Internet heretic finds he's a netwit on using websites

From the March 21, 1997, Deseret News

As a computer user, I've been working without a net.

Without the Internet, that is. And to Internet junkies, this apparently places me somewhere in the past, beyond dinosaurs and people who don't have VCRs.

This came home to me while participating in a public forum last weekend at the Mormon Arts Festival, which was held at Tuacahn near St. George. The panel was titled "The Impact of Media on Society," and though it had passed through my brain that computers might come up as a media venue of concern, it never occurred to me that the Internet would dominate the discussion.

This was my own fault, of course. I had violated the first rule of public speaking: Know Your Audience! (The fellow on the front row who was working his laptop at full bore should have been my first hint.)

As a result, I quickly became the odd geek out, learning that I had not only missed the bus on the Information Highway — though buses leave every hour on the hour — but I seemed to be hitchhiking in the wrong direction.

Anyway, the session began with Bruce L. Christensen, dean of Fine Arts and Communications at Brigham Young University (and former president of PBS), demonstrating on a computer how easy it is to access the Internet, and then speaking at some length about its many uses (to include a plug for BYU's new "Ancestors" web page).

He then turned to ask what I thought about all of this.

Hesitant to confess my Internet ignorance — and wondering if I was on the right panel — I nonetheless answered honestly: "Well, actually, I've never been on the Internet."

As I noticed the devastated looks on the faces of audience-members in the first couple of rows, backpedaling seemed like a good idea. I explained that while the Deseret News does have Internet access in my department, and while many of my friends use the Internet with some frequency, I had not yet felt compelled to do so.

Instead of making the situation better, however, I had apparently slipped into the realm of heresy. Perhaps one more word of explanation would help. "Why should I go over to a computer, log on, get into the Internet, search for the Web page of interest . . . why should I go to all that trouble when I can find the answer to my questions by simply reaching up for a reference book above my desk?"

It didn't help.

Could it be that everyone had tossed out their dictionaries, encyclopedias and movie-reference books without telling me?

I don't really consider myself a technophobe, although after this experience I thought briefly about seeking technotherapy.

And I don't really think I'm afraid of the Internet. Or of modern technology in general. I just don't feel the need to embrace all of it.

I do have a personal computer at home. But I don't play games on it. I use it to write. You know, stories, letters, lists . . . that kind of thing.

Perhaps I should also confess that I don't have a car phone. Or a cell phone. And I've never owned an answering machine. Or had phone mail.

We don't even have call-waiting at home. (Something my kids have complained about for years.)

Worse, I have a hard time understanding why these things are considered necessities when I still think of them as luxuries?

But I'm not afraid of them. I just get along OK without them.

As for the Internet?

There will undoubtedly come a time when I'll decide to explore it.

But at the moment, my life does not seem incomplete without it.