Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Impatient Internet

I love the Internet. Let me state that unequivocally. I love to spend time on the Internet, have conversations on the Internet, share my personal life on the Internet, make the Internet laugh every now and then. I have a very strong connection with the Internet.

My relationship with the Internet is not without its flaws, though. The Internet can be prone to mood swings. Sometimes it can be up, and sometimes it can be down.

Lately, the Internet has been impatient with me. Jealous and needy, too. Just this morning, I logged in to the website for my cable company in order to pay a bill. Before I could type in all of my credit card information, my phone rang. It was a close friend of mine. I stepped away from my laptop and took the call. 

As I paced back and forth in the room, as I am wont to do during a phone conversation, I glanced at the computer monitor. A message was displayed on the screen. The Internet had noticed I'd been inactive for a few minutes, and was wondering if I wanted to remain logged in to the site. I placed my hand over the speaker on my phone and loudly whispered to the Internet, "I'm on the phone. Just hang on a second. Don't log me out!"

Two minutes later, I said goodbye to my friend and returned to my laptop. I had been logged out of the website. I was not happy. In a calm but stern voice, I asked the Internet, "Why did you log me out after I told you not to? You knew I was on the phone. Do you have any idea how long it will take me to re-type my credit card number? There are, like, 28 digits. And now I have to look on the back of the card again for that extra number I can never remember...argh!"

The Internet can act like that every now and then. It doesn't like it when I communicate with the outside world. The Internet wants me all to itself. What other explanation can there be when it logs me out of a website after a couple of minutes? It's trying to punish me for interacting with another human being.

I especially find this to be the case whenever I attempt to buy tickets to a concert online. The mere idea that I'd seek out entertainment away from the Internet, with someone other than the Internet, bothers the Internet to no end. So it makes a concerted effort to discourage me from making a purchase. It mainly does so by planting a countdown clock on the corner of the page. "Want to see the Foo Fighters live, huh? OK. Here are your seats. I will hold on to them for you for exactly five minutes. After that, I will release them to the public. Your five minutes Good luck."

It knows that I can't make an informed decision on the seats in five minutes. I need to consult an arena map to determine what kind of view the seats will provide of the stage, to find out where they are in relation to the nearest aisle. I need to make sure they are the best possible seats I can acquire for myself and my friends. But the Internet doesn't care. Instead, it gives me a countdown clock like I'm Jack Bauer tasked with defusing a ticking time bomb.

If I choose to confirm the seats that are offered to me before the clock expires, I move on to the next page in the ticket-purchasing process. So does the countdown clock. The Internet resets it and gives me five more minutes to enter my credit card information. My life becomes so much more complicated whenever I am required to enter my credit card information on a website.

The Internet isn't the only one that can be stubborn in this relationship. I never back down from these sort of situations. I simply remove my credit card from my wallet and type as fast and as accurately as I can. And I beat the clock every time.

The Internet does not like to lose a fight, and when it does, it finds one last way to get under my skin. After my purchase is completed, the website promises to email me my tickets right away. Yet the Internet temporarily withholds them from me, knowing that I start to panic when I don't receive a PDF in my inbox in 30 seconds or less. It lets me sweat a little. It derives some sort of sick pleasure from watching me anxiously stare at my email, awaiting the arrival of my tickets. One minute will pass. Two minutes. Three minutes. Five minutes. Eight minutes. Twelve minutes. Seventeen minutes. Sometimes the tickets will show up after 20 minutes. Sometimes after 30 minutes. Sometimes after several hours.

It bothers me when the Internet does this. It bothers me a lot. But I always forgive it in the end. It's too important to me. I need the Internet, and the Internet needs me. And as long as I have the ability to type my credit card information within five minutes, we can make things work.