By Tim Belshe
Illustration by Mike Padilla
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
I have a friend who is convinced that fast food will bring about the downfall of our civilization.
Basically he thinks that we're not responsible enough use the time that we would have spent preparing meals wisely.
I think he's wrong, though not about the irresponsibility part, mind you.
Let's face it, people are idiots.
But he is wrong about the destruction of our society part.
That honor will fall not to the super-sized value meal, but rather to the twin scourges of Internet: instant messaging and Web logs.
"You fool!" you must be thinking to yourself, "How could you think that something as benign as those little toys would stand even the slightest chance of ruining a single person's life, let alone an entire civilization?"
Well, I would only remind you of the simple truth pointed out earlier: People are idiots.
Let's start with instant messaging.
This little devil seems harmless enough, and if used properly, it is.
Instant messaging should be used for the little two-second questions that pique your curiosity enough to make you wonder, but not enough to make you get off your ass.
"What year did Walt Disney die?" "I forgot my password; can you reset it?" and "What's the name of Ben Affleck's character in Mallrats?" are all perfectly acceptable questions to ask via instant messaging.
Now, for those of you who think that limiting your instant messaging to such utilitarian purposes sounds pretty dull, I understand.
A responsible person can spice things up a little bit, as long as he or she doesn't let it get out of hand. For instance, you could drop your friends and coworkers a few pearls of wisdom, such as "Me fail English? That's unpossible," "That's where I saw the leprechaun; he tells me to burn things," and "I bent my wookie."
Be warned, however, that these are meant to be occasional snippets of humor in your day, like blasting an unsuspecting friend on the back of the ear with an upside-down bottle of canned air.
It's good for a laugh every now and then, but do it too much and you'll get your ass kicked.
Now, the ass-kicking won't be literal, of course.
But using instant messaging for conversational purposes will eventually lead every soul to a land of despair.
Here's the problem: When you have a conversation with a person, you don't just use the words, you speak to communicate.
There are also things like inflection and body language that help you get your point across.
For instance, the words "you suck," can be used to describe many different things.
It could be a person's way of telling you that they dislike you, or it could be part of a friendly repartee amongst your peers.
The problem with instant messaging is that you just don't know.
If you use it to have drawn out conversations with people, you will eventually get your meanings crossed, and the misery that follows is one that I would not wish upon my worst enemy.
Well ... maybe the worst. But the second- or third-worst would be a tough sell.
Besides, anything worth saying to a fellow human being is worth saying in person.
If you can't work up the courage to say something to a person's face, you should probably just put it in a journal.
Which brings us to Web logs.
Although people have come to use Web logs in many different ways, the most common use is that of an online diary.
This is the part that I just don't understand.
You have a collection of deep, personal thoughts.
Historically, you would put these reflections in diary or journal, which would be kept private.
Now, however, people will put these thoughts in a Web log, usually for the whole world to see.
One would think that this would defeat the purpose of the diary - to keep personal thoughts personal.
Some people have tried to bring their Web logs into the realm of legitimacy by using them as a forum in which to preach their political views.
I mean, it's easy to sit behind a Web handle and dish it out, but if these people really want to be taken seriously they should stop whining and, say, become columnists.
Applications are available at http://wc.arizona.edu/papers/96/newsroom.pdf. I would highly recommend that anyone who's the least bit interested apply.
You don't need to be a great writer.
After all, how hard can it be if they let me do it?
Tim Belshe would like to remind all of his friends that it is very rude to chat with someone on the Internet while hosting company. He can be reached at email@example.com.