I saw a funny thing the other day. I was riding my bicycle down Swanston St, avoiding the Zombielike gaggles of international students who seem to have interpreted the new bike lane as ‘what you stumble onto’ when you’re sick of the boring old footpath. But this tram said something that nearly made me prang it without having one of the ‘full-fee undead’ stagger into my path. It was a piece of government propaganda, and it read:
‘Talking online can lead to stalking online’.
Now, I was someone who started fragging their friends when I was just fourteen, around about the same time as I was racking pornos from the local newsagent to sell at school for a profit: enough to buy fags. Remember fragging? You kill your friends, well, virtually. Over a modem. It’s a game – I think it was Duke Nukem. Or some early version of Quake that my 486 could just barely handle. It was hardly Warcrack, but it was all we had (along with the B&H Extra Mild from the porno proceeds) so we took it for what it was and loved it as we found it.
Flash forward a year or two though, and a more adult realisation hit me: if you can’t get laid doing it, what’s the point? I fragged and I fragged, but at the end of the day, it wasn’t getting me any(where). In fact, a lot of things are rendered absurd if you remove the whiff of coitus… try nightclubbing when you’re in a loving relationship and go there ‘for the music’ – idiot. Basically, the problem was precisely that fragging online didn’t lead to shagging offline – and so I hung up my joystick and headphones, picked up the cordless phone, and dialled her number.
In the years before Facebook, Myspace or even blogs, online networking was a thing of nerds being orcs in order to get pussy (and a lower armor class). Blogging online lead to flogging online, at best. Or new chainmail. And ‘orc pussy’, as everyone knows, all too often turns out to be nothing more than some nerd(’s) arsehole. Who knows, maybe that’s your thing. Beauty is The Eye of the Beholder?
A few years later, it’s precisely arsehole that becomes the plat du jour, with sites like gay.com offering the young and the breastless (as well as ladies who munch) the opportunity to hook up anonymous sex faster than you can get from shared postcode to postcoitus. Suddenly, chumming online lead directly to bumming offline, and the internet began to make sense for people who don’t paint miniatures when they’re not battling dragons or being bullied by the ‘all too real’ trolls of the playground.
Five years later, and Myspace offers playmates a’plenty – it is entirely possible conduct a diverse and interesting sex life through the internet. For many, it’s the first time that such a thing has been facilitated. Fact is that until the internet came ‘of age’, for the majority of people, it was actually really, really difficult to get laid. But now, there’s so many likeminded people online that every monster can find its equal. Depending on your perversion, talking online can lead to porking offline (bushpigs, mud-trolls, you name ‘em), just as thanking online can lead to spanking offline.
Facebook takes the fantasy one step further, bringing back into spunking distance all your old flames and half-cocked romances from yesteryear. It’s the ultimate ‘wait and see’ approach: you keep them up your sleeve, they keep writing on your wall, and who knows? All under the pretence of friends, you nurture new secret longings as formerly unavailable (s)ex partners suddenly (and simultaneously) add themselves to the deck of question marks and long shot money shots. If you’re in a standard relationship, your monogamy is (mostly, still) not-negotiable: there’s only one person you’re allowed to sleep with. If you’re single, there’s probably still not very many, and this is the depressing ‘reality’ of being a free agent: once you remove the socially unacceptable and those repulsed by the sight of you, you’re usually only left with a couple… that’s right, very the person you’re sleeping with, if you still are. But once this does become a depressing thought, provided you have Facebook, you just hit on everyone. Even if it’s a hundred to one shot, Facebook means you’re bound to hit it off with someone. The numbers fantasy trumps the ugliest reality. And from what I gather of the growing carnage and excitement mounting around me, this is something that people find more exciting than frightening. We are in the grips of a world-historic social experiment, with ourselves and all our (potentially) loved ones the sexy, sexy guinea pigs. Ooh, err.
In fact, the other side of the government’s ‘stranger danger’ campaign is that a lot of people want to be stalked, in a certain way. By the right person. Gently. Lovingly. To them, the worst thing, the truly unimaginable horror, is not that ‘somebody is watching’ , it’s that ‘nobody is watching’. If nobody is out to get you in 2007, then you’re either not online, you have a disease, or you’re one of those weirdest of perverts who gets off on being lonely. As I’m sure little Johnny himself will discover, once he becomes a private citizen with a computer and time on his hands, ‘Big Brother is watching you’ is not the forewarning of 1984, it’s the fantasy of 2007.
in which the naked chimp is unmasked, his machines debugged, and his bugbears debunked
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- ▼ September (4)