Opinion column: Tangled in the Web

Illustration Illustration

Illustration Illustration

By Chris Kozak

I’d like to give a big birthday shout out to the Internet, which turned 35 years old this week. By my math, this means former Vice President Al Gore was only 21 when he invented it. Back in the summer of ’69, the Internet began as a single connection between two computers transmitting worthless data back and forth. Today, the Internet still contains a lot of useless stuff – personality quizzes to determine which animal you are most likely to emulate in bed, e-mail that suggests how to increase the size of your “weaponry” (you know, so you can become that Sumatran tiger from the quiz you just took), and of course, the Progressive Resource/Action Cooperative (PRC) Web site.

Thanks to the World Wide Web, we can get our daily news instantly from anywhere in the world. For no charge, I can check the status of my fantasy football team, see how poorly my stocks are performing and view the largest collection of pornography – ever. Oh baby.

Personal communication also has never been easier. I can talk to my friend in Ghana through the wonders of instant messaging – a basic need for every college student. But while the Internet has succeeded in making communication more convenient, it also has succeeded in transforming the English language into a series of incomprehensible acronyms. Thirty-five years ago, a simple conversation may have gone something like this:

Deb: Hi Robin, how are you this afternoon?

Robin: I am doing quite well Deb, and yourself?

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Deb: I received a D+ on my accounting midterm, so I am disappointed. Perhaps I should drop the class.

Robin: I’m sorry to hear that, Deb. You’re not an accounting major, so maybe you should. Would you like to go to Kam’s with us tonight?

Deb: That sounds like a great idea. Call me when you have decided to depart your place of residence, Robin.

OK, so a conversation may not have exactly sounded like that, but how should I know? I wasn’t even born yet – and according to my mom, neither was she (apparently, she turns 29 every July). Regardless, this still is a much better conversation than you would see today over the Internet:

LilDeb420: hi babe!

HotRobin69: hey deb, how r u?

LilDeb420: not so good. u? OMG, That b**** accy prof gave me a d+ on the midterm :(

HotRobin69: WTF. That totally sucks. That class is a CWOT.

LilDeb420: For serious!! LOL!!! ROFLMFAO!!!

HotRobin69: BRB

LilDeb420: k

HotRobin69 is idle at 7:34pm

HotRobin69 has returned at 7:46pm

HotRobin69: back

LilDeb420: wb

HotRobin69: ty

LilDeb420: IIRC, ur lookin for BFs at kam’s 2nite, rite?

HotRobin69: yea u wanna go?

LilDeb420: CMIIW, but WYSIWYG at that place. BTDT.

HotRobin69: yea. ICWYM. But IMHO, its still da bomb!

LilDeb420: k, GGN, IM me when u girlz go

HotRobin69: L8R!!!

I’m baffled. What the hell is that? I don’t think even the CIA can break through those lines of code. If I were alive 35 years ago, I might not have been able to immediately check my porn – I mean, uh, stock quotes every two minutes but at least I still would understand what in the world people were talking about.

Additionally, while we’re probably better off with the Internet than without it the phenomenon of “online dating” really makes me question whether that’s true. When a typical Saturday night date changes from “dinner and a movie” to “twenty-something chat room at 9 p.m. EDT,” this should cause concern. Dinner and a movie might sound boring, but at least you can see whom you’re with. If you’re on a “date” in a chat room, more than likely it’ll be with three 14-year-old boys huddled around a single computer. What’s their single joy in life? Not 22-year-old women, but pissing off those who are older than them. How romantic.

In the end, even though instant messaging, online dating and the PRC slowly are sucking the blood from our society, the positives of the Internet probably outweigh the negatives. Doing business is much more convenient. Christmas shopping is just a point and a click away. And really, it’s hard to complain when at your fingertips is the world’s largest database of porn – I mean, stock quotes.

Chris Kozak is a senior in LAS. His column runs Fridays. He can be reached at [email protected].