“I think I’m addicted to MSN,” she admitted limply. “I have dreams about my contact list expanding to fill the entire world, a monolith of names all decrying their insignificant plans for the night. And I like it.”
I nodded, distracted.
“When I was in Peru, one of the Incan ruins looked like a text box to me, just waiting to be filled with ancient smiley faces. I remember cursing the Incans for not including a massive keyboard and fiberoptic networking in their temple layout.” She put her face in her hands and wept. “I…I have a problem.”
Just beyond her shuddering shoulders, something was blinking at the bottom of my computer screen.
She looked up, tear-streaked face imploring. “Do you think I should drop off the grid for a while, not tell anybody? Unlink myself until I get some control?”
I nodded again, not really hearing her. There were now two blinking boxes.
“But what if I need it for school? What if I’m writing a paper and I somehow forget how to cite sources in MLA standard? How will I possibly remember without MSN?”
Irritated, I looked at her. “Well, you could always log on to ask questions and then disappear afterwards, quick like a bunny.”
“But…but… what if I miss out on something good? What if a celebrity dies and I’m not online to see all the RIP messages? What if it suddenly became uncool to leave yourself in Away mode all the time and I didn’t get the memo?”
I didn’t really care, but I supposed I could play along. “Then I guess you would be a huge virtual loser and everyone would instantly block you.”
She wailed. “See, that’s what I’m afraid of: losing my intricate list of contacts that I’ve built over the years. I need these people. I need to keep in touch with as many of them as possible, in the hopes that one will hook me up with a job after I graduate.”
The bottom of my computer screen was now a hotbed of digital motion. I shifted uncomfortably.
“Maybe I’m not addicted after all,” she continued hopefully. “Maybe we’re on the cusp of post-postmodern communication. It’s pretty hard to talk to seven different people about seven different topics without MSN, you know. Quite the valuable breakthrough.”
I nodded emphatically, a ridiculous, over-exaggerated grin compensating for my lack of attention. I hoped.
She bought it and took heart. “Yeah, I guess there’s nothing wrong with using technology to manage our relationships. The world is shrinking and our social networks are expanding. It’s a sign of the times.”
“Sign of the times, yep.” I’ve learnt that the key to making people go away is just repeating the last sentence they say in a show of unopinionated agreement.
“Well, thanks for listening, Chris. I see now that MSN is not demonic addiction, but rather angelic evolution. It’s here to help.”
“It’s here to hel – uh, no problem. I’ll see you later, okay? Try to relax. Read your email or something.”
As she left, I leaped into the pilot’s chair with a deftness seen only in B-rated action flicks. The multitude of flashing boxes had compressed into a single blue bar which meant only one thing: a shitload of messages.
With a smile on my face borne by the power of complete control, I opened the first MSN conversation. Rendered in Times New Roman, twelve point font, the text stared at me from across the digital divide.
“U R Adicted.” Spelling in context. “Your generation belongz 2 technology.”