It was widely known that Internet had been ailing for some time. Its poor health had made it rather slipshod in the execution of its duties. Some had to endure days of frustration until an online connection was established, while for others the connection kept going on and off every second, like a flickering light globe.
For a while Internet hovered in a half-dead condition, with one foot in the grave, and mankind held its breath, fearing Internet would continue to deteriorate and then give up the ghost altogether.
And then the day came when Internet breathed its last and no one could believe their ill fortune. It was hard to grasp that Internet no longer dwelled in the world, and that the burden of living would never again be lightened with the ever-present alternative of escaping into an online existence. No longer would anyone be privileged with the luxury of having two worlds to live in.
The most eminent computer technicians of the land were assigned the task of performing the autopsy. Their unanimous conclusion was that Internet had died of virtual causes. What no one had suspected was that the Internet possessed a finite life span. Everyone had always assumed it would be around forever, yet it too carried within itself the lethal seeds of eternal offline-ness.
The next most pressing issue was the burial. Issues never considered before needed to be urgently addressed, for the sight of lifeless Internet lying prostrate on the ground was too heartbreaking for the world to take. Where should the funeral ceremony be held? In which language or computer code should the memorial service be conducted? Who should give the eulogy? Where to entomb it?
The matter of whom to invite to the service proved to be the most intractable issue of all. A certain number of tickets were reserved for those most deeply affected by Internet’s death—online pornography addicts, social misfits, ingrained introverts, Twitter-obsessed celebrities, the heirs of Nigerian princes and long-term residents in Second Life’s virtual world. Otherwise, it was nearly impossible to determine who was genuinely grief-stricken and who only wanted to attend the ceremony so as to be a part of this historic occasion.
Eventually, all of these matters were resolved, although not to everyone’s satisfaction, and the world gave Internet the sending off it deserved. Straight after the funeral, the world went into a shutdown, mourning Internet’s passing and remembering wistfully how it could answer any question; satisfy all emotional, mental, spiritual, intellectual and bodily needs; thrill the mind and the senses; provide instantaneous information, entertainment, relaxation, gratification and titillation, as well as enabling instant communication with people across the globe, and even cure loneliness. Tragically, given the magnitude and depth of the loss, some could not bear to continue living in a world without Internet and logged out permanently from this world.
Once the unbridled, hysterical wave of grief finally subsided, mankind sobered up and gradually came to realise that Internet had actually debased and disfigured their lives.
They recalled with horror and consternation the way Internet had ensnared people with its myriad tentacles, causing them to waste their lives away in the inextricable morass of the net world; how Googling had supplanted the wisdom that comes with age, experience, learning and how, with instantaneous information always at one’s fingertips, the value of knowledge was lost; the way online reality became the only world and real reality was jilted and forgotten, just like the plain sister of a gorgeous girl; how Internet robbed life of its multifarious richness and beauty and reduced the world to a small, rectangular screen; the way the online world became a prison in which humanity willingly immured itself and then threw away the key, together with their lives.
Mankind now recognised how Internet had fundamentally altered the nature of social relations and the nature of one’s relationship with oneself. Invented to facilitate communication and for bringing the world together, Internet instead became the perfect tool for dissimulation, distorting the truth and separating oneself from the world, thus allowing people to not only misrepresent their true thoughts and feelings, but to falsify their entire lives and the very essence of their being, to others as well as to themselves.
People discovered that fingers were not just for typing and shifting mouses but had other uses too; that out of their torsos there extended a pair of lower limbs which could be used for perambulating across the spatial dimension; that evolution had equipped their bodies with the ideal means of conveying thoughts and feelings; that their faces possessed well-developed muscles which could be employed to signal emotions such as (amongst many others) surprise, annoyance, happiness and frustration. Consequently, successful communication could be achieved without intermediary electronic devices. Most startling of all was the revelation that other people were not identical to their icons—flat and forever stuck in the same pose with the same smile on their faces—rather they were three-dimensional beings, moving about and changing their facial expressions.
Having friends and partners in the physical world meant you were free from the precariousness, uncertainty and unreliability of online friendships and relationships, and no longer subject to the capricious actions and decisions of your web pals, to whom, after all, you were just an ethereal, abstract entity that could be deleted instantly and permanently from their life with just a click of a mouse. Consequently, the constant threat of online friends and lovers inexplicably ceasing all contact and disappearing forever was gone for good.
“Back to Reality” tutorials proved to be very popular and helpful, covering such topics as “Learning How to Single-Task”; “Becoming Acquainted with the Sun and the Sky” and “How to Survive in a World that Cannot be Photoshopped”.
Life slowly regained its meaning as mankind clambered, one small step at a time, out of the online abyss it had dug for itself. Without Internet, no one had to grapple any more with the problem of how to balance one’s life between the two worlds. Time started to flow more slowly; instant gratification was no longer craved; contemplation and patience revealed their true worth. It was now clearly seen that online reality provided only fleeting pseudo-meaning; that emotions felt in the web world were only ephemeral artificial feelings; and that real self-esteem came not from social media popularity, but from within.
Each human being now experienced life directly, rather than through the distorting, diminishing and vicarious lens of a computer screen; facing the good and not-so-good things in their lives without escaping into the net world, and thus evading the reality of their existence; and being true to their inner selves, instead of hiding behind their icons and online identities. Only then was it realised how deeply and intricately Internet had woven its fateful thread into every aspect of man’s existence and how much had been gained the day Internet died.
BORIS GLIKMAN is a writer, poet and philosopher from Melbourne, Australia. His stories, poems and non-fiction articles have been published in various online and print publications, as well as being featured on national radio and other radio programs. He says: “Writing for me is a spiritual activity of the highest degree. Writing gives me the conduit to a world that is unreachable by any other means, a world that is populated by Eternal Truths, Ineffable Questions and Infinite Beauty. It is my hope that these stories of mine will allow the reader to also catch a glimpse of this universe.”
Photo credit: Andy Paciorek
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