Surfing the Net
Am I Becoming Addicted to the Internet?
Caught in the Net
It was 2005 and I had resisted the temptation for as long as possible, knowing that my writing would most likely suffer if I became an Internet subscriber. I thought the monthly subscription was rather a lot and our household would soon get bored with it and cancel. The kids kept nagging me to sign up and I eventually succumbed, reasoning that I hadn't managed to do any writing anyway, Internet or not. I frequently suffered from scrivener's palsy, a dreadful affliction peculiar to writers - more commonly known as writer's block.
I've always had a built-in resistance to change and by 2005 I was still writing with my rusty but trusty Amiga computer which was brand new when I purchased it back in 1991 (it may well be the only one still in existence, the rest of its kind most likely consigned to landfill long ago.) I was loath to get rid of anything useful and it was still good for writing poetry, articles, short stories etc. (not to mention the very occasional novel).
I did have a bang up to date PC but the problem with that was in actually gaining access to it. At that time my ex-husband was trying to sell his entire model railway collection on E bay, my two sons had signed up to interactive Star Wars games and my two teenage daughters were eagerly sending instant messages to their increasing collection of contacts around the globe. They even had their own web sites. Did I stand a chance? I wondered. No, but I had a solution... if the ancient Amiga packed up I would take myself along to Dixons and treat myself to a brand new laptop.
But before that, I could still become au fait with the workings of the Internet while the kids were at school and hubby was at work. What greater distraction could there be from doing mundane tasks around the home now I had this new toy? Let the dishes mount up and the ironing wait, for I was surfing the net.
What fun! I could type in any postcode and sneakily find out what the neighbours had paid for their house. I could discover anything about anyone. Daunting, frightening even - I could now dig up the past relentlessly if I wished.
I wondered what had happened to that doctor I was dating at the same time I met my husband? I typed in his name... wow! I couldn't believe it there was a photo of him here...
Yes, that's him, I thought, look at all those letters after his name! Well, he may be an eminent surgeon now with his very own private clinic but he hasn't discovered a cure for baldness yet that's for sure - he was bald when I knew him back in the early eighties. Blimey... look at all those medical books he's written specialising in heart surgery... bet he's worth a bob or two... trust me to marry the wrong man!
Curiosity took hold and I typed in the names of just about everyone I've ever known and they all appeared to have done better for themselves than me. So then I felt decidedly despondent. Bet I've done more dishes than the lot of them put together, I muttered to myself disdainfully. Ah, yes I have always blamed the dishes... they are the bane of my life, and I shall curse them forever for my perpetual obscurity.
I breathed a sigh of relief when I found out that none of the schools I had attended has produced any famous pupils yet... oh, so I still have a chance to become the first then, once I get that novel sorted.
I delved even deeper into the past... now, what treachery is this? I wondered. I went into a state of blind panic when I discovered an old black and white school photo on friends reunited. Class of 68... Albert Road Junior School... yes, that's my class, I mused. There are my school chums and teacher, but I'm nowhere to be seen and I swear I've never set eyes on this photo before... how could this be? They are all there... Pam Dixon, Rob Marks, Mary Dobbins but no ME! What is wrong? Where am I? Have I opened a window to some parallel universe where I have never existed?
In desperation, I phoned my elderly mother for an explanation and as always she provided me with the correct answer. "Well dear, it's obvious, isn't it? You must have been absent from school on the day the photographer came, so there was no need for me to buy the photograph!"
Now, why didn't I think of that? Perhaps I'd been getting too paranoid for my own good since I'd been visiting those David Icke conspiracy theory websites.
More fun followed when my two daughters persuaded me to put a profile on a well-known dating website. I was blatantly honest about my age and even submitted a genuine, recently taken photo. I made no attempt to airbrush out my wrinkles or make my thighs appear any thinner than they actually were. Hardly anyone was remotely genuine and I soon discovered that it was possible to chat with Julius Caesar, Cleopatra and a wealth of Napoleons all in one evening. I enjoyed it though, sending instant messages around the world at the touch of a button and soon I was getting more attention than my teenagers.
Hmmm... I could have done with this Internet thing years ago, I thought, bemoaning my misspent youth, but never mind there was life in the old girl yet and it was obvious there was a surplus of younger men out there more than willing to travel any distance to make an older woman happy.
But I decided to put the toy boys on hold for a while, reasoning that too much too soon might be dangerous for a woman fast approaching fifty, so I went for the wiser option of meeting men of my own age. After meeting several I gave up, reaching the conclusion that most of them already had one foot in the grave and were totally boring. But at least I'd been brave enough to meet up with them in the first place and I felt quite pleased that I'd tried to make new acquaintances, whereas my two daughters are still just toying with the idea.
I received a phone call from an old school pal now living in America. "Have you got the Internet yet?" she asked. "I've typed in your name on Google and I've read some of your writing on there.
"Writing? What writing? I've never put any on there... someone must have plagiarized me," I replied, to my horror. Then I realised I'd submitted several short stories to a competition a few years back and someone at my writing group had said they would post them on the Internet.
Ah... this must be the writing she means; I managed to figure out after her call, then I typed in my name and there it was! Wow! Fame at last (well sort of!) I'd have discovered the stories were there myself if I'd initially typed in my own name rather than delving into everyone else's past! At least I could derive tremendous satisfaction from the fact that anyone in the world could now read my writing if they so wished. The Internet has certainly proven it's worth. Maybe I'll finish that novel one day after all... but I still had quite a bit of surfing to do to first...
© 2015 Stella Kaye