The Internet is Ruining Our Lives

When I was a senior in college, taking a senior capstone course in the American Studies department of Utah State (not even including a link to it because it’s a joke … American Studies degrees are jokes), we were assigned the final project of a paper and presentation on a good example of contested space. You know, like how white men came on over and took all of the indigenous peoples’ land and then reallocated it to them, like they had the right. So the degree gave me a certain perspective on America. I can’t help it — take a colonial American history class from the perspective of the native people, and you’ll get all the feels, too. Anyhow, things like ANWAR were chosen, and I decided on MySpace.

Image courtesy of underconsideration.com

Image courtesy of underconsideration.com

Because I’m old. I know. MySpace isn’t cool anymore.

At the time, the Am Studies advisor wasn’t particularly pleased with my decision, although she never told me I couldn’t choose such a topic (I was the only one who wrote and presented on anything pop culture related), and I did get a B as my final grade, so I guess I can’t complain too much. But I did find myself remarkably jealous of all the Am Studies students of BYU last semester who were required to write about things occurring in LA, which … my how the times have changed. She wasn’t familiar with MySpace outside of knowing the name and the general idea of it (social networking? Really? That’s not going to last.), which I think added to her distaste for my decision, and it wasn’t till post-college, a couple years ago, when I realized my paper and presentation were actually awesome. Till then, I’d felt kind of like a failure.

Being a secretary not using her college degree may have added to that.

My thesis was simple: social networking will ultimately alter the way society interacts with itself. Now I realize this seems like a big huge “duh,” but remember I was graduating back in 2006, when Facebook was primarily known as that website for high school students, with no News Feed, ads, suggestions, subscriptions, likes, etc. etc. et cetera. At the time, I think a lot of us weren’t totally aware of how much social networking had changed (AOL chat rooms? Do they still exist even?) and how much it would change us.

The sole reason I decided to make a foray into likening social networking to contested space was because I’d found some scriptures at the Institute building, chock full of personal notes, and I thought the person might want them back. There was one lone email address written inside, and I thought even if it didn’t belong to the original owner, perhaps this friend/acquaintance might know to whom they did belong. So I reached out — I explained the situation, and then I waited for a response. And I got one — the guy didn’t know who it belonged to, couldn’t remember even giving out his email address, and then at the end of what I thought was a simple, almost professional correspondence, asked if I was single.

Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org. For more information on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, visit http://www.lds.org

Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org. For more information on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, visit http://www.lds.org

Um, dude. What if I am someone’s grandma. I wasn’t, as it turned out, but I was so thrown by this inquiry (something that I imagine most current readers are rolling their eyes at and muttering to themselves, “What is wrong with her? Totally harmless question.”) that I turned it into an entire senior project. Because who asked questions like that? Who was this guy? What would he have done had I responded? (I did not, by the way, because I am not in the business of becoming the topic of the nighttime news.) Where did he come off? It all seemed really peculiar, and I couldn’t help but imagine social networking was partially to blame.

And I still hold pretty firmly to that. We are a voyeuristic species — we want to know what’s going on in other peoples’ lives all the time, even if it turns out to be stupid or mundane or embarrassing (why else does “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” continue airing? Yeah). And what’s worse (and of course I am lumping myself into this group because you’ll probably be hard pressed to find another person who is as addicted to all forms of social networking as I), we’re more than happy to publish it for all the world. Because at the end of the day, despite how creepy we think voyeurism may be, we want to be noticed, to be followed, to be low-level stalked because it makes us feel important/interesting. People want their lives to be witnessed. So we publish all the things and we share it with strangers, and there’s been a huge shift in communication between “Hi, you’re a stranger, I’ll make a little small talk with you” to “Hi, you’re a stranger, and whatever you won’t tell me about yourself I’ll find on the internet, so you may as well tell me now.” We ask questions that would make our grandparents roll over in their graves , we overshare information that still makes our parents cringe.

And it’s continued to (d)evolve. I find myself opening up to acquaintances much earlier on in potential relationships than I would have even three years ago, and it will probably continue to be that way. It just is what it is, and despite probably our lamest efforts to fight it, we lose every time. I’ve always been something of an oversharer, and the internet and social networking have only perpetuated that. It’s a weird place to be, my friends. I want to stop, I don’t.

Thus enters the Internet Chain Letter. You know how these used to be — those lame email forwards your uncle would send out to the whole family that you’d skim and then put in your junk box because you didn’t even want to bother with it. We used to hate chain letters, and yet now it’s almost as if, as a society, we applaud them. We encourage them. And we act like they’re our human right and that we are entitled to share them with everyone. Literally everyone.

Image courtesy of memebase.cheezburger.com

Image courtesy of memebase.cheezburger.com

One of the more recent chain letters — a rant from a single Texas mom to President Obama that went almost immediately viral — spurned so many feelings and thoughts within myself, I almost sat right down at this very blog and responded in kind with my own letter. And suddenly I realized — that simply made me one of them. And under all circumstances, may God forbid that I ever become one of them. So I ranted about it to Husband (bless his heart for listening to me when I share things with him I want to share with the world) and talked it over with a few friends and sort of got it out of my system. I mean, I totally get it — you write something that potentially thousands of people might read, you feel validated and important and right, and frankly I know no one who doesn’t love the exhilarating experience of being right.

And then we sit back and we wonder how cyber-bullying suddenly got so out of hand, how abhorrent people got their own television shows, how we’re walking around every day, way more stressed and frustrated about everything far more than we ever should. We don’t like the President, we do; we don’t like big business, we’re fine with it; we want to save the planet, we think green people are nuts; we want socialized medicine, we think it would ruin the nation; we think veganism is weird, we think it’s the only way we’ll survive. I used to be really politically savvy, and I’m being serious here. When I was in college, I knew all the political things, and I enjoyed keeping up with them. These days, politics of all type make me so upset, I try to pretend like they don’t exist.

So. The internet continues on. Chain letters will remain rampant. Anxiety levels are higher than they’ve ever been. And maybe we need to change that.

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9 thoughts on “The Internet is Ruining Our Lives

  1. Change. The key word. How do you change or rather stop technology? The professor doesn’t think it can be done short of a disaster. Who wants that?

      • Yeah, it’s not technology that’s the problem, in fact, technology has made life a lot better for at least some of us. The real problem is Christians and non-democrats getting egg on their faces yet again because of yet another big viral bungle among the zillions of other viral bungles they’ve been committing.

  2. Aaaaaaaaaargh! Gah! *Facepalm* I wish Christians and people who oppose Obama would stop with the freaking chain letters! As a Christian, and someone who does not support the democratic party, I do NOT agree with spamming up the net with chain letters – they are manipulative and annoying. The woman who wrote this one wants the whitehouse mail bombed. No, that’s not the Christian way, folks… She’s so passive-aggressive too, and those people drive me insane! Oppose Obama, but for gosh sakes don’t do it with chain letters and mail bombing! This will end up as just another lulz-fix for the left. “Look hah hah hah, another right-wing chain email! Lulz lulz!” *Headdesk*

    • I mean, to be fair (despite my being a left-winger), Dems have written their own fair share of dumb internet chain letters. Probably … I haven’t seen any, but I’m sure they exist. Everyone should stop with it. It’s cyber-bullying and it’s dumb. Also annoying.

      • There are democrat chain letters, but they are mostly 4chan/redit etc. memes, “Action Alerts” and such posted/emailed within their communities as opposed to what the right does with every freaking chain letter – spamming it indiscriminately all over the !@#$ net. I reject kruft from both parties but as a Christian I am thoroughly embarrassed and fed up to here and beyond with the way Christians just go along with chain letters that *seem* to support whatever their prevailing pov might be on anything. And I didn’t roll my eyes at your reaction to the guy who asked if you were single. I scowled at him. It’s creeps like that which turned me off irc and internet chatrooms. There’s only one reason a practical stranger would ask you that – he’s looking for a date. I have no trouble telling people like that to go fly a kite.

      • Yeah, I mean I understand in a predominately Mormon community and college town chock full of single women, his assumption wasn’t necessarily a bad one. His decision to act on the assumption, however …

  3. It was definitely bad manners, bad form on his part. Not quite as repulsively executed as this shining example which also went viral and gets a smashing by me.

    Another email bungle going viral, this one from some college kid wanting – well, you’d have to read it to believe it. Even then, it’s a big WTFH.

    * * *

    From: some poor college drip
    Sent: Tuesday, October 01, 2013 11:06 PM
    To: some accounting recruiter
    Subject: Question

    Message: Hey REDACTED,

    We talked a couple weeks back at the UW-Milwaukee accounting night. (I was the one looking for equity research positions and had a zit on my lip that could have passed for a cold sore. Lol. Whew.

    Miss Capri: *Eyebrows raise* Huh? EWW, TMI! You actually wrote this to somebody!? Have you no sense of self-respect?

    Message: It was not.

    Miss Capri: Whatever, bleah, you’re making my skin crawl.

    Message: You’re probably like, “uh.. What?” Maybe that helps you recall, maybe not. Not completely important, I suppose.

    Miss Capri: Not at all important other than being something you just don’t put in an email to anyone unless you are consulting your physician about your personal health. Only now your email address and name will probably always be associated in the mind of whoever you sent this message to, with some dude who has a honking zit on his lip. Way to go, man, way to go!

    Message: Anyways, if you have a chance here is my question: (background first) I interviewed with BDO and Baker Tilly today, two firms that seem like good places to work, I believe they don’t kill you like a big 4. Tomorrow I have an interview with Deloitte :O somewhere I thought I’ve always wanted to work. Obviously I don’t have an offer so this is all hypothetical thinking, but if I get the job, the reality of the situation is that I’m getting old. 25.

    Miss Capri: Kid, that ain’t old. Not by a long shot. Anyway, just where, in this ramble, is your question? More to the point, what is the question?

    Message: I know you can’t force love and I know it just comes when you’re not looking, but

    Miss Capri: *Eyes going wide in disbelief* WHA!? what – how -just what the heck does your zit-face and your age of 25 and applying for jobs have to do with love? Where the heck did love get into this anyway? Dude, you got problems! Do you want a job, or do you want a date? You can’t go looking for them both in one place? If it’s a date/romance you want, try E-Harmony or Match.com. You don’t proposition someone you’re looking to get help from in a business venture!

    Message: would working for a big four completely squash any possibilities for potential relationships if one came along?

    Miss Capri: Dude, get your priorities straight. you don’t go to work to pick up dates!

    Message: Is working for a big four a potential career – love trade off?

    Miss Capri: No, it’s a potential career, period! Forget “love” and just look for that in the appropriate places. Try the online dating sites or go clubbing perhaps. Though I don’t know who’d want to date somebody who goes on about his ginormous zitted lip.

    Message: I mean, I like money(as do most females)

    Miss Capri: Hey drip! You’re one of these people who think girls are only interested in rich guys, so the whole reason you want to make money is just to impress some girl? Oh, brother! You shouldn’t stereotype. Why should it be “most females” liking money? The truth is most PEOPLE, from both genders like money! Face it, we all need it because life isn’t a free ride.

    Message: but love is…great 🙂 What are your thoughts?

    Miss Capri: *Cough, cough gag*

    Message: Thanks!

    REDACTED

    Sent from my iPhone

    Miss Capri: Good gosh, what a sorry excuse of an email!

    • I’m going to go ahead and pretend like all of that was artificial. I refuse to accept that another human is sucking up oxygen I could totally use acts/thinks/behaves like that.

      Social networking – it’s ruined us all.

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