The Modern Day Tower of Babel, Perhaps (The Internet and Online Social Networks)

If twenty years ago someone had tried to describe to us what the Internet was and how drastically it would change our lives, we would be as lost someone trying to watch LOST for the first time starting with Season 4. In 1993, Time magazine did a cover story about predictions of future technology involving the way people would share information. Vaguely, they were seeing a glimpse of the World Wide Web. But the way they presented it was more like a form of cable TV that would have at least 500 channels.

Instead, a year later in 1994 my 8th grade science teacher Bill Martin showed our class this weird way he could use the classroom phone line and his computer to talk to other scientists across the country, instantly. That was my introduction to the Internet. Three years later, the Internet became less of a weird thing that I could only observe from a distance, as some of my friends with Internet let me aimlessly wander through thousands of websites at their house. By 2000, I had my own hotmail account and my own daily access to the Internet.

But even ten years ago, the Internet was much more primal. For casual users like me, all I really did was catch up with distant family and friends through e-mail and use MSN’s search to look at websites that had trivia about the ‘80’s. And I didn’t know any better; I thought it was awesome.

Now in 2010, life on the Internet is completely different. More concise. When I need a good picture, I’ve got Google Images. When I need knowledge on any subject, I’ve got Wikipedia. When I need a video clip, I’ve got YouTube. And to keep in daily contact with family, friends, and people I had one class with in college and barely remember, there is facebook. Those four websites ARE the Internet to me.

The building of the Tower of Babel has for some reason always interested me: After Noah and his immediate family survived the world-wide flood, and waited almost a year inside the ark for the water to recede from the land, they were told by God to “fill the Earth” and for the first time ever, to kill and eat animals (the first ten generations of people were vegetarians). In other words, move to a new land and have large families to repopulate the world (Genesis 9).

Instead, within a few hundred years most of these people were still living in the same area they started in. They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” Then, in an act that reminds me of myself as a 10 year-old boy dragging a rake through a giant ant bed, God decided to “confuse” the language of the people (Genesis 11). From there, it appears to me that the people of each of the same language regrouped and moved to a new land, eventually forming new countries, as God originally wanted to them to do.

Several thousands of years later, mankind has successfully filled the Earth. We now have almost 7,000 different languages, while English is arguably the most universal. But with the capabilities and practicality of the Internet, we have formed an abstract, intangible form of the Tower of Babel. Technically. Sort of. Maybe. It’s at least got me thinking.

Every time I’ve seen any sort of worldwide system of anything in the Bible, it’s always been a bad thing. When mankind finds a way to harness too much knowledge and/or power, God doesn’t like it- as people tend to depend more on each other and themselves. From Adam and Eve’s eyes being opened to the knowledge of good and evil in Genesis, to the end of the world involving the mysterious “mark of the beast” (some sort of universal personal ID providing a way for people to pay for goods and services) in Revelation.

Then again, what better way for the fortunate to bless the less fortunate then by using the communication of the Internet to give and set up help for the needy.

Maybe I’m the stoic eccentric man holding the sign with the phrase “THE END IS NEAR”. Or maybe it’s just a coincidence. But I still love technology.

The Invisible Touch, Yeah (The 1st Installment)

It’s magic and invisible. After months or even years of faithful patronage to a quaint restaurant or hours spent re-watching a favorite movie, the desire just suddenly goes away. Without realization. Without a good motive. All of the sudden it will just occur to me, “Hey, I haven’t watched Napoleon Dynamite in three years…” (Though I loved it so much when it came out that I saw it in the theatre five times and ultimately had the entire script memorized word for word by the third viewing. And for the people in the theatre with me seeing it for the first time, I passionately [and possibly angrily] shouted at them to stay in their seats once the credits started rolling so they wouldn’t miss the hidden “but I still love technology” wedding scene.)

A matter of connection. Personal spark. Invaluable attraction. Somehow that place or thing that once drew me in and gave me a sense of belonging, now never crosses my mind. And it’s typically a case of “it’s not you, it’s me”. I just lose interest.

Sometimes because it gets old. Sometimes because I didn’t feel good the last time I experienced it. Sometimes because I’ve just simply moved on with my life.

Exactly four years ago today I started posting my writings online. It all started with the now archaic Myspace. Since August 17, 2005 I have been “thinking out loud on paper”. From the introspective “who am I and what will I do with my life?” themed blogs of single life to social commentary seasoned “abstract thought somehow finds its way into making an actual point that applies to life” articles here on facebook.

And in those four years I have seen many readers come and go. Some who come back after a long absence. And whenever a handful disappears, a new group of readers arrives in their place. Eager to explore some more strategic randomness when it pops up every couple of days. And I know that some are simply entering the glass revolving door only to come back out in a few weeks, while others will stick around for a while.

I witness this concept of “unpredictable sudden loss of interest” from both perspectives. Not only do I become extremely faithful to venues of entertainment and leisure then suddenly stop, but I see readers step into my attic of thoughts for months at a time, then without reason, they disappear.

Journey was definitely right. We are streetlight people.

The Invisible Touch, Yeah

The 1st Installment
The 2nd Installment
The 3rd Installment