On any given day I can speak to thousands if I wish. I can interact with strangers in the far reaches of the planet. I can read about life in Alaska or Botswana. I can learn how to dig a well, or teach others to make jam. As the internet connects us all, it does so with such an amazing lack of anything remotely intimate or discriminating that I wonder how I can add the filters that I prefer so that I am sheltered from information I do not wish to see. Filters that prevent me from being contacted by people I no longer wish to associate with. Frequently I receive notes from my wifes ex husband on facebook related to their child. I have no interest in getting to know him regardless of what we may have in common, but I get these little messages meant to be encouraging and friendly (to the child) nonetheless. Or I find myself reading comments left by old lovers whose names I’d rather forget or remember fondly without reconnecting. I know more about my partners old partners than I care to, and she is all too aware of mine, all courtesy of social media.
While I have no strong desire to hide, or to be anonymous, it’s disconcerting to be so connected. In the past you could change your telephone number, move to another place across town and all ties were severed if you wished them to be. You could start fresh if you wanted to. Today one would have to change their name or create an on-line persona and that feels phony and false to me.
I can imagine that children, especially teens, must feel targeted and vulnerable should anyone write anything negative about them. In todays world a tweet is instantaneous, a blog entry is forever, and every person within a 30 mile radius has a cell phone camera waiting to shoot the next big embarrassing scene, kids must forever be on their guard or feel humiliated by the least slip or dumbest move. The idea of being that guarded makes me think that maybe American societies moving in the wrong direction, and we’re not alone.
On a recent camping trip I felt relief that I was out of cell phone range for a few days. I actually watched the bars on my phone drop from 4 to 3 to 2 to 1 then blink, gone. Out in open country where no messages, emails, tweets, or telephone calls could reach me felt like freedom from the tether of modern life. That’s not to say that I’d like that permanently, no I’m addicted like the rest of you, but it was nice to unplug and rejuvenate without a constant stream of information flowing at me.
I’m taking my coffee outside and picking up “the Hobbit” on the way out the door. Bilbo’s just found the ring and although I know the story I’m anxious to return to the book and get unplugged for a little while.