Wake Up, Neo

My name is Peter, and I'm an Internet addict.

I listen as a nation shouts, "Big Deal," because these days everyone is.

So, fine, everybody has the same experience of looking at the clock — or the calendar — and realizing that all you've done for the past hour, or day, or year, is mindlessly click through Web sites. But the other day, I began to actually think about the nature of my addiction. What exactly was I looking for? It's not news. It's not porn. It's not Lolcats. It's the Bat Signal.

Let me explain.

Like a lot of people, I am constantly checking my e-mail accounts. I also check if anybody has commented on my blog, and I check my phone for text messages, and I await instant messages like a trembling young fawn. But I noticed recently that once I've received an e-mail, text message or comment, I feel a certain letdown. Before it arrives, it could be anything: a new opportunity, an old friend emerging from the past, a summons to the palace, because the king has decided that only I can save the kingdom. Once the messages arrive, they seem so mundane: friends I already have, requests that ask nothing of my special crime-fighting abilities, entreaties from Nigerians to whom I've already sent checks.

Years ago, in the pre-Internet age, when I had my first computer, I used to imagine how cool it would be if it would suddenly start talking to me. Now that it does — all day — I'm disappointed in what it says. I want it to say to me, "Wake up, Neo!" I want it to say, "The Justice League of America just had an opening, and we thought of you." I want it to say, "Save us!" And I say, "Who's that? Who's us?" And it goes silent, and I start an adventure that leads me to an underground lair and a fight with a mad genius whom I defeat by turning his pet Persian cat against them, and then I lead the formerly enslaved computer programmers to the mouth of the cavern where they blink from both the sun and their tears of gratitude.

So I check my e-mail, and there's a new message and it's from the girls' T-ball league telling me the games tonight have been canceled.

Damn.

I'll give it a few seconds, and check again.

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