Faster than the speed of google…

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?



  1. Lucy
    8 August, 2010 / 11:12 am

    It’s a tricky one isn’t it? Sometimes I’d like to bung it all out and live without it. It can’t be healthy….

    There is something about your virtual friends becoming an ‘audience’ rather than peers and companions which is a bit distasteful really… perhaps we all just need a therapist….

    • 9 August, 2010 / 3:52 pm

      It IS a bit distasteful, but then tbh I reckon I tend to be a bit like that in person too – I’m just an attention seeker. Perhaps therapy is the answer :-)

  2. 8 August, 2010 / 1:27 pm

    Lucy and Jo,

    There are people at the other end of the computers. Real people, who are not virtual at all. I made my living building spaces for corporate clients in the virtual world of Second Life for 3 years. I had workers who lived in California, Delaware, Ohio, Florida, London, Belgium, and France. I have only met two of them in ‘Real Life’, but they are still real.

    They worked hard, I paid the $30.00 per hour of real money, and I cared about what was going on in their lives. I knew of their children, their husbands and wives, their hopes and dreams. We celebrated our success together and felt bad one someone was sick or sad.

    There is nothing sad or distasteful about getting to know people, in my humble opinion. Why must we assign labels and categories to things and the way they should be? Why must we mentally give ourselves a thrashing because of a ‘norm’ we perceive?

    Being happy and content is something one chooses. I am single, 43, never been married, no kids, sometimes go days without leaving the house. I love woodworking, writing, photography, chess, the internet, golf, and tennis, to name but a few. I also love going and hanging out with my friends at a town festival, spending hours and hours waxing nostalgic about our youth, or discussing the days world events. I can strike up a conversation with a person in a bar and talk for hours, or be alone with a book in a crowded coffee house. It just doesn’t matter, as what ever I am doing, that is what makes me happy.

    Josephine, you are a delightful writer. You bring joy to those who read your posts, even if we have never met. Do what makes you happy, and if blogging isn’t it, that is ok. We will understand, though we will miss your missives.


    • 9 August, 2010 / 3:54 pm

      Fear not Brian, I won’t give up altogether, I just sometimes wonder WHY. But then I wonder that about most things, and I’m not sure there is an answer, other that to stop moaning and get on with it.

      I do worry though that my real life relationships sometimes suffer – not because I prefer to talk to people online, I don’t really do that other than here, just that I get into the habit of emails and texts rather than just picking up the phone and talking to someone.

  3. 8 August, 2010 / 9:15 pm

    Before I got connected to the internet (almost a year ago) I was skeptical. A complete luddite, I couldn’t understand on-line communication at all. I thought it was for losers, I’ll be honest.

    As soon as I got my first computer and discovered blogging though, I was off. Now I probably spend more time talking to my friends on line than I do to my ‘real life’ friends. My on-line friends feel like real friends to me now though. I like them, I care about them, I’m interested in how they’re doing. We really let people into our lives through our blogs. It’s a different sort of relationship for sure, but none the less real for it I think.

    Glad you had such a good time at camp Bestival. How was the mud?

    • 9 August, 2010 / 3:56 pm

      Wow, you’ve only been online for a year? You’ve certainly made your mark in that time then! Do you notice an impact on your other relationships as a result or do you maintain a happy balance?

      Camp bestival was ace, and there was no mud at all! A bit of drizzle on Saturday morning, but that gave me the perfect excuse to lie in the tent for a while recovering from my hangover…

  4. 9 August, 2010 / 5:53 am

    I loved reading this and the comments too. You write so well about a subject much discussed and thought about, but you do it in such a fresh, reflective way. I love the way you look back on your years at University and how technology changed throughout that time.

    Do what makes you happy. Before the age of blogging, e-mails and twitter I was an avid letter writer and had pen-friends whom I got to know really well through words. I feel like the on-line world simply makes written correspondence so much faster, easier and broader. It’s like having several pen-friends in a way!

    Everything in moderation I say :)

    • 9 August, 2010 / 3:58 pm

      I am very lucky to have such thoughtful people leaving comments :-)

      The trouble is that often I don’t know what does make me happy, or whether the satisfaction I get from blogging is a healthy one – do I actually enjoy the process of writing and sharing, or is it more about wanting to be validated and accepted? if I only ever did what made me happy I’d just sit on the sofa drinking gin, eating rose creams and watching reruns of The Inbetweeners over and over, so I’m not sure I trust myself on that score!

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