Maia Szalavitz, formerly a television producer, now spends her time as a writer. In this essay she explores digital reality and its consequences. Along the way, she compares the digital world to the "real" world, acknowledging the attractions of the electronic dimension.
A Virtual Life
After too long on the Net, even a phone call can be a shock. My boyfriend's Liverpool accent suddenly becomes impossible to interpret after his easily understood words on screen; a secretary's clipped tone seems more rejecting than I'd imagined it would be. Time itself becomes fluid — hours become minutes, or seconds stretch into days. Weekends, once a highlight of my week, are now just two ordinary days.
For the last three years, since I stopped working as a television producer, I have done much of my work as a telecommuter. I submit articles and edit them via email and communicate with colleagues on Internet mailing lists. My boyfriend lives in England, so much of our relationship is also computer-assisted.
If I desired, I could stay inside for weeks without wanting anything. I can order food, and manage my money, love and work. In fact, at times I have spent as long as three weeks alone at home, going out only to get mail and buy newspapers and groceries. I watched most of the endless snowstorm of '96 on TV.
But after a while, life itself begins to feel unreal. I start to feel as though I've become one with my machines, taking data in, spitting them back out, just another link in the Net. Others on line report the same symptoms. We start to feel an aversion to outside forms of socializing. We have become the Net critics' worst nightmare.
What first seemed like a luxury, crawling from bed to computer, not worrying about hair, and clothes and face, has become a form of escape, a lack of discipline. And once you start replacing real human contact with cyber-interaction, coming back out of the cave can be quite difficult.
I find myself shyer, more cautious, more anxious. Or, conversely, when suddenly confronted with real live humans, I get overexcited,
speak too much, interrupt. I constantly worry if I am dressed appropriately, that perhaps I've actually forgotten to put on a skirt and walked outside in the T-shirt and underwear I sleep and live in.
At times, I turn on the television and just leave it to talk away in the background, something that I'd never done previously. The voices of the programs are comforting, but then I'm jarred by the commercials. I find myself sucked in by soap operas, or needing to keep up with the latest news and the weather. "Dateline," "Frontline," "Nightline," CNN, New York 1, every possible angle of every story over and over and over, even when they are of no possible use to me. Work moves into the background. I decide to check my email.
On line, I find myself attacking everyone in sight. I am bad-tempered, and easily angered. I find everyone on my mailing list insensitive, believing that they've forgotten that there are people actually reading their wounding remarks. I don't realize that I'm projecting until after I've been embarrassed by someone who politely points out that I've attacked her for agreeing with me.
When I'm in this state, I fight my boyfriend as well, misinterpreting his intentions because of the lack of emotional cues given by our typed dialogue. The fight takes hours, because the system keeps crashing. I say a line, then he does, then crash! And yet we keep on, doggedly.
I'd never realized how important daily routine is: dressing for work, sleeping normal hours. I'd never thought I relied so much on co-workers for company. I began to understand why long-term unemployment can be so damaging, why life without an externally supported daily plan can lead to higher rates of drug abuse, crime, suicide.
To restore balance to my life, I force myself back into the real world. I call people, arrange to meet with the few remaining friends who haven't fled New York City. I try to at least get to the gym, so as to set apart the weekend from the rest of my week. I arrange interviews for stories, doctor's appointments — anything to get me out of the house and connected with others.
But sometimes being face to face is too much. I see a friend and her ringing laughter is intolerable — the noise of conversation in the restaurant, unbearable. I make my excuses and flee. I re-enter my apartment and run to the computer as though it were a place of safety. 但有时面对面地与人相处实在难以忍受。我与一位朋友见面，她那种响亮的笑声让人忍无可忍——饭店里的噪杂谈话声也让人受不了。我找了个藉口逃之夭夭。我重新回到我的公寓，冲向电脑，似乎那儿才是一个安全的地方。
I click on the modem, the once-annoying sound of the connection now as pleasant as my favorite tune. I enter my password. The real world disappears.
Thought you were safe sharing secrets with Internet friends? Wait for the doorbell?
Mother's Mad about the InternutsCarol SarlerR T 1. Tap tap tappa tap-tap. It is the last sound to be heard before sleep. On especially bad days, it is the first sound to be heard in the morning. It is the sound of the only lasting disagreement in a household that is otherwise peaceful. My daughter is hooked on the Internet and I think that it is mad, bad and dangerous.
She is in every other respect a sensible young woman. She graduated in the summer, she goes to work each day, she and her friends are on the phone all evening and she goes out with them at weekends. But on top of that she has lately started spending some two hours in intense communication with a computer. And I hate it.
This is not just fear of new technology.Of course, there is value in instant access to information banks worldwide and, of course, email is revolutionizing the way we correspond with each other. My mistrust is based on the fact that this use of the Internet is such a pale copy of the time-honoured way in which people communicate with each other. It leads to intimacy before acquaintance; it scatters secrets outwards, not inwards; and, most worrying of all, it is a vehicle for liars.
What frightens me is that my daughter rejects all this. The denial is there in the language she uses. "I 'met' Janet in January," she says, "and we've been 'friends' ever since." At other times, "I was 'talking' to Alex the other day and he 'said' ... "No, he didn't," I argue; friends are friends when, and only when, you have seen the whites of their eyes. She just rolls hers, skywards.
Imagine this. When I was planning to go away for a few days last month, this intelligent 22-year-old announced a plan for a party, the guests to include a variety of Internuts who, coming as they would from all corners, would need to stay overnight.
Overnight? In my home, my home that contains everything I care about, rather high on the list being my daughter herself.
She said: "Don't be silly." She said it would be quite all right, because the people she was planning to invite were those whom she had "known" for at least a year and whom she "knows" as well as any of her other friends that, on the whole, I tend to like. I said, trying to be reasonable but not altogether succeeding, that in and among the things they "tell" each other on the tap-tap, a tendency to murder might just have been overlooked, might it not?
The party did not happen. The row most certainly did.
When I say that if they are not nutters they are nerds, she tries to reason. Do I think she is a nerd? Absolutely not. Well, then, why should they be? Do I think she is a liar? Just as absolutely not. Seizing the initiative she moves over to the attack.
"You remember that favourite story of yours, the one about how the army captain and the woman whose book he discovered got to know one another solely through writing letters? And how she refused to send him a photograph because she felt that if he really cared, it wouldn't matter what she looked like? Well, they hadn't seen each other either." She smiles her self-satisfied smile. Arguing with a daughter is always like that, so annoying. They always know where your weak points are, just where to slip in under your guard.
But I cannot clear it from my head, the worries refuse to go away. It is not that, as individuals, I have reason to believe they would lie. But they could. They could lie about their age, their state of mind or even their sex. Indeed, apparently in America it is common for men to tap-tap pretending to be women on the basis that they then get other women to communicate with far greater intimacy.
A thought occurs. The worst scenes my mind dreams up play like a horror movie. So I call a friend in Hollywood: has anyone thought of this for a movie plot? He laughs. There are five, to his knowledge alone, in development and one heading into production. Needless to say, it is a new version of the old tale of innocents calling forth evil forces they cannot control, this time in the form of a visitor with the ever-handy axe packed in his luggage.
So now, I say to my daughter, we just wait for life to imitate art and we're home and dry. And murdered in our beds.
She laughs. "See you in the morning, Mum. I'm just going upstairs to talk to my friends. Goodnight." Tap tappa tap-tap ...
1.She used to be a television producer, but now she is a writer.
2. She writes and edits articles online, submits them via email, and communicates with colleagues via the Internet, too.
3. She could stay computer-assisted at home for weeks, going out only to get mail, newspapers and groceries.
4. They feel as if they had become one with the computer, and life seems to be unreal.
5. That people who grew used to a virtual life would feel an aversion to outside forms of socializing.
6. She gets overexcited, speaks too much, and interrupts others.
7. She is bad-tempered, easily angered, and attacks everyone in sight, all because she has long become separated
from others and lacks emotional face-to-face exchanges with people.
8. She fights her boyfriend, misinterpreting his intentions because of the lack of emotional cues given by their typed
9. Because we rely on co-workers for company.
10. She calls people, arranges to meet the few friends remaining in the City, gets to the gym, arranges interviews for
stories, doctor's appointments — anything to get her out of the house and connected with others.
11. No, she doesn't feel happy. She feels being face to face is intolerable.
12. She makes her excuses and flees, re-enters her apartment, runs to the computer, clicks on the modem, and
disappears into the virtual world again.
The first paragraph describes the consequences of living a virtual life and the last tells of the author's escape back into it. Together, they bring out the dilemma people at present are in: Because of modern technology, we have a choice between a virtual life and real life, but find both unsatisfactory.
(1) Answer: routine
(2) Answer: for company
(3) Answer: unemployment
(4) Answer: externally
(5) Answer: drug abuse
(6) Answer: restore
(7) Answer: fled
(8) Answer: gym
(9) Answer: set apart
(10) Answer: appointments
Conversely but then symptom spitting abusing tone took her in
editing have arranged in sight stretched data
1.smoking cigarettes jars on me
2.find themselves getting sucked in
3.has arranged for a technician from the computer store to check and repair it
4.fled their country to avoid military service / fled to other countries to avoid military service
5. restore people's confidence in it
(1) Answer: the virtual
(2) Answer: on line
(3) Answer: via
(1) Answer: nightmare
(2) Answer: routine
(3) Answer: any appointment
(4) Answer: arrange for
(1) Answer: cue
(2) Answer: remarks
(3) Answer: his tune
1. We came here all the way on foot.
2. Private cars are not allowed on campus.
3. They are on vacation in Florida.
4. Mary has been talking to her friend on the phone for an hour.
5. Don't worry, Lucy is always on time.
6. Industrial demand on fuel is on the rise.
(1) Internet (2) click (3) virtual (4) routines (5) arrange (6) nightmare (7) annoying (8) connection (9) crawls (10) take in (11) spit (12) data (13) sucked into (14) At times (15) flee
(1) companion (2) deliver (3) access (4) enables (5) customers (6) delights (7) provides (8) small (9) remote (10) information
1) Research shows that laughter can bring a lot of health benefits.
2) A slow Internet connection speed is really annoying.
3) As the law stands, helping someone commit suicide is a crime.
4) In her report, Mary tries to interpret the data from a completely different angle.
5) Sue is a girl of great talent. Her amazing memory sets her apart from her classmates.
Perhaps you envy me for being able to work from home on the computer. I agree that the Internet has made my job a lot easier. I can write, submit and edit articles via email, chat with my colleagues on line and discuss work with my boss. With a click of the mouse, I can get all the data I need and keep up with the latest news. But then, communicating through the Net can be frustrating at times. The system may crash. Worse still, without the emotional cues of face-to-face communication, the typed words sometimes seem difficult to interpret.
(1) d (2) e (3) a (4) c (5) b (6) g (7) h (8) f
1) vehicle 2) hooked on 3) intense 4) worldwide 5) overnight 6) slipped 7) on the whole
8) called forth 9) outwards 10)Needless to say 11) to my knowledge 12) On top of that
My daughter is hooked on the Internet these days, which becomes the only lasting disagreement in a family that is otherwise peaceful. My daughter is in every other respect a sensible young woman. However, she spends about two hours in intense communication with her computer, which is so annoying. I think her behaviour is very mad, bad and dangerous. What frightens me more is that my daughter rejects all my advice. During the argument, she will move over to attack once she seizes the initiative. In my opinion, the use of Internet is such a pale copy of the time-honoured way in which people communicate with each other.
There are many video news sites on the Internet, but how many of the newscasters have green hair and talk like a female robot? Ananova is a straight British news site with a twist — the news is read by a virtual anchorwoman. While this green-haired beauty's speech pattern isn't much better than the computer in the 1980's movie "War Games," it's kind of cool to see the news read by a virtual person. You can choose your type of news: regular, light, and sporty. Once you choose, Ananova will read the news (accompanied by photos and video) in her own inimitable style. If you're tired of your local TV news heads, give Ananova a try. She won't disappoint.
1. The Internet is just a part of our life, not our whole life.
2. We have friends in real society which are much better than the cold screen.
3. The Internet can show us a lot of good things, which will urge us to explore in real world.
4. Discuss it from the point of the advantages and disadvantages of virtual life.
Subject: All set to go camping
Dear Li Ling ,
How excited I was to get your message this afternoon! When I told Zhang Fei about your plan, he literally jumped with joy. So we're all set to go camping with u on the charming island.
We'll surely have a great time camping there. We'll rise with the sun, cook our own meals and do things we like. What a nice change it will be to be away from school!
Last but not least, when and where shall we gather?