Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Going Analog

It always happens like this.

Some new technology – like fire – comes along, and everyone gets excited about it. Some adopt it early and are talked about behind their backs. “You know, Oog him have fire. See smoke come out of cave all day and all night. Him never leave cave any more. Him never eat raw meat any more. Him too fascinated with fire.”

Then it happens: the technology goes mainstream. Everyone has fire; everyone smells of smoke, has watery eyes, and is fighting over the brush and timber within a half-mile of the colony. There are still a few holdouts, but, for the most part, the new technology is standard.

But then there’s the backlash. Somebody loses his or her eyebrows. Someone else steps on a bed of hot coals. And some of the early adopters are so sick of how all the noobz have ruined fire and made it common and ordinary that they, too, abandon the technology and go back to the way things were.

Same with the Internet.

Enter the Suicide Machine. As Time reports, the service, launched Dec. 19, works with your logins and passwords to obliterate your presence on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites. It allows you, if you so choose, to “go analog,” back to the time when nobody knew who you were, you weren’t bragging about your unaccomplished life and otherwise making a Web 2.0 fool of yourself.

Obviously, it’s not for everyone. I’m pretty pleased with what comes up on me during a Google search – and frankly, what Google brings up isn’t stuff that the Suicide Machine could kill. Searches bring up old newspaper articles that, as far as I can tell, will remain king of searches with my name until I’m old and gray, or do something more spectacular than write about the Lewis and Clark State College teacher education agreement with Ricks College, or art programs at Madison Middle School.

There is something about the Internet that makes just about everyone an exhibitionist. But that’s the point of publishing. Or, as Mark Twain put it, the point of having private information. Twain wrote: “It is no use to keep private information which you can't show off.”

There have always been exhibitionists and there will always be exhibitionists. The Internet just makes exhibitionism easier and less expensive. Where twenty or thirty years ago one had to get a movie camera or stand on a street corner and do weird performance art to get attention, these days attention is only a YouTube or a Twitter away. That’s both good and bad. Pay attention to what you exhibit, and you’ve got no real reason to want to go analog again. Throw up just anything and, yeah, you’ve got something to worry about. Clay Shirky writes about this in “Here Comes Everybody,” pointing out that it’s not the medium’s fault that a lot of what gets “published” on the Internet is dreck. What’s significant is that the number of outlets have increased, and the chance that the one brilliant thing you do in your lifetime might now have a chance to be recognized.

And for folks like me, it’s an outlet. A place to babble. A place to exercise what few talents I have as a writer and such.

Treat the Internet well, and it’ll treat you well. Just look at Underdog, whose only disguise is a pair of glasses and a mile manner. Remove those, and Shoeshine Boy becomes Underdog.

I’m not sure I’d want to go analog unless I could deflect bullets with my chest. Secret is Underdog, in his mild-mannered persona, doesn't do anything that would blow his secret identity. Same with the Internet. have fun. Write some good stuff. Take some good pictures. Just don't put up anything you might regret seeing later.

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