going viral

I remember my first email account back in the day when everything was text-based and you had to know the code number to Reply or Delete or Forward and there was no such thing as a mouse-click. And soon after email was available for the masses there came the viral messges.

Now I have to explain to those in the house who don’t understand, “viral” is not to be confused with “virUS.” I know they are from the same root word, but don’t go all etymologist on me. When it comes to all things internet, a virAL message is one that get transferred faster than the spped of sound to anyone and everyone with a modem. Before you know it, a link gets a billion some hits/visits from you, your mom, uncle bobby jo and aunt george.

What fascinates me about this is the insight into human behavior that one can derive. I used to go to MSN to see what was on the front page – the “water cooler” talk fodder of the day. How does everyone know about this stuff roughly at the same time? Back when the Sopranos was on, everyone in the whole country seemed to be talking on Monday morning about Tony and Carmela and such. Collectively, it feels like we are all plugged into the same things.

Some would blame the internet, before that TV, and before that newspapers. I love the history of the local paper, the Gazette, which you can find out more about at Colonial Williamsburg. Back in the day, the colonial paper’s motto was  “Containing the freshest Advices, Foreign and Domestick.” I’m not really sure what kind of stick a domestick was…

I had taken to reading old Gazettes which you can find at http://research.history.org/ in the Digital Library. Some of it is absolutely fascinating while other parts are fairly ho hum. You can read about Thomas Jefferson’s arrival at Congress and how he found a dark bay horse which was “roach’d and bobb’d about 6 or 7 months ago.” You can also find entries like poor William Clark, a runaway, who “winks with his left eye” and apparently lost a bit of his hat …


Now with things like Facebook (which I swear is a conspiracy developed by CIA or NASA or maybe PETA) and Google Reader, we are all literally on the same page. When you are subscribed to multiple blogs you can’t help but notice the trends in topics and references. I mean collectively we tap into the same resources and have the same discussions over and over again. Maybe we should be afraid of robots after all – the collective is coming. Resistance is futile. Or maybe I’m just kinda intrigued by the notion that there is, after all, a body of knowledge we share – state regulated tests or not. I guess I only wish it were a touch more diverse.


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