Thank you, Internet, for remembering

Before I begin this blog entry, I have a confession to make.  I spend entirely too much time on the Internet.  I don’t really have a good excuse for it (although if you gave me about ten seconds I could probably think up a decent or mediocre reason), it just happens.  Even as I type this entry I have four tabs open on Firefox and I’m checking them like a conspiracy theorist checks his tinfoil hat; that is to say, frequently and with much paranoia that something has happened and I’m not aware of it.

On a certain level, I hate the Internet for this.  I spent four hours outside at a nice picnic today, eating sun-warmed food and breathing air that was neither cooled by an air-conditioning unit nor stank of food left by coworkers in the office fridge, yet as soon as the picnic was over I had to hurry back to my desk and open those four tabs to make sure all was still well and good.  Yet as much as I loathe this wretched creation of man for intertwining itself so closely in my life and workplace that I can never hope to escape its foul clutches for more than a few hours at a time, I realize that deep down I truly love the Internet, for the simple reason that it remembers what I would otherwise forget.

A few weeks ago, for some reason or other an old television show by the name of Animaniacs came up in conversation.  This was a show that I’d watched a bit as a child, but it had been cancelled before I could truly get into it.  On a whim, I looked up some of the old clips on Youtube and watched such classics as The Ballad of Magellan and Wacko’s World.  Then I watched them again.  And again.  And again.  After all these years of separation, it was wonderful to see the hilarious antics I’d found so enthralling as a child, only now I was capable of catching all the double entendres and adult humor that had completely soared over my head back then.

The next time I visited Youtube, it recommended watching clips from Hey Arnold!, Angry Beavers, and Freakazoid.   Folks, these were shows that I hadn’t even thought about for a long, long time, and suddenly I was turning back the clock and laughing at the same jokes that had made me chuckle so long ago.

Most recently, I acquired Netflix and began watching anime after work.  I’ve always liked anime, but over the past few years my willingness to take the time to watch a show slowly but surely decreased, until at last I simply wasn’t watching anything.  Yet with Netflix’s help, I turned back the clock and, for a few brief hours, was a kid on my grandma’s couch, wearing a loose and itchy uniform as I clung to a pillow tucked beneath my chin, eyes wide and only blinking when my vision went blurry from the pupils drying out.  There was laughter and joy, screams and tears, anger and fear and catharsis for so much that had been missing for so long.

I tell you this not to bore you with a tale you’d much rather go without hearing, but to remind you not to forget as I once did.  Can you recall what games or toys you played with in the schoolyard?  Do you remember what your personal after-school ritual was, be it dive in front of a TV for your favorite program or grind away at your homework with a hawk-like mother watching attentively from across the room?  How long has it been since you recalled the décor of the bedroom of your youth, or what clothing was stored in the confines of your closet?  Were you picky about whether your parents bought Hunt’s or Heinz ketchup?

We live in an age where to forget and move on to something shiny and new is the norm.  Yet as our toys become sleeker and more expensive, the Internet which we frequent with the new toys both changes and stays the same.  As new information floods the web, it does not replace or destroy old data, but rather moves it away from our immediate view.  It is always there, waiting patiently for someone to recall an old movie star, or inquire about a baseball statistic, or like me, go hunting for a bit of nostalgia in the form of TV shows.  The information put on the Internet can be mirrored, copied, and otherwise preserved on hundreds of different sites in numerous and clever ways.  Unlike its human users, the web does not forget.

So if you have a moment today, think back on an event or item from your childhood and Google it. Enjoy the nostalgia trip.

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