Ill Communication
Your modem is driving you mad

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's got the fastest modem of all? You do, you do. You also have the following communication diseases: Ptolemaic Fixation, Synchronicity Syndrome, and Metanoia.

See also...
... by Andrei Codrescu
... in the Scope section
... from October 19, 1999

Let's start with Ptolemaic Fixation. Due to the increase in the speed and quantity of email, you now believe that you are at the center of the universe. You think that your little terminal connects you to everyone in the world. The Earth revolves around you. You feel like an angel when you glide through cyberspace on strings of data.

The Ptolemaic belief that the stars revolve around the earth has returned. The trouble is that the universe in this case is only a web of people with terminals who share the same belief. Neither the real stars nor the animals nor webless people are part of it. When the screen goes dark, the big, scary universe is out there to show you just how puny you really are.

You are also afflicted by Synchronicity Syndrome, which is caused by the virus of overcommunication. After a while, even email seems too slow. Conditioned by constant instant communication, you start to believe that you may be on the verge of the next breakthrough: T-mail. You begin sending telepathic messages and are amazed when they are actually returned. T-mail isn't just instantaneous, it's simultaneous.

In other words, messages on both sides, the sender's and the receiver's, are conceived and delivered simultaneously. Sometimes, the reception predates conception and the answer is sent back to formulate the question. You now begin to experience synchronicity everywhere. You think about someone and they appear. You say something and the radio says the same thing a second later. In a synchronicity-ruled universe, chance doesn't exist. This depressing knowledge will eventually cause you to stop communicating altogether.

(Personal note: For years, my radio has been saying stuff that I just said, but lately it is doing it all the time. For instance, I'll say "I sleep with my mind open," and the next minute some DJ will say "I sleep with my mind open." I'm having complicated and weird things said back to me by the radio, and it doesn't help that I sometimes say such things on the radio myself and have them quoted back to me by people who swear they've said them first.)

To top it all off, you have Metanoia, which is the flipside of the paranoia endemic to earlier ages. Back then, people who complained that the government put wires in their head used to be called paranoid. But now that all communications, including those of the government, are passing through your body, you think that you have a special mission that will eventually lead to a better world. The government is wireless now, and it can program you any way it wants. You choose to think it's for the best.

Given these three new diseases, no modem will ever be fast enough for you, and no Internet, not even Internet 5.0, will ever give you what you really crave: boundless love and omnipotence. But you can have a nervous breakdown, and that will give you time to read Copernicus and Galileo.

Andrei Codrescu wrote Messi@h, a novel.

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