Full Circle Jerk

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:08 pm

This just about flattened me with the giggles.

I was getting some chow last night whilst chatting with Margaret and Shawn in the kitchen. Shawn had just gotten off the phone with his mom. While a brilliant—psychologist? Psychiatrist? Sociologist? Sump’n, at any rate—and accomplished author, like many people of her generation, she is somewhat deficient in the area of native aptitude for modern technology. This is hardly a novel observation to many of you out there. Those who were not steeped in the brew of contemporary technological paradigms from a relatively young age are less likely to adopt and master said paradigms. (Actually, I just like saying “paradigms”. Paradigms, paradigms, paradigms!) The gap between those of us who can program a VCR, set up an email account or master the more arcane functions of our mobile phones and those who cannot is by no means insurmountable, but the inherent ability to feel one’s way through the un- or poorly marked buttons, submenus and other rites of passage with the speed and confidence of a native speaker might be. Those who do not already possess this trait are far less likely to acquire it; those who plow headlong into these dangerous and uncharted waters without this facility do so at their own peril.

Case in point: this summer I witnessed a bizarre tableau of technological auto-cannibalism as I watched my father carefully and deliberately pressing the keys on his mobile phone. After about three or four minutes he concluded his activities, looked up and announced, “I think I just deleted every number in my address book.” Another case study: after weeks of fruitless attempts to get my boss to send his laptop in for warranty repair work to address a serious video issue, he called me one afternoon to crow about the quick and easy solution he had come up with all on his own. Namely, to slam his 2,500 dollar laptop against a desk or other hard surface until the problem went away.

And I’m sure that, one day soon, I will be grumbling to myself about how I can’t get my neurocomp to properly sync my address book to the phone embedded in my zygomatic arch over the dendritic induction port. And my niece or Shawn’s daughter or some other young upstart will roll his/her eyes and patiently try to explain it to me just one more time. This is just the way of things; in an odd twist on the normal pattern of human society, the elders of the technocracy are destined to be coached by the younglings.

Anywhoopty, back to Shawn’s Mom. She was was grousing to him about how her emails rarely seem to make it to their assigned destinations. “I know I’ve got your address right,” she said, “but when I hit ‘Send’, the message disappears into the Interweb!”

I had to stop Shawn there. “Wait a second. ‘Interweb’. Did she actually use that word, or did you just add it for effect?”

“No, that’s the word she used,” Shawn replied.

I was overcome with a kind of nasty and wholly uncharitable glee.

Interweb” is a term used by those who are (or at least think they are) knowledgeable in matters of an Internetly nature to ape the n00bs—those neophytes who are inexperienced with the ways of the Internet and whose ignorance shows in their behavior, including their use of terminology. As in, “hey, is the Interweb running slow today? I can’t sign on to my AOL account!”

I first ran across the term in an amusing ad for Verizon DSL service a few years back. In it, a senior citizen is being shown the ropes of the online experience by his grandson. At one point he asks, “Am I on the Interweb yet?” I thought at the time that this was the first widespread use of the term; I was wrong. The term apparently dates back at least as far as 1994, though the current ironic use of same probably goes back only about a decade.

Shawn’s Mom, having heard the word “Interweb” someplace—probably more than a few someplaces—mistook it to be the actual accepted term for the Internet, or for the World Wide Web, or as is so often the misunderstanding with newbies, both.

So apparently, this word, that is used by the snarky technocratic elite, has been used with sufficient frequency that it has been misinterpreted and subsequently appropriated by the very people it was originally intended to denigrate. Classic.

Really, I can’t decide whether this is just another joke at the expense of the Eloi, allowing them to blithely and continually identify themselves to those in the know around them, or whether the last laugh will be on us (if I may be so presumptuous to include myself amongst them), the digital cognoscenti. I find it entirely too plausible that this word will with time and repeated (mis)use edge out the “proper”—this is to say, traditional—term, to become the standard. That would be the ultimate joke on me and the rest of of my smarmy, Interweb-savvy brethren. 😉

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