I have been allowing myself to slip into a rather gloomy frame of mind when considering the state of the Internet and how it is helping me live my life. A couple of things did it, one being my recent appearance as a potential juror in the county courthouse, and another thing was a recent cruise line announcement. Both unrelated except by my tortuous way of thinking about things.
Jury service bothers me because I will never get picked for a jury. I am not exempt from the summons because I am not sworn law enforcement but no defense attorney will let me serve as I am viewed as the next best thing and unavoidably biased. If I had an even chance of serving I'd be delighted to show up for jury service but as it is I have to hang around the courthouse where cell phones are banned from use in the courtrooms.
Consequently I go to jury service armed with a paper book. At my most recent appearance I knocked off 126 pages as I sat and waited....and waited...and my wife the former public defender said the judge was probably busy settling cases because in the end they only needed seven people for one trial and I wasn't included in the 24 person pool selected for the voir dire. So I ended up sitting for four hours out of contact with just a book to read. It was delightful.
It used to be that Key West was an isolated little town at the end of a very narrow long road with no easy access. Then the Internet came along and suddenly even Key West was connected. Shopping online takes away the lack of choice, newspapers at the fingertips kills off the newsagents at Valladares on Duval, and suddenly not only does everyone find out about Key West but with the Web they can stay in touch even while pretending to be in an office. Key West is no longer isolated and it's not quite so delightful.
Last week I read an article I came across, somewhere in the world's press (all at my fingertips) announcing a policy change by Carnival Cruise Lines. The cruise line will now require passengers to wear inoffensive clothing. Stand by for everyone to get offended by absolutely everything. It struck me how odd it is that people have to be advised not to wear crude or party political or nasty messages on clothing while traveling in public spaces.
I wondered if I might be able to blame the Internet for creating public messaging as instant communication. I remember when a witty bumper sticker was a way to liven up a dreary drive before the days of instant communication. Indeed I also recall the first time I used a phone in a car and as my passenger, my future wife made a communication on our Motorola Brick Phone I got pulled over for speeding in Half Moon Bay California in 1994. These days a speeding ticket is managed by an online class and no more sitting in a room with other offenders studying the Comedy Driving School Curriculum.
If you think the world without Internet is better I ask myself what are you doing on this page?
My answer is that we can only manage ourselves and we can only focus our own efforts on using the Internet wisely. Editing can only go on in our heads. We can fact check and not accept information without considering the source. That's all old hat.
I want to be grateful that we have the Internet. I like the mapping functions, the pictures on Instagram from all around the world, friends on Facebook which I use very rarely and above all I enjoy the idea that I don't need to feel cut off even if I live in a remote place.
Key West was not a place a I wanted to live before the Internet. Enforced isolation at the age of 23 seemed undesirable so I went to California. Of course now forty years later enforced isolation seems brilliant and key West cut off seems ideal. But the ideal is attainable with a simple flip of the "off" button.
A colleague mentioned to me that he was having a hard time dealing with people he knows on Facebook who are making bellicose comments about the recent confrontations with Iran. I offered that I don't look at Facebook much, I don't have friends at work because I don't want to know more about my colleagues than I have to. My suggestion to turn it off was meet with a mumble and a shrug so I took myself out of the conversation and let the drama flow in another direction.
It's a struggle but worth it. The Internet has improved my life mostly and given me the desire to live here far from the centers of culture and information without feeling too deprived(!) but I am glad I'm old and loosening my grip on my need to know. I think I am finding the correct middle ground for me. Even out here at the end of the road.