I hate the Internet.
And anyone who uses it frequently will probably understand exactly what I'm saying.
I love the speed of the Net, as many writers do. Right from way back in the early 1980’s when it first became available to the very rural area I lived in, when you had to plug a telephone cord into your computer, none of this cable or satellite technology. And it was slow, at times painfully so. But then, at that time computers were also very slow, and the slowness did nothing to diminish the wonder, the sheer joy of being able to send an article or a newsletter to people in places as disparate as South Africa, Australia, The US and Jamaica, and have it arrive within hours.
Well, yes, I did say it was slow. But in those days it could take anything up to four weeks for a letter in what we now call 'snail mail' to reach any of those destinations from here in rural Canada.
To be able to send copy for articles, promotional materials, web content - this was in the pre-blog days, if you can imagine that - in so short a time was a miracle in communication terms. These days I can send an entire manuscript to a publisher in minutes, send article proposals to magazines far away, write web content for companies across the Atlantic who then use the miracle of the Net to disperse them to clients in other countries…
But I hate the speed of it, too. Because there's no taking things back once you press the 'send' button. Some time ago I submitted a manuscript to a large publishing house. Thought I'd done everything to their specifications, until I got a note back saying I'd sent a WORD doc instead of a plain text document. They graciously asked me to resend in the correct format, but it was only when I checked that I realized I had inadvertently sent the wrong file. An earlier draft, in fact, not fit to be seen....
We all know at least one person who has banged out an angry reply to an email or article and hit SEND before they've realized just how much harm that one little email could do to their friendship, career, or online presence.
Yes, it only takes a couple of inadvertent minutes to look a fool on the Internet.
And then there's IM, or instant messaging. It's surprising how that pithy comment, that funny rejoinder, can lose its context when it appears in your reply. I am still embarrassed when I think of an hysterically funny, ironic reply I sent to a writer who was hurt by a nasty critique from her critique group. It was meant to be comforting, but it seems it lost its well-intentioned humor as it traveled through cyber space.
Have you ever tried explaining that something you sent on the Net wasn't what you meant?
All you do is dig yourself in deeper...
The Net is also a wonder for spreading information and education. I've taken online courses that I couldn't possibly access if I'd had to physically go to the class. And I've had students in my online creative writing classes (now a book, Naked Writing:The No Frills Way to Write Your Book) from places as far away as the UK, Ireland, Thailand, the USA, Germany, Sweden, Israel....
On the love side, not only do I get great benefit from the Net as a writer, but I've traveled a lot and come to rest far from the place I grew up, and far from other places I've lived. But email, IM, Skype and all sorts of other geeky things mean that I'm just a few keystrokes away from people I love.
And that, my friends, is priceless.
Glenys O'Connell is currently working on a new romantic comedy/mystery series, Manners Malicious - more about that later! You can read first chapters of her books on her website here