With These Words

“Well, if you need me, I’m just at the other end of the internet.”

With these words, a new colleague heads back to England in accordance with his original schedule, but before our project is done.

With these words, he leaves me laughing. Does the internet have an end? And how did he come to situate himself there?

With these words, he leaves me reassured, confident that he will respond if we need him again.

With these words, he leaves me nostalgic, remembering that real-time person-to-person communication has existed locally only since the advent of the telephone, and beyond that only with the advent of cheap long distance, well within my adulthood.

With these words, he leaves me thoughtful, reminding me of the even more-recent wonder that I too often take for granted, and yet that I can’t imagine working or living without.

With these words, he leaves me thankful, considering the internet, and all the people in my life, personally and professionally, who are at its other end.


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10 Responses to With These Words

  1. I feel as you do, Isabel. Until the Internet folds like a house of cards and we have no forwarding snail mail addresses. Or until Facebook decides we have dared to discuss a taboo subject with a new friend and censors further contact. Or until the post office stops connecting people through addresses and only connects addresses through addresses, which has already happened. Or as long as the person has a land line as well as a cell phone and sends change of info cards if s/he moves since directories for cell phones only now are emerging. The proliferation of media seems to have left us with shakier means of staying in touch than worked well before the proliferation of media. All media are subject to spying. Many media force users to conduct business in public, although users fail to appreciate that house of glass into which they pour their private images and thoughts. And it’s all recorded permanently, beyond recall and beyond reach: you cannot throw those out-of-date love letters into the fireplace. And you might have to destroy a machine to hide evidence or to preserve privacy, which is common practice in some quarters of government. We cannot live our lives without them, but I have the uneasy feeling most of the time that I am committing myself to a process insufficiently thought-through and tested.

    • To paraphrase David Mitchell, the novelist, “…we have all the privacy of a goldfish.”

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – At least you’re thinking about the potential challenges and outright downsides – which I expect modifies your online behaviour. I don’t think much beyond fears of having credit card or banking information hacked, and a younger generation who exposes their lives on Facebook or other social media sites don’t seem to be concerned at all.

  2. Sid Dunning says:

    Thanks Isabel
    I could not agree more but thankfully we still have the internet. When I have to resort to it, snail mail seems such a chore. I suppose the question is what next.
    Happy Thanksgiving.

    • In 2004, my husband and I sat on park bench in NYC, watching the cell phone users trying to find a place where they would get service (Can you hear me now?), and predicted what cell phones should provide users in the future. The long, silly list (spirit level was one) made us weep with laughter. Today, half of those preposterous items are standard or downloadable aps.

      This was before the internet was half the reason people bought them. Imagine — before! how did we live? it was not living, obviously. Now, using it as a phone to actually talk to someone is 6th (!) on the list of what people do with them.

      • Isabel Gibson says:

        Barbara – I’m still waiting for the moment when I can make a call on my good camera. But maybe that teleportation app will get here first.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Sid – Indeed! What next? This is the sort of thing old people wonder about, you know . . . Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

  3. John Whitman says:

    Isabel – On the other end of the spectrum, when I was in the Yukon in August I learned that in the 1920’s and early 1930’s it could take as much as a year for a reply to be received to a letter written in Fort MacPherson, NWT.
    That’s because the original letter took approximately 52 days to travel by dogsled from MacPherson to Dawson City or even longer if by canoe. From there it travelled by paddle wheeler to Whitehorse, by train to Skagway, coastal freighter to Vancouver or Seattle and then by train to its final destination. The reply then had to be written and take the same torturous route back to Fort MacPherson.
    I wonder what the next 100 years will bring. Personally, I’m hoping for teleportation during my lifetime.
    John W

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      John W – It sort of makes you wonder why they bothered, no? I guess because they had nothing better.

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