"We need to talk."
I walk into the apartment slowly, assessing the scene. The tone of the voice is serious, wary. Expecting a struggle. For just a moment, I consider turning on my heel and making my escape. It's still happy hour.
The moment passes. "Okay."
Bag down, jacket off, but I keep my shoes on. It's easier to make a dramatic exit when you don't have to tie your laces. I take stock of the situation: The dishwasher is running, the kitchen is clean. One lamp on beside the couch, music playing in the bedroom. But we're alone. Or as alone as one can be with the Internet.
"Sit down." Gesturing to a spot on the couch. The faces flicker, scramble, a pale-faced male in a Mastodon shirt one moment, a brunette with streaks in her hair the next. Like A Scanner Darkly. Each flash seems familiar for a brief moment, like a friend or someone whose thread topic made you chuckle during a long work day, then melt into a personality of a stranger, in an unsettling display of anonymity. You think you know them, but you probably don't.
"What's wrong?" I ask. "Did I do something wrong? Did I double-post?"
The images continue to blur and change, but they all look disapproving and a bit sad. "We're concerned. All you ever talk about is your iPhone and its silly little games. We think you're becoming an elitist — a … a digirati." The Internet says.
Without thinking, I reply. "Well, yeah."
"This isn't funny," says The Internet. "This is serious. Ever since you got your iPhone, you've been kind of a jerk. All you talk about anymore is how great it is, how fun the games are. And it's not even that you're wrong — which you are — but that you're so smug about it."
"There's nothing wrong with the iPhone," I say, louder than I intended. Without thinking, I pull the device out of my pants pocket and flip it from horizontal to vertical and back. "Look, it flips the screen around. That's cool!"
The Internet, all at once, rolls its eyes. "Yes, yes. We know. That's like the fifth time you've shown us that. But we like games, Cory. We want to play a real game." A tanned, young face flickers across for a brief moment, eyes wide, accentuating the point.
My head tilts slightly, puzzled. "But there are real games. Didn't you hear me talking about Galcon a few months ago? That was on the PC first, and it's so much better on the iPhone." A couple taps on the screen and the theme music is playing. "Look, it's got multiplayer!"
The Internet sighs collectively — the sound of thousands of networked, anonymous users dismissing my enthusiasm — and rises from the couch. They walk across the hardwood floor to the kitchen and open the refrigerator, flashes of long, alluring legs and swaying hips. I watch, dumbfounded, and ponder for a second how The Internet always seems more attractive the further you are away from it. They turn, a beer in their hand, and consider me from afar.
"What happened with you and the DS? You used to love that thing, and those are full-fledged games." The faces change again, animated eyes and a shocking swoop of blue hair. "Remember Phoenix Wright? All the funny dialog? You spent hours with that series. You used to talk about it all the time, remember?"
"Well, yeah. But that was years ago." I glance at the shelf, at the rows of games and movies that I once cherished, but now serve only to fill heavy boxes when I move, or take up space in the increasingly tiny living quarters I can afford. "There's been a bunch of really great games. New Super Mario Bros., Elite Beat Agents, that game where you draw the lines and the cream puff dude runs across."
They go blank a second, no faces, no sounds. A formless, unreadable shadow. Searching. "Kirby: Canvas Curse." The faces return, in triumph.
"Uh, yeah." I hate it when they do that. "But they don't make those anymore. It's all Sudoku clones and educational junk. Shovelware. Brain Age 12: The Wrath Of Khan."
"That's just because there's a lot of titles available." Their voices get louder, their faces paler. I've made a point they don't like. "There are still more, better games on the DS. What about RPGs, huh?" Here it comes. "You can play those for HOURS. You got any of that on your FANCY APPLE PHONE?"
And there it is. Every argument with them ends this way, in upper-cased fury. I take a calming breath.
"Listen, if it really bothers you--"
A phone rings. "Hang on." They reach into their pocket and pull out a Motorola RAZR. "I've gotta take this."
"Wait a minute!" I jump to my feet, the realization hitting me like a wave across the bough. Now my voice is the one raising. "Is that what this is about? You're just pissed I've got a better phone than you!"
"Well, maybe if you didn't talk about it all the time!"
"Look, it's really not a big deal. I never said the DS sucks. I don't think the PSP is terrible. I’m not passing some sort of judgment on you. Obviously I find some sort of value out of the software I'm getting on this thing, but it's not like I'm right and you're wrong."
A bright flash. This must pass as relief for the anonymous masses.
"Why don't we do this: I'll take a much more serious look at the games I decide to rant about on the iPhone. I won't bother you about two-minute time wasters like Uno or iBowl or whatever. But when I find something I think holds some serious value, I'm going to tell you about it. Shout it from the rooftops. Because if it's really good, you'll want to know."
The images cycle, the boy who never logs out of WoW, the mother who plays Peggle while her newborn naps, the guy in the cubicle who wants to close the spreadsheet so he can play Call of Duty with his friends at home. They all consider my words and, I think, realize that I'm trying to be genuine. They don't all agree, but they don't fight back.
A silence falls over the apartment. The tension in the air dissipates. Something has been decided, something changed. Between us — the Internet and me — we try to get back to our decided levels of normalcy.
"Hey," the Internet asks, "wanna see this great cat video I found?"