I remember the day I lost my cyberspace virginity…do you remember your first time?
Flashback…I had first thought my co-worker had been talking about someone cool that she was hanging out with named “Earl”… She had said something about how she had got to him. It wasn’t until much later that I learned that Earl was not a he, but was an address, a place in cyberspace, and was spelled “U-R-L.”
You see, I was a cyberspace virgin at the time…oh, I had a PC, mind you…but my world had been limited to a hard drive. I still remember that first time…that first involvement with Earl. That first website access: a confusing series of letters, names, punctuation and slashes.
I remember how hard it was for me to remember which slash was which (forward or backward)…position definitely did matter in Earl’s world.
Although I can remember how I felt…my heart racing as I entered a whole different realm…I can’t recall the name of that first website. I remember feeling like I had traveled to a whole new world. I had experienced a new plateau…I had become a new woman…able to access multiple pages on sites all over the world! I had gone wild…back then…accessing frantically, time after time…and then…finally learning restraint. I rationed myself. I had learned that too much Earl was bad for other relationships.
Flash forward: Years later…
Earl’s influence grew to include my two young sons… I thought I had tamed Earl, learned how to control Earl. But then I saw Earl tempting my kids; Earl quickly became part of their lives, part of them, really. They became addicted to all that Earl offered. Somehow, once they became involved, Earl seemed to grow more dangerous. I wanted to break things off with Earl, but couldn’t. I, too, was addicted.
When I upgraded to DSL, Earl became even more treacherous…and more available and faster than ever before. We started using our credit card with Earl. My kids became teenagers while faced with Earl’s many temptations. Social media, first MySpace…then Facebook…and so many gaming and other applications, Earl’s presence in our lives became constant and demanding.
My children became sophisticated followers of Earl, exploring “spaces” I would cringe if I knew about. I tried to limit their involvement with Earl, to just school related use, but they didn’t care about my rules, they could no longer stop. They would sit in their room and feel private and safe. But I knew that Earl wasn’t private, and that Earl could be dangerous. The news spoke of Earl’s dangers; liaisons arranged, identities masked.
For parents of younger kids, rules about “strangers pulling up alongside you in cars” became rules about “strangers found in Earl’s world.” Scary. There needed to be instructions on what can be downloaded, what can’t. Viruses. Tracking mechanisms. Privacy rules. Instant Messaging came along and there was just too much, too fast, too often. The plug for that got pulled real quick. But then came the next thing…and the next…they are addicted, we all are.
So, we communicate and we share…all with Earl right there, a part of it. There is always just one more link that beckons. Always another application.The spider web of Earls goes on and on. Five minutes of Earl turns into hours. Earl is never leaving.
So, am I glad that I met Earl?
Am I glad that Earl is a part of my daily life, part of my two sons’ lives? Hmmmm. I can honestly say that Earl has been a wonder. Earl has allowed me to work from home, to keep in touch with so much in the world that a mom at home would otherwise potentially miss out on. And Earl is an integral part of my kids’ lives. Earl is a requirement now…not a passion. Earl is at school, Earl is at the library (or more likely a replacement for one), Earl is just part of their world. I know that we can’t and won’t ever walk away from Earl. We need Earl in our lives. Earl helps us in so many ways…but we need to be careful.
And I do know that it is healthiest for all of us to unplug Earl once in a while and go curl up with a good book, or go play basketball with a friend, or go do something…anything…with another “real” person physically with us, sharing a “real” moment together.
But before I disconnect for the day, there is just one more Earl I really want to visit…