January 05, 2007

Welcome to the jungle

By Al Carlos Hernandez

Believe it or not, there are still some people brand new to cyber space. If you are one of those folks the first thing you need to know is that Al Carlos is the best on-line columnist ever.

It is a few days after Christmas, you have had time to decompress, time to realize that someone bought you new computer. You will need another day to discern your ignorance; another day to admit you have to call a computer nerd to help hook it up, and your throat is dry from talking to tech support. Suck on a candy cane.

Some of you have logged on for the first time and Pandora’s Box is now wide open. Others now have high speed broadband, this means your computer cruising has gone from motor scooter to Moto Guzzi.

On behalf of some of the more effusive folks on-line, I would like to welcome those new to cyberspace and ask, what took you so long? Disco is over, Elvis has left, the building print is dead and phones no longer need cords.

The first thing you will realize is that most people have email. This means you can send brief letters, cute quotes, jokes and inane gibberish to people you know without having to actually talk to them. Email is an intimate way you can enter into lifelong friendships with people you will probably never get to meet in person.

As more people get your email address, you establish a new circle of friends. In many cases you can become quite close to members of your extended family located throughout the country or throughout the world. Email forces you to tell the gist of your boring stories because everyone knows how easy it is to delete something whack.

A word of caution, e-mail can be more addicting than cigarettes and novellas.

Whatever your interests are, you can find somebody on-line more fanatical that you. There are websites for almost everything imaginable and if you want to find a webpage on a specific subject just got to www.Google.com and they can give you a list from over one billion pages. It is said that if all of the Google pages were stacked one on top of other, it would be 125 miles high.

Speaking of high, avoid Tommy Chong’s page, he went to the slammer for selling bongs on-line.

On EBay you can buy almost anything and it will be sent to your home in a few short days. Be careful when you are bidding on-line, because if your ego gets in the way, you may win a small town or an un-official queer makeover.

For every interest there is a message board community. A message board community usually has one thing in common, and aficionados of that thing post messages and comments. There are message boards for animals, cars, boats, cigars, scrap booking, book making, and the two that I frequent talk about various bands.

Electronica affords one a certain anonymity; no one really knows who you are or what you look like unless you post your picture on-line. If you do, be sure that someone, somewhere around the country or around the world will have a good laugh at your face.

If you don’t have a life you can invent one on MySpace.

Don’t be discouraged, they really don’t know you and probably never will, however if you do happen to meet someone you know, you can always deny it was you, citing server glitches. On the other hand, if you are walking down the street and complete strangers point at you and crack up, then you have spent way too much time on-line, and there is a real chance that you indeed look like a dork.

If you post an embarrassing video on You Tube, it could get one million hits by lunch and you could be hit with divorce papers by dinner.

Do not be inhibited regarding your command of the language or spelling. Most programs have Spell check that will correct spelling. Always use that. Keep and eye on form and from that tends to slip by. Real friends will over look diction and grammatical errors. I’ve been chided for making up my own words sometimes in Spanglish.

There will however be critics, those who sat in the front row during English class; those who had the audacity to attend community college classes sober, who will troll your words for grammatical and syntactical mistakes. I believe that you have an obligation to express yourself and based on the first amendment, your opinions cannot be downgraded by the use of colloquial language. Make your unique voice count.

Use the web to feed a thirst for knowledge, there is a plethora of “up to the second information” available at your fingertips. Knowledge in this society is power, empower yourself by studying, think outside the box; use the web to feed your intellectualism, not hedonism.

The smartest people in society are on-line, but then, again, I say that every year.

Al Carlos Hernandez writes from Hollywood.

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