Slice of Life: Through the static, an apple of truth

By Daniel Wirtheim, Features Editor

Published in print Sept.17, 2014

    According to the AP style handbook, the Internet warrants pronominal capitalization, which in some sort of way authenticates its existence as a tangible force of communication and reason. This validates everything for me.

    In the past week, I’ve had the feeling that I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. I received my first Iphone in the mail. I waited a while to get one, and now that I got one, I feel comforted and more confident in some strange way.

    Now the Internet is all around me, at every moment and I find myself checking the weather just for fun, or using the compass app to position myself southward.

     “Its all an extension of myself,” I think as I ride my bike through campus, past the girl typing a message to her mother on a College Avenue bench, past the man arguing with his girlfriend with his own Iphone pushed against his ear hole.

   I’m one of those people who have faith in the marriage of biology and technology. More than just a small Apple of truth, my Iphone is a three-course meal at the Tree-of-Knowledge Café and Grill, where I eat greedily throughout the day.

    I need to know things, and my connection to the Internet provides me with answers and in a language that I can understand.

    It’s as if I’m accessing a collective consciousness suspended on the small frequencies that I can’t even see. Somehow, these small frequencies give me a sense of security, and I don’t question the process.

     But when things become too convoluted and cryptic, I have a friend who knows the system, he’s a road map for the hidden circuitry. He studies computer science here at UNCG, I’ll keep him anonymous.

   Recently, I brought a six-pack of beer to his apartment, to catch up, but mostly to gain some insight into web design as I attempted to build my first website.

    He lives in a little apartment on the third floor of his building. Everything’s thrown on the floor, as if a miniature tornado had come in and thrown his clothes, scattered his books and spilled half drunken cups of coffee on the floor.      

    He sits hunched over his computer, typing away into the wee hours of the morning. His surroundings suggest that he’s a genius and it gives his words some sincerity.

    I sat so that I could watch over his shoulder as he expounded the inner workings of WordPress to me, a simple yet often stumping program. Although I understand a little less than 70 percent of what he says, I nod my head a lot, hoping that the pieces will all come together and make some sort of sense to me.

     It seems like everything he’s looking at is robot text, a code that makes no sense to someone who uses the Internet for Wikipedia and Facebook. I feel ashamed of my Internet usage when I see the ease with which he navigates each web page, inspecting the code that makes up each title or piece of interactive script.

     Sensing my wonder, and trusting my curiosity, he turned around to look me in the eyes.

     “I want to show you something,” he said, and after a few unsuccessful attempts, pulled up a page of never ending robot text.

    To me, it was the title screen of The Matrix, but looking closer I could recognize the addresses of pages that we had visited.       

    “Gstatic.com,” he said. “This is how Google knows what to advertise to you.”

   I felt exposed, naked. He explained to me that sites like Gstatic.com collect cookies and information from the URL addresses I visit and then sell them to companies like Google who then use the information as a sort of map for advertisers.

    The Kaiser Family Foundation produced a study in 2010 that states the average American spends, at the very least, one year of their life exposed to advertisers.

    This is profound when considering the fact that the Internet was still a toddler in 2010 and that surely there was less use for something as insidious as Gstatic.com.

Sites like Gstatic.com are literally creating a profile of myself in a code that I cannot comprehend.

    All of the questions I had thoughtfully typed into search bars, all the pulses I was pumping into the great Google algorithms were only used to sell me things I do not need, things that only leave me needed more. I couldn’t possibly understand the ramifications for something like this.

    Now they knew where I was going, what I was thinking. I could sense them squirming in my new Iphone. The beer was gone, but the only buzz I felt was coming from paranoia and the sound of once inaudible frequencies that were now joining in a choir of white noise static, “buy, consume, buy, consume.”



Categories: daniel wirtheim, Features, Slice of Life

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