“What’s the Internet?”
I can still see the expression on my boss’s face as the question spilled out of my mouth.
Shocked disbelief was quickly replaced by mild disdain, followed by that look that says, ‘I’m not angry, just disappointed.’
It was 1994 and it was (I thought) a perfectly reasonable question.
“The Internet,” he said, with an exaggerated sigh, “is a giant network of ….”
After that, he might as well have been one of those adults in a Charlie Brown TV special — you, know, the ones whose voices are just that wah-wah sound made (or so the Internet tells me) using a toilet plunger and a trombone.
As my boss droned on about all the technological wonders awaiting us along this vast new information highway, my mind was no doubt busily dissecting the previous night’s episode of The X-Files.
Over time, though, it became clear that in my chosen line of work, the ’Net was something I was going to have to embrace, however reluctantly. It was definitely one of those, ‘if you can’t beat ’em …’ decisions.
So I joined Facebook and learned to tweet and even began downloading e-books.
I’ll admit, it all works just fine, but I have zero interest in understanding how or why.
The truth is, the average 11-year-old already knows exponentially more than I ever will about the Internet, social media and the technology that makes it all possible.
And I’m OK with that.
Technology and I have an understanding. I don’t bother it, and it doesn’t bother me.
At least, I thought that was our arrangement. Until a recent day when I picked up my smartphone to discover that every last name and number on my contacts list had mysteriously vanished — disappeared, passed on, ceased to be, expired and gone to meet their maker, joined the choir invisible.
It was an ex-contacts list.
As panic set in, I did the only thing a sensible person would do.
I freaked out on Facebook.
Fortunately, clearer heads were there to guide me.
I called the help line (as recommended) and did my best to explain my predicament to the nice man.
When the guy who does this all day actually sounded a little surprised by what had happened, I took it as a bad sign.
“Have you backed up your contacts?” he inquired.
“Could they be in the cloud?”
Do you know what the cloud is?
“The cloud,” he said — without an exaggerated sigh — “is a collection of …”
As the plunger-trombone kicked in once again, my brain wandered off to handle a few other urgent tasks.
Eventually, he returned to the subject at hand and walked me through possible solutions to my dilemma. I pressed the buttons he told me to press in the order he told me to press them.
Whether it was thanks to his guidance or through sheer force of will exuded through my desperate fingers, the blank screen magically began to fill up once again.
“It worked,” I announced happily.
“That’s great,” he replied.
“You know, I’d really like to send you some information on how to back up your phone and create an iCloud account. Would that be OK?” he asked in the same gentle tone you’d use to calm a spooked horse.
“Sure. Please do that,” I replied.
“I’ll get right on it.”