"Catch You On The Flip-Flop, Good Buddy!"

Much has been made of the dangers of the Internet. I am more worried about the absolute insincerity of it all.

When I was in high school, my youngest sister (9 years my senior) began a longtime love affair with citizens' band radio—the CB. Truckers and cowboys, urban or otherwise, were celebrated in story and song, and CB radio—certainly the social precursor to the relative anonymity the Internet (e.g. MySpace, Facebook, etc.)—paved the way for chat rooms, text messages, and IMs. Thus began a faceless social network complete with Gordian knots of affairs, both platonic and prurient.

Always on the vanguard of communications technology, my sister handled a CB with élan and sangfroid. What fascinated me most were the names the CB enthusiasts adopted—"handles": "Sexy Lady," "Tennessee Stud," "Rough Rider," "Sexy Mama." Behind the sweetness and hubris lay, apparently, an electronic local universe of studs, hardbodies, and vixens. Often, these Chattanooga CBers would organize what they called "Coffee Breaks" where enthusiasts would meet in a store or mall parking lot to chat and throw back some joe. Imagine my surprise when I accompanied my sister to one such gathering only to experience cognitive dissonance when, say, "Sexy Mama" turned out to be a dentally challenged overweight bottle blonde and "Tennessee Stud" a chain-smoking 120-pound grandpa who resembled nothing less than a piece of beef jerky. Nothing against these body types, mind you, but it was a bit of a letdown in the face of such colorful nomenclature. Since then, CBs have gone the way of C. W. McCall and the Smokey & the Bandit movies: quaint and retro artifacts of the nexus of the We and Me Generations.

Now we have the transparent and traceable truth of the Internet. We can socialize across vast distances with people who are willing to put their pictures where there mouths are. We know exactly to whom we're speaking, don't we?

Yeah, right.

Much has been made of the dangers of the Internet. I am more worried about the absolute insincerity of it all. We can now spend hours in our darkened homes—lovers, spouses, and children asleep—bathed in the warm (lurid?) glow of our computer screens, being absolutely "honest" and "sincere" with perfect strangers whom we will probably never meet face-to-face.

Nobody gets hurt, I suppose.

I know. The Internet is a great way to keep up with family members, coworkers, and far-flung friends. And I'm sure some solid friendships—even romantic relationships—have come out of all of this.

But, then again . . .


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