a wild rothenbeck appears.

My Break-up Letter to the Internet

Oh hey, Internet.  Um… Hi.  I think we need to talk.

Do you remember when you first came into my life?  It was back in 1997, and you were tucked inside of that huge balsa wood desk in the corner of my parents’ dining room.  I remember when you first spoke to me; your 28.8kbps accent was so exotic then.  “Pleee-unnnchhhh,” you said, “Blerrnerrnerrnerr.”  I felt every nerve ending rush with delight; I knew you were something so special.  I couldn’t put a finger on it then, but now I realize what I saw in you that day: promise.  I knew that you would whisk me away from the small-town, suburban wasteland that stifled my rebellious, angsty, teenage self and on toward something greater; somewhere they would “get” me.  That September afternoon I waited with baited breath as you slowly revealed the wonders of the world to me.  A Parisian sunset!  The magnificence of the pyramids!  A model in a bikini!

Gosh, Internet, those were our best years.  You introduced me to like-minded people whom I could talk to about the things I cared about.  We chatted about punk rock, homework, and how awesome it was that we were from New Jersey.  I regaled them with embellished stories of our teenage sex lives, as they did me.  You would always greet me the same way, “Pleee-unnnchhhh.  Blerrnerrnerrnerr,” and I would clatter away the hours until I extinguished your cathode glow for the night.

I remember when you started to change, and I was excited!  I came home and you greeted me as always, but you seemed more… enthusiastic.  The sunsets and pyramids and bikini-clad ladies came more quickly (at 56.6kbs, to be exact), and you started to bring me gifts: new music, short videos, sound clips from my favorite movies.  It was so thoughtful of you, but I didn’t realize that the changes you were going through may not have been for the best.

When some of my friends went to college, they would come home and talk about the Internet they met there.  They would talk about how it was always around, how it was always bringing them gifts.  They would say, “My Internet got me these new albums and full episodes of Family Guy!  You got a couple songs and a 45 second video of that kid pretending to be a Jedi?  Well that’s okay, your Internet is very sweet.”  It was okay.  I knew you weren’t one for glitz and glamour.  Like me, you didn’t have expensive tastes.  What’s important is that you always greeted me the same, “Pleee-unnnchhhh…”

But one day that stopped.

I came home from work one day, and you were just there, sitting silently.  You didn’t greet me at all, you just started hurling information at me.  “Here,” it was as if you said, “Music!  Movies!  Cats!  Pyramids!  Sunsets!  Bikinis!  Does this make you happy?!  Does this make you happy?!”  It was overwhelming!  Why were you doing this to me?  I tried to find consolation from my old friends with whom I used to clatter the night away, but they were nowhere to be found.  Instead, a new crop of people had showed up, but it was as if they never knew the kindness that once was.  “A/S/L?” had turned to “Wanna cyber?” and “Tits or GTFO”.  “LOL” started tacking on letters: “LMFAO”, “ROFL”, “ROFLMFAO”.  I pleaded with them for guidance, perspective, or at the least a kind word.  “STFU, fag,” they said.  “Kill yourself.”

And so I wandered through the wasteland that was once the luscious, fertile ground of our relationship.  Occasionally I would see a glimmer of a life we once had.  You would show me something insightful or profound or beautiful and artistic, but as I would look further, it would only devolve into vile, hateful words or misinformation or personal attacks and pedantry.  Instead of beautiful Parisian sunsets and models in bikinis, you showed me videos of teenagers kicking cats and anal fisting.  Where I once saw promise in you, I could now only see jadedness and anger.  I’ve tried to carve out a little niche in you where I feel safe, but you still find ways to hurt me.  I might see you for who you are, but there are others out there that you’ve tricked with your silver tongue into believing anything you say, and they try to poster the walls of that safe space with their ignorance.

Internet, I’m so thankful for everything you’ve given me.  I can’t even imagine what my life would have been if not for you, and all of the good things you offer enrich my every day.  I just don’t know if we can continue our relationship this way.  My friends have been using the term “volatile relationship” when they talk about us, and I think they may be right.  For all of the wonderful things you’ve done for me over the years, I just can’t reconcile what you have become.  I long for a simpler time, one where I would ignite the glow of your cathode and hear you say, “Pleee-unnnchhhh.  Blerrnerrnerrnerr.”

With love,

Brian Rothenbeck

From My Soapbox

I posted this to Facebook today and I’m a little proud of it, so I thought I’d share it cross-social network:

As a species, human beings are astonishing. Right now, I am typing complex thoughts in one of the thousands of languages we have the ability to use for communication with my opposable thumbs on an electronic device that can connect me to practically anyone on earth. I’m sitting in a piece of metal and glass and rubber that allows me to travel at incredible speeds by using old dinosaurs to make fire to power a mind-blowingly complicated engine. All of these ideas originated in the mushy, grey chunk of tissue surrounded by fused pieces of bone. And all of this came from a one in a quadrillion chance of a spark in the ether billions of years ago.

As a species, we have evolved from ooze and somehow created astonishing things.

And yet, as a society, we still hold onto arcane ideas and ways of thinking: violence against our own kind, oppression, the idea that, according to an arbitrary set of “standards”, another human being is lesser and should not be allowed to enjoy the same rights as others. As a species, we have done incredible things. As a society, we have a lot of evolving left to do.