OK, so you've read all the articles out there about the fast-approaching millennium. You've heard all the warnings - the hype. You've stockpiled your water and your canned goods, and backed up all your computer files. So, what more could anyone possibly have to say about all this hullabaloo? Plenty!
I can't wait for my computer to crash. Yes, at 11:59 p.m. on December 31, 1999, I'll be glued to my monitor's glowing screen, waiting for the quiet, monotonous hum of my CPU to unceremoniously cease. I expect to see 12:00 flash on my screen for about a millisecond before the display blinks out, entering forever into Cyberia. That loss of everything stored on my computer (files, games, e-mail messages) will mark the moment when I get my life back. The moment when I again become a free citizen of this world, rather than one chained to a box of plastic, circuits and glass. I'll become human again.
A cyborg is a being composed of flesh, blood, electronic circuitry and metal. Think Arnold Schwarzenegger's terminator, not the new and improved liquid metal guy. The whole cannot survive without either its organic or mechanical parts. Lately, though, I've been thinking about that definition. Our technology hasn't yet reached the point of creating a cyborg. We have no androids to serve or replace us. We still rely on good, old fashioned, flesh-and-blood animals as companions. But have we turned ourselves into pseudo-cyborgs? Slaves to the technological conveniences which we built to make our lives easier?
I've been annoyed many times by people who go about with their cell phones seemingly surgically attached to their ears, no matter where they are. In movie theaters and restaurants, at the grocery store, and even in their cars at 65 miles an hour. I thought I'd seen it all until the other day, when I went into a public restroom on the heels of another woman. I entered the stall adjacent to the one she occupied, and her phone promptly began ringing. The sound was muffled by the confines of her purse. As we both proceeded to do what we'd gone in there to do, I thought to myself, "Ah, at last! A place free from phone conversation!" Just then the ringing got louder, stopped, and I heard her say, "Hello?" It's bad enough that in a public restroom, everyone else in the room knows exactly what I'm doing behind those metal partitions, but when a caller can decipher the recipient's whereabouts based on the sounds emanating from my stall, that's just too much for me.
I don't own a cell phone myself, but I do own a computer. I'd say I spend an average of fifty hours a week in front of it, writing, keeping track of my household budget. But mostly I'm answering e-mails. Hundreds of them! Almost all my friends and family are now online, and since I currently live thousands of miles away from all of them in Spain, e-mail is a much less expensive way to keep in touch than phone calls. So why don't I just write letters? I could do that. I could thumb my nose at the Internet's pervasiveness by using pen and paper to do business. The problem is, everyone else is so attached to their computers, I'd never hear from anyone, except for maybe a quick phone call asking me why I'm not online, hooked up, plugged in. If I want to keep my friends and avoid becoming a total hermit, I have no choice but to acquiesce to their preferred method of communication.
But that's not all! Now I work through my computer as well. I write a column for a newspaper, and my editor and I carry out all related business via e-mail. I'm an editor for this electronic magazine and participate in countless conversations regarding its publication. I'm a staff member of my alumni association, and recently organized a reunion for 350 people entirely via e-mail and the Internet. I do all these things from home. Sure, it's convenient, and I can sit at my keyboard all day in my pajamas if I so choose. Lately, though, I've come to hate the sight of my computer. It sits there, mocking me, knowing I can't stay away for fear I might miss a deadline or an opportunity or a letter from a long lost friends who's just run across my e-mail address. In addition to being my connection to the world, my computer has become my unmerciful master.
Now, it's not all bad. I've made some very good friends on the Moondance staff whom I've never even met IRL (that's cyberspeak for "In Real Life"). We laugh with each other, tease each other, share each other's triumphs, and support each other when our physical lives present those inevitable challenges that everyone faces now and then. Through my alumni association, I've been able to correspond and chat with people I haven't seen in over a decade and renew friendships I had feared lost, just two short years ago. And my computer and Internet access have given me writing opportunities I would never have been able to pursue otherwise, living where I do.
But, even with all this "contact," I spend most of my days alone, save for my ever-present companions, Oscar and Sophie - my two basset hounds. They're cute and loyal, but not the best conversationalists.
So, at midnight on December 31 of this year, 1999, I'll let out a whoop of joy when my computer, my lifeline to the cyberworld and the bane of my existence, dies its silent death. There will be no funeral, just the clinking of champagne glasses and my anticipation of receiving something I haven't seen in a very long time - a handwritten letter.
M. D. Hauser is a freelance writer who has lived in Madrid, Spain for the past three years. She looks forward to a much-needed hiatus from her computer during her move back to San Antonio, Texas, where she will reside by the time this article is published.
E-mail M. D. Hauser at
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