An older female colleague pulled me aside to divulge some personal problems that have been taking a toll. She explained that she thinks her 50-year-old boyfriend is cheating on her with a woman around my age.
Well, that's an old, familiar story. "How do you know?" I asked.
She leaned over conspiratorially, even as she dabbed at her eyes. "I checked her MySpace," she replied. "She wrote about it there. And he denied it, but he saves all his IMs and I found those too."
Yeesh; that's never easy. I said hang in there. She blames the internet for her troubles; I admitted I'd sooner blame the man.
"The internet makes it more possible to meet somebody and fall astray," she moaned.
I thought about how hard my parents fought to keep me in the house in the angsty teen years when I had crappy boyfriends. No restriction of media could save me or the chastity they imagined I still had.
"No," I answered. "If a person wants to cheat, he'll cheat." I didn't know what else to say.
I think it was silly of me to imagine, however subconsciously, that the social effects of Web 2.0 belong to only a small generation - my generation mostly, and a handful of the early adopters in Gen X and the Baby Boomer stratosphere.
I'd include the kids born in the '90's, but a disparity even there can be felt - they'll grow up thinking this is simply another way to relate to people. It'll never occur to them what kind of impact this Web 2.0 stuff had just a few years prior. When my 8-year-old sister registered for a MySpace, for example, I had no idea what to do and no yardstick for gauging its appropriateness. It's not like I can look back and go, "Well, when I was a kid I had (or didn't have) one..."
The internet continues to break new ground in our personal relationships. And clearly not just for those of us who feel as if we've been personal, active witnesses in the transition from the "a/s/l?" days to the broad universe of MySpace, Flickr, Youtube and Xanga. It's fundamentally shaken the norms of an older generation, like those of the nice older woman who among other things must now redefine old-school definitions of cheating (cybering: faux-pas or innocent pastime on a par with passive porn-watching?). And it's altered what a younger generation will learn to call normal.
But I'm preaching to the choir, aren't I?
Here's some eye candy that I think decently demonstrates the evolution:
In other news, I just saw Pan's Labyrinth with said 8-year-old sister. (Probably not the best film to see with an 8-year-old.) She didn't like it, but she ripped off the storyline to create one of those creepy MySpace bulletins that conclude with, "If you don't send this to 10 people in 10 minutes, you'll end up like this kid."
I felt disappointed. I don't know if she's old enough to play on MySpace, but she clearly hasn't yet learned the etiquette of an older generation: you don't put spoilers in a bulletin, and you don't perpetuate chain letters.
The point this entry is approaching, I think, is the effects of our new webiverse are eyebrow-raising (regardless of how profound people think they are or aren't), and while I won't say they've made human relations any better or worse, I'll say they've certainly added a layer of complexity. And maybe that's not really saying anything. It's possible that this isn't news, it's just the natural evolution of man and technology.
What was that thing Marshall Mcluhan said? The medium is the what?
What's our medium of choice got to say to us lately? *checks MySpace bulletin* Oh awesome. Another one of those survey things.