A collection of short stories and journalistic commentaries depicting my simple life
and how I fit in with the modern day universe of our times

CYBER LIVING



                Lurkers – that’s what they call people on the internet who don’t make any noise. Lurkers don’t register on the internet. Not even a blip do they leave. And there are tens if not hundreds of thousands of them, literally, the silent majority, peering in from the galleries.

          Lurking is considered a bit unsporting down in sunny cyberspace (this is after all, a theatre of flamboyant interactivity). But the number crunchers who crank out the quasi-Arbitron ratings of page visitors, estimate that lurkers outnumber their more ‘chatty’ counterparts by at least 50 to one. Even here on this blog, most people are content to be part of the grand, high-beamed woodwork. Virtual wallflowers.

          Lurking is a larval phase in the Net-head’s life cycle. It’s that spooky, voyeuristic time when you haven’t got your bearings yet, but you’re fascinated enough to browse with a bovine contentment on the grassy pastures of online discourse. Concealed by anonymity, you can sit back and binge on colourful fonts of all shapes and sizes, guzzling at them faster than you have absorbed information ever before in your life. You inhale information for all that you’re worth. And all the while, you’re completely invisible. Lurking is like one of those Sunday-night movies on national television where a guy is struck by lightning or toxic waste and becomes Captain Undetectable, suddenly able to overhear boardroom conversations and sneak into the lingerie dressing rooms at Harrods in a single bound. People get into fights, yell and scream at each other, and they’re completely oblivious to you, in your front room seat. Transparency does have its advantages.
         
          But after a while, the novelty of eavesdropping wears off. The learning curve flattens out. You’re bloated with other people’s thoughts and actions, and you know enough of the lingo not to embarrass yourself. So you say something. Anything. On some obscure newsgroup. Any newsgroup, message board, forum and the like. Just a few sentences at first. Nothing major.

          And then you click on a button, and your words come out the other side of the pipe. All of a sudden, an offhand comment that lit up only your screen has twice circumnavigated the globe. One keystroke sends non decaying duplicates to the rest of the world. This takes but a few seconds.

          And then, a few hours later, you pick up a response from some church preacher in Cleveland, and – all of a sudden, another rabbit comes out of the magician’s hat – and you’re rolling. You have successfully evolved from larval lurker to the pupae Net-head phase: a novice poster, a newbie, (a creature with spindly, wriggly little legs but no wings). From there, it is just a matter of time, of picking up speed and justifying sporadic editorials at the expense of freedom of speech.

          That is not a problem; it allows one to avenge all those other frivolous uses of your education and relinquished tax payments. And in the midst of all of this internet surfing, it doesn’t seem to matter whether you have ever graduated or not. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are for that matter. You’re still on the internet, and it’s seamless. It is absolutely continuous. You are moved, but at the same time, you are still where you are. Parked behind your keyboard, just patiently waiting. Waiting to be a part of the next big episode. You are hooked, and you don’t even know it.

          Un-abated in your quest for higher levels of interactivity, you put up with all forms of negativity. The scamming, the spamming, the cyber-bullying and phishing. You experience the whole gamut of on-line ‘everythingness’. All the text, the images, the videos, the games, the groups, the forums. Instant messaging, e-mailing, blogging, researching, gambling, shopping, selling and publishing. The quest is endless as the drive for social intercourse takes over. You spend more and more time communing with myriads of unknown and unseen people whilst at the same time becoming further and further isolated from the real people around you, as you sit behind your workstation tapping merrily away at your keyboard. Never mind though, there’s even an answer for that with on-line dating or possibly a little cyber-sex. Why would you ever need to leave home again?

          Next you become the Web-master. Struggling to get your own personal opinions and pages aired. Spending more and more time networking to build traffic through your own site’s content. Adwords, keywords, meta-tags, traffic generators and on-line stats are now king in your mind as you struggle ever increasingly, to be seen amongst 50 or so billion competing treasured sites. Every waking hour is pushed towards finding that one extra elusive reader and all else pails into insignificance.

          Now you are at the top of the tree. Ruthlessly sticking to your objectives as you consciously force yourself to go that extra mile and stay with it. One day, your time will come. It may be tomorrow, it could be in years. But you plod on regardless, relentlessly chasing your dreams. Learning new languages to further your ambitions. There’s HTML, XML, CSS, PHP, JAVA, FLASH and FTP to mention but a few.

          You have to strike a defined balance between cyber-life and real world living, constantly cheating your body of the sleep it desperately desires as you stay glued to your screen for just a little while longer. Existing on snack foods, coke and caffeine, the diet of the cyber-geek.

          Eventually, it all becomes too much. Too many things to do, too many places to be. Your life has become a living library of screen names, profiles and passwords. E-mail addresses and web URLs. Your inbox takes hours to get through and everybody in the whole wide world wants to talk to you all at once.

          You’ve finally had enough. God I’m sick of this stuff, it’s all making me nauseous, you think whilst laughing because you remember how infatuated you once were with it all. You remember how you could never imagine ever wanting off. Now, it’s just like pure overdose. Three o’clock in the morning and you’re still at your computer, happily snacking on a bowl of co-co pops, when suddenly the internet stops looking like the digital playground it once was and starts to seem like some sort of Sartorial Hell. There are just too many voices, too many people in your face, each of them expressing an opinion, and you can hear them all. That crushing tide of voices is heavy in a way that a stadium roar never ever could be. You realise, in a way that you never have before, what “a whole lot of people” really means. It’s an absolute nightmare.

          “I feel crushed by the weight of this weird world. I have no idea why I bother with this whole Web existence. There’s just too bloody much of this stuff, all the time, and it never stops. All this information, it’s toxic. I can’t even think about messengers without getting queasy. Jesus, I just want to shut off the crush of all those voices, the endless chatter, and all the people that float right through me. I’m worn out with being a ghost. I feel myself starting to wear thin.

I’m sick of the overload. Sick of absorbing all this shit. Sick of cold coffee. Sick of the sleep deprivation. Sick of feeling strung out all the time. Sick of waking up in the morning with my brain ringing. And you know what? I really don’t care if I never pick up another piece of goddamned e-mail as long as I live. I just can’t DO this anymore. I am so fucking tired.

          And I am thinking; if I never log in again; if this whole cyber existence just vanished ... so fucking what? Internet death is starting to look pretty liberating from where I am sitting (to die, to sleep, perchance to dream ... Mmm REM cycles). Anyway, I could always return if I needed to”.

          God, it really is late, and my box of crunchy nut cornflakes is down to the final crumbs.  I think it is time I drafted a suicide note, announcing my impending Net-death.  8-)

          “Maybe I could become famous after all. Famous for helping out Net-a-holics. Helping them Net-kill themselves by ripping out that most vital of their organs, the modem. The ‘Kill-Net Virus’ has a nice ring to it. Muwahahahahahaha.”

          And just then, another idea has spawned itself and it demands of you, the full internet treatment. So, even more tapping onto the keyboard and a further delving into the internet through the wee small hours ensues. And on it goes for the fully fledged, cyber-living Net-heads.



          

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Its my own fault really, its all about what I see in the world, and how it all translates for me.

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