CC Issue 13 / Comedy / Reflections

How to Surf the Internet

If you trust Wikipedia (which I do, with my entire life), then you’ll know that the internet was invented in the mid 1980s.

Now, if I remember correctly, it was invented in a warehouse in Milton Keynes by Steve Jobs. Obviously Steve Jobs is now dead, but as far as I’m aware, the internet is still kept in that warehouse, just north of London. Actually, the internet is so big now, what with The Facebook and everything, that they’ve probably expanded it to a handful of warehouses. But anyway, that’s where the internet is kept. Just in case you ever wondered. And don’t tell anyone, because I think it’s supposed to be a bit of a mystery.

So, we’ve established that I have a pretty comprehensive knowledge of the old internet. However, one thing I’ve finally admitted to myself over the past few months is that I don’t know how to ‘surf’ it.

I’m a child of the ’90s; of baggy jeans and Britpop; New Labour and MTV; technological advancement and the internet. I grew up with it. In fact, it grew up with me. It should be completely intuitive. But it’s not. I have absolutely no idea how to use it.

Here is my internet ritual each time I log on. (Does anyone actually say ‘log on’ anymore?). I find google and check my gmail. I don’t mean to boast but I’m pretty good at this now. I can check it really quickly.

Then, I pause. Not knowing quite what to do, before going for the next safest option: my bank. Since I am what might be described as a ‘missionary’, seeing if anyone’s given me any money is relatively important to my well-being, so it’s always quite fun to check. After checking my bank, I’m stumped. Totally stumped. I’m not on The Facebook (for reasons I’ll write about another time), so I don’t have the option of whiling away hours looking at other people’s pictures.

So, I get stuck. I go back to google. Then maybe look at BBC News. Then I spend a few minutes trying to work out what it would feel like to ‘surf’ the internet. So I type in a few random phrases into google ‘what should i do with my life?’, ‘why is it so hard to find white dog poo these days?’… Then I give up.

Feeling silly, incapable and slightly ashamed, I quietly turn off my computer.

I feel the eyes of every other person in Pacific Coffee burning into the back of my head. ‘What an idiot’ they think. ‘He doesn’t even know how to surf the internet. He only checked his emails and then logged off. It’s only been six minutes. Ha! And he’s in his late 20s!’

I quickly limp out of the coffee shop, trying to look like I’m late for an appointment, and probably only succeeding in looking constipated.

2 thoughts on “How to Surf the Internet

  1. I think you need to search the internet for felines and cheeseburgers and stalk famous people as they publicly release their diary entries. At least I think so…

  2. I Protest

    Protest: noun: A statement or action expressing disapproval of or objection to something.

    Information: noun: knowledge communicated or received concerning a particular fact or circumstance.

    We have HK mothers and babies protesting their extended-visit mainland counterparts, photographers and local luxury shoppers protesting D&G, day-traders protesting lunch, some guys in Wan Chai protesting the Sevens, protests over wages, protests over housing, protests over public transport fare spikes, protests by Prada over pandas (ok… that wasn’t that recent, but it was ridiculous).

    As a committed contrarian I am officially protesting protesting. Or, rather, I was just about to begin my protest on protesting when I read this on Wikipedia.com:

    On January 18, 2012, in an unprecedented decision, the Wikipedia community has chosen to blackout the English version of Wikipedia for 24 hours, in protest against proposed legislation in the United States — the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives, and PROTECTIP (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate.

    Why would the US government protest free information???

    At first I thought maybe Anonymous was getting back on the ball trying to disrupt things in their usual useless fashion, but I looked a little further and found out that it is true; one of my heroes, Wikipedia, is really protesting some US guv senate bills. So I guess I’m protesting too.

    The following is from Wiki’s site’s public statement:

    It is the opinion of the English Wikipedia community that both of these bills, if passed, would be devastating to the free and open web. Over the course of the past 72 hours, over 1800 Wikipedians have joined together to discuss proposed actions that the community might wish to take against SOPA and PIPA. This is by far the largest level of participation in a community discussion ever seen on Wikipedia…On careful review of this discussion, the closing administrators note the broad-based support for action from Wikipedians around the world, not just from within the United States. The primary objection to a global blackout came from those who preferred that the blackout be limited to readers from the United States, with the rest of the world seeing a simple banner notice instead. We also noted that roughly 55% of those supporting a blackout preferred that it be a global one, with many pointing to concerns about similar legislation in other nations.

    This is a global issue that I wouldn’t mind supporting one bit, but my big question is this: what am I supposed to do without English Wikipedia for 24 hours? Wikipedia is to my web experience as the moon is to my world (it may get very dark tonight).

    Naturally, when I first read this the hamster where my brain should be scurried about, and in about 1.6 seconds I came up with a reasonable solution: Google translate. It’s kinda fun actually. I personally prefer viewing wiki content in Vietnamese, cause I try to read the letters phonetically in my head and my internalized Vietnamese accent is hilarious. The Google translation is pretty much spot on though.

    And then I realized, in less than two minutes I had proved to myself—with an absolute minimum of on-line resourcefulness—my support of Wikipedia’s protest is utterly useless. Its uselessness is further compounded by the fact that Wikipedia is only blacking out its English content for 24 hours. That’s one single day last I checked.

    The truth is that the big bad US guv can’t do a damn thing about controlling what is on the internet, or who sees it, and this point is best illustrated by tech-saavy mainland Chinese youths. These kids make navigating multiple proxy-servers, scouting streaming vids of sexy Taiwanese transvestites, and tunneling stealthily under the great firewall of China’s party hard-line look supremely effortless.

    Wikipedia is a brilliant concept, and a great resource. I don’t mean to take anything away from the people who have put their guts and souls and time into making it work when I say this but… it was bound to happen. If Wikipedia is attacked by top-heavy bureaucracies, or if it sells out its founding principles to the pressures of time and popularity, in favor of ad revenue, if it is somehow defiled to the point we can’t rely on it for dependable second hand information anymore, I stake my life that an alternative will pop up; a copy-cat concept, probably better than the original. Demand and supply and demand etc.

    The world is shrinking and the internet is growing. Most of the people who are going to sit through a hearing in the US senate and eventually vote on whether or not to pass these bills don’t fully realize this yet. They aren’t familiar with the capabilities of Google translate. They are afraid of information so potently powerful and easily accessible. They forward each other emails with PC jokes, photos of puppies, prayers for troops stationed somewhere dangerous ‘overseas’, and non-stop political and nationalistic propaganda. More than a few of them have blackberries and iphones, but when it comes to tech support they have to rely on their kids.

    The innovation in this conflict may be relatively new, but the story here is ages old. People who grew up in a different time are reluctant to admit it has passed. Wikipedia rules.

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