camp Bestival, and had a fantastic time mooching about outside, drinking Pimms, listening to music and generally not thinking about real life. We were staying the in Tangerine Fields, so avoided the actual having to put up the tent bit, so our camping experience was really rather civilised. There is something so soothing about eating cup-a-pasta for breakfast and just sitting quietly on the damp grass for twenty minutes waiting for two inches of water to boil.
So when we got home I felt rather overwhelmed with real life. We had managed to live quite happily in the tent with just a suitcase full of stuff, so to get home and see MOUNTAINS of useless rubbish all over the place was a bit disconcerting. ‘Surely we don’t need all this crap?’ I kept thinking to myself as I wondered around the house.
And of course ‘this crap’ extends in my head to The Internet, the ultimate mountain of virtual crap.
I often wonder if my generation aren’t the ones most likely to be troubled by technology and the pace of change. My daughters know no different, they can’t even imagine a time before laptops. My mother dips her toe, but is quite happy to not really understand most of it. Me though, it’s all still new, but thirtysomethings can’t get away with feigning ignorance. When I think of just what’s changed over the last twenty years though it is staggering.
Rewind to the late eighties for instance. I’m in primary school, where my Dad is a teacher. The whole school has one computer and experimenting with fonts is as exciting as it gets. In the summer holidays we bring the computer home to ‘look after’ and my sister and I are mightily impressed with ‘Malory Towers’, a murder mystery game that was all text, and involved typing the words ‘enter drawing room’. The tension while you waited for the next words to appear – ‘You see the gardener’ – felt almost unbearable.
My time at university is a great example of just how quickly things changed, and why people my age might be struggling to keep up, or to know even if they want to keep up.
In my first year, I didn’t have a computer. All my assignments were handwritten, and research involved going to an actual library, photocopying journals and highlighting interesting bits with coloured pens. (My favourite part). In year two, I treated myself to a state of the art word processor. It was like a typewriter, but with a smaller-than-postcard size screen on a hinge.
In year three, I used google for the first time. I can actually remember it, and the amazement at seeing all these articles pop up all to do with the subject I was writing about. It was a revelation. I didn’t have a computer at the beginning of the year, but all assignments now had to be typed, so we fought over the computers in the IT suites. At the end of the year I bought my first computer to write my dissertation. I got dial-up internet. And so it all began.
That’s three years, just three years in which I go from happily sitting in the library with my A4 pad and biro to searching cyberspace and copying and pasting. Copying and pasting! What an amazing invention! Do young people even realise the annoyance of writing out a whole page ‘in best’ and then making a spelling mistake? Tippex must hate the internet.
So, since coming back from my laid back weekend of festivalling, I’ve been thinking a lot about the internet, about its place in my life, and trying to recapture some of the contentment I’m sure I must have felt when I wasn’t always checking emails, tweeting, and generally wondering about all the exciting things other people are surely doing somewhere else.
It hasn’t really worked, because you can’t go back can you? It just doesn’t work. All you can do is come to terms with where we are now and try to figure out how best to incorporate all these technologies into our lives without feeling either like they are taking over or that we are getting left behind.
Is it just me who feels the threat of the internet or who sometimes dreams in email form? Or do other people worry that virtual friendships will replace real ones, and that we’ll all end up surrounded by people and information, yet very much alone?