I just picked up a grocery order from Sobeys—the fancy one across the river in Stratford. It was my first time ordering groceries online, but COVID times, and being responsible to a “steady 10” bubble, called for pivoting. I miss the familiarity of the (less fancy, but more familiar) Allen Street Sobeys, and feel pangs of promiscuity-guilt for abandoning them. But at least I didn’t shop at the Superstore.
I’ve been helping make the Internet since 1986—35 years—and in recent years I have grown cynical as I’ve seen the good, altruistic, spirit-of-sharing Internet give way to the crass, commercial, polarized Internet. It’s hard not to feel a sense of shame for my role in simply letting that happen.
But it’s good to be reminded that it remains a Meccano set that can do everything from letting me order a mango from my phone, to learning about cooking on a sailboat, to arming tenants against landlords, to reading the newspaper from 100 years ago. It is the greatest decentralized collaborative project in history; I’m going to allow myself some pride for my small role.
Several years ago I found myself in a bar on College Street in Toronto having a drink with friends. The talk turned to online dating, and Bumble, and I was able to indulge my curiosity, as two of our party had subject-matter-experience, and one had met her fiancé-now-husband through Bumble.
I was cynical: it all seemed so cold and algorithmic to let the AI robots commodify romance. While the field reports made it seem slightly less so, I remained unsold.
When I woke up to being single, and came to terms with the notion that I was ready to move on to new romantic chapters after a long, cold, lonely, necessary year of grieving.
I stumbled at first. But kept at it.
I had 3 dates with C. (she ended it with a stunningly compassionate text). A lovely long distance with P. over the summer (we remain good friends). An awkward few days of chatting with A. from Halifax. A month of getting to know M. from Summerside.
Each of these were connections facilitated, one way or the other, by this Internet. And each experience, each woman, taught me something. The “valuable learning experiences” weren’t always happy at the time. But they were learning experiences nonetheless.
Then, on the second day of December, I met L. On Bumble.
We chatted, tentatively at first, less-tentatively as we progressed. Novels worth as the weeks continued. And I realized that, AI robots aside, this Internet was allowing me to use words, words that I love, that are my lingua franca, to woo and be wooed.
A month has passed.
We are getting to know each more and more each day, connecting. Building ties. It’s kind of a miracle.
The Internet opened the door to that. And so I feel an extra dollop of pride for that.
It’s some pretty mad Meccano.
Happy New Year.