The Internet (capitalized, as if it were a Deity).

Here’s the thing.

I loves me some Internet. I really, really do. All of our technological bells and whistles are, bottom line, tools, and tools are only as good or as bad as the people using them, and with judicious use, the Internet is one hell of a tool.

I mean honestly! What other tool allows me to order groceries, clothes and books delivered to my house, look up (and look at) the works of Frieda Kahlo and WH Auden, organize in support of freedom in Egypt/Wisconsin/Palestine, and become genuine friends with people I may never get to meet?

A hammer? Yeah, no, a hammer can’t do that. Neither can a dishwasher or a telephone or a whisk.

But here’s the thing that the Internet also does, that hammers, dishwashers, telephones and/or whisks don’t: It works both ways.

When I order Fuji apples, something somewhere gathers that information, and attaches it very, very specifically to me. When I send a Tweet, or buy a book, or click on a picture — that information is squirreled away and put to use.

This, I don’t like so much.

As an Israeli, I long ago made my peace with the fact that people listen to my phone conversations. There are certain things I will never say over the phone, and by extension, certain information that I will never put in an email, Tweet, blog post, or blog comment. It just seems smarter.

But that is somehow less horrible to me than the fact that when I am online, everything — literally everything — that I do simultaneously serves someone else’s goals. I refuse to join Facebook in part because I can’t stand how blatant Zuckerberg is in his gathering of other people’s facts — but the truth is that nobody needs FB to know everything that I might reveal on FB. Because it’s all out there already, being bought and sold, used to further ideas and careers and plans that I have no say in or may, in fact, oppose.

When I use a hammer, the hammer gets nothing out of it. The person who made the hammer has already been paid, as has the person who sold me the hammer. Once it’s purchased, they don’t really care if it’s never picked up again. And, as I say, the hammer has no opinion one way or the other.

Not so the Internet — capitalized, as if it were a Deity.

But there it is. As an avid, daily user of the Internet’s great bounty, there’s pretty much nothing I can do about it (other than occasionally leave false trails — which I do, from time to time, but I’m not so foolish as to believe that my false trails make much of a dent).

I’m not going to go off the grid, or worry too much about the fact that even good encryption is occasionally breached (hello, Gawker!). If I don’t want the world to know that I’m curious about Charlie Sheen and Demi Lovato — or, more to the point: If I want to live in a world where the lives and struggles of complete strangers are not so monetized as to be twisted almost beyond recognition — I won’t click on their pictures. And when I do, I will do so in the knowledge that on that day, I’m part of the problem.

But I will say this: I’ve noticed an odd peace that sometimes comes over me when I’m doing something that can in no way be traced. When I shop at a resale shop, or play a board game, or read a dead-tree magazine. When you read a magazine, no one knows.

Dear Internet: I like that.

PS If you want to read some much more erudite and better-written (not to mention researched) musings on the Internet, read Adam Gopnick’s “How the Internet Gets Inside Us” in The New Yorker. I really can’t recommend it highly enough. (Personally, I printed the piece out to read it, but I presume someone, somewhere already knows that).

Crossposted at Angry Black Lady Chronicles.

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  1. You would be able to reach out to a much larger, ever-present, audience on Facebook.
    It is more “in the moment” and conversational than any blog.

    Granted, there are privacy concerns, but I merely do not share any information on Facebook that is worth a darn. He gets my email address. Period. I list some “hobbies” and it’s obvious that the software uses that information to create advertising, but I’m ok with that. At least I’m getting ads about Ukulele and Chinchillas and Cats instead of Viagra and Penis-Enlargement!

    You could even create a new, anonymous, gmail account to use with Facebook and use a Pseudonym as your Facebook name. No one would be the wiser.

    • (But I see you don’t mind bringing me spam about viagra and penis enlargement…! Ahem).

      I know, I know, I know… and it ain’t gonna happen. Aside from ANY other concern, quite genuinely the last thing I need in life is another internet distraction. Oy, there are so many!

  2. dmf

     /  February 21, 2011

    oh no not facebook for the love of G-d ee, these ‘tools’ are NOT neutral they are designed to com-modify you and all those you lure into their web with you, use the ring of invisibility and slip out the back jack.

    • No worries, dear dmf! I have so many reasons to not be on FB, that even my beloved pal Mike (first boyfriend ever, did I mention? Star Wars, etc? What’s that, I did? A million times? Right then) will not be able to convince me.

      Zuckerberg – patooie!

  3. I don’t have a gmail account for the same reason: don’t need some big damned corporation collectin’ all my collectibles to keep in their, um, collection.

    Anyway, even if they can track me down, I don’t have to make it easy. Glad to see I’m not the only crank out there. . . .

  4. This seems apropos

  5. Snoring Dog Studio

     /  February 22, 2011

    I’m with you on the Facebook thing. Will not go there. Too much sharing, although, I do share some in my blog. I’ve learned, too, that when it comes to clicking on photos, I’m absolutely certain I want to go down that rabbit hole leaving traces of myself everywhere. Good post, Emily!

  6. Aaron

     /  February 22, 2011

    You might also like “What Techonology Wants” and “You Are Not a Gadget” for some interesting Internet related writings.


  7. dave in texas

     /  February 22, 2011

    FWIW–official Texas Senate style is to capitalize Internet, both in resolutions and in legislation. In related news, the only place a period may be used in a Senate resolution, except at its conclusion, is in an Internet address, i.e., .com, .edu, and the like.

    The Internet–transforming the Texas Senate, one document at a time (but randomly and only once in a while).

    • Over at Angry Black Lady Chronicles, someone pointed out that the Internet (though she insists it’s internet) thinks she’s a lesbian and while that is certainly a fine thing to be, she is not one. I countered that I never said the Internet was a particularly intelligent Deity.

      One wonders about the meeting of a Not Particularly Intelligent Deity with a deliberative body…. (One wonders even more about people needing to make rules about how many periods in a resolution).

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