I am rather conflicted about the Internet. There are some fabulous aspects to our relatively new virtual world that contribute usefully and even wonderfully at times to the real world. Take Internet food shopping for instance, although I’m quite sure there are many more worthy and altruistic examples. Can you believe I recently discovered some friends that hadn’t yet experienced the joys of Sainsburys Online! Sure, there are occasional annoying moments when ordering online, like when you accidentally order 22 bottles of bleach or a single banana instead of a bunch of them – although to be honest one is probably better because they always end up going off and I’m too busy nowadays to make banana muffins. Basically though, some very nice delivery people actually bring your shopping to your kitchen table before breakfast so the fact you’ve run out of milk AGAIN is brilliantly solved, which totally overrides anything negative about that experience. Clothes shopping on the other hand is very much a real world must for me. I like to pick up, touch and feel things before buying them – sending things back is just annoying and time consuming.
Another thing I love about the Internet is the fact that you can go back and correct spelling mistakes. I really love this because I am not terribly good at catching my errors and often no matter how hard I try, I don’t see them until after I’ve published something. As soon as I press the publish button they jump out of the screen and my inner child, overly sensitised to acute criticism, screams, ‘Aaaaaah!’ at which point I spend the next few minutes hurriedly correcting all the errors before too many people see the post (or most of them at any rate – do let me know if you come across any because I do hate to look stupid and we can just keep it a secret between ourselves…). Or on occasions I might think something is extraordinarily funny, post it and then after sitting in my discomfort for a little while realize it was actually rather misjudged and thanks to the immediacy of the Internet I can go back in and delete whatever hideous carbuncle of self-expression needs killing off. Wouldn’t it be great if we could do that in real life – go back and delete or alter all our mistakes? If ever I were badly behaved (and I have been once or twice, you know), imagine how great it would be if I could go back and just press a button rendering it no longer real or present or actual. Sadly for real life that isn’t possible, is it?
Feral son no. 2 was being rather badly behaved for a while. He seems to have settled down now but it’s still on my mind. (Or is the fact that feral son No. 3’s naughty side which has suddenly had some sort of awakening, somehow rendering No. 2’s behavior less troublesome, making me just think it has settled down – so hard to tell?) No. 2 has always had the ability to get me so riled that I am truly amazed by and grateful for my extraordinary self-control because he really can trigger the most violent and quite frightening impulses in me. We had a conversation the other day where I asked him why he was being so naughty at the moment and he said, “because I’m the middle child.” Great, so with the help of a little cultural joke I have saddled him with the expectation that he is, should and will be naughty. Nice one! I can just picture myself leaping over the sofa one day like some sort of demented flying homunculus and landing on him while he twiddles away on some device or other, grabbing his collar, shoving him down and growling through gritted teeth, “Now look here, little boy! Stop being so naughty. It doesn’t pay to be cruel to other people, especially the people you love. A) You hurt them. B) You get into trouble and C) you end up not liking yourself very much either. So stop it! Stop it now! BUT…” because I’m a very fair minded homunculus and I don’t want him to be pummeled by someone one day and feel he can’t fight back, and as I know life is often terribly complicated, I’d have to go on to say, perhaps having let go his collar by then, “…you should also know there are no moral absolutes. Yes, little boy, the whole subject of ethics is actually fraught with complexities. But basically – do your best not to hurt people, OK!” Even in my fantasy I am glad to say I refrain from calling him a goddamn psychopath because I can see he does feel guilt and knows that his behavior is troubling. Best to avoid any more wildly general and overused labels since he’s taken to the middle child one with such alacrity.
Either way he just shrugs and carries on playing on my phone. I look at him and see his bare legs swinging as he continues wiping out, chasing and deleting small objects on the screen and I see that he is a little boy just trying to get the balance between his chimp-like impulses and his human rationality right, which let’s face it is difficult at 43, never mind aged six.
What I don’t like about the Internet is how very powerful it is, and how it starts to take precedence over real life. Most days and far too often I can look around my front room and see three little boys all engrossed in some virtual game or other. “Heh!” I try to get their attention, “shall we switch off the computers and go for a walk? Maybe a coffee (they’d obviously have hot chocolate and if it were the right time of day I might even have a glass of dry white wine, not Pinot Grigio though because I really don’t like it)”. Generally they ignore me to begin with, hardly noticing my existence. At which point I should really yell -“I AM NOT A VIRTUAL REALITY FIGURE. I AM A HUMAN BEING!” in order to get their attention. (One who quite likes David Lynch films.) And then my oldest son might, you never know, grunt and sort of turn towards me, offering a slight acknowledgement of my place in his universe, ‘YouTube’ pixels dancing out of his eyes, and say “OK, mum.”
“Come on boys, we’re going to go out into the real world where there are real trees and real sky and real people and we probably won’t see anyone being destroyed, with any luck – it’s fun, I promise, you’ll see.” Sometimes they come without too much fuss but there are moments where I am forced to turn into a banshee, yelling and screaming, snatching their small electronic comfort blankets off them or just unplugging the computer in the middle of some ridiculous virtual-world video of someone else playing a virtual game. (Oh, I’m so very annoying, I know!) But it’s worth it. We generally always have a good time once we’re out because in the end reality is much, much more satisfying than the virtual world, wouldn’t you say? Whether or not they would is another matter entirely.
The photographs this week are from a christening. The children aren’t quite old enough to be Internet crazy just yet… but in time!
All images ©Sarah-Jane Field