Cover Story: Are You Connected?

Learn how to breakdance and shop for slacks in Samoa, all while chomping chicken in your mama's kitchen watching Free Willy on the wayside. The Internet is more than a capability -- it's lifestyle.

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Learn how to breakdance and shop for slacks in Samoa, all while chomping chicken in your mama's kitchen watching Free Willy on the wayside. The Internet is more than a capability — it's lifestyle.

It's taking night classes in Taiwan while buying socks in Tibet.

A technological oxymoron, the Internet is global. It's universal.

You can close the gaps between destination and departure; let your fingers do the walking in the most literal sense. Through e-mail, instant messaging and chat, long-distance carriers are holding their breath and turning green with envy. But worry is stirring in other circles who wonder if non-verbal communication is becoming the numb lock of a nation.

Growing up, I didn't have the convenience of confidence. I had a TV and root beer upbringing.

The other kids would spend their summer down the block downing and end zoning while I ruffled through I Love Lucy and a lifetime of network syndications. I thought I was happy with my own company.

Then one day, the family ditched the old dot matrix printer and I was suddenly knee-deep in streaming Internet, connecting me to the rest of the world in a most unusual way.

I started connecting to people through instant messenger and even joined a pen pal site to which I am still a member. I traded staying up 'til 2 a.m. watching the TV Guide channel, for browsing and mingling the worldwide from the comfort of my fingertips.

I learned how to live through words. I learned to understand the ins and outs of conversation with people — what you can and can't say, what will make you laugh and what will make you uncomfortable. I learned the dynamics of discussion without leaving my chair.

There's a fear that we are becoming a closeted culture. That the world is coming so close we can't see it for what it is — real.

I know that without the Internet I might still be in my basement waiting for the world to come out and play.



ADAM BASS, 19, is a student at Northern Kentucky University.

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