Thought Catalog
May 31, 2011

I'm Having Problems With The Internet

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What is the issue?

Safari and I browse g4tv.com—both a little bored and unsure why we’re there, mostly just glad to be doing something together—when I click something accidentally. With the amount of conviction one would use to order a sandwich, Safari reflexively blurts “Object reference not set to an instance of an object.” We look at each other and grin and I click “OK,” knowing we’ll probably joke about this in the future.

Safari senses something obscurely problematic happened between us (maybe around the time we looked at my Google Calendar) but is honestly uncertain of what. It doesn’t remember “malfunctioning” and knows if it were alone it would have no reason to look at my Google Calendar, so it thinks I’m probably responsible for this. Even though it’s having some difficulty, Safari suggests we continue looking at Google Calendar “anyways”—a word I’d never expect it to use, which challenges my perceptions of Safari in an exciting way. There are things to be discovered about each other, more interesting areas of focus than this silly Google Calendar miscommunication.

Loving Safari has a minor panic attack on my behalf. It knows I will inevitably make a choice that sadly might not be influenced by its very real concerns about “this page.” I’m actually little bothered by how much Safari cares about a choice I’m making that has nothing to do with it. I close pages all of the time. I’ve closed many pages with other browsers, sometimes multiple pages at once. Safari’s repeating “Your message has not been sent” sounds condescending. Of course I know the message has not been sent. I don’t care about not sending it. This is a minor event in my life. However, since this seems to matter significantly more to Safari than it does to me, and I like Safari and don’t want to risk hurting its feelings, I agree to take a second look at my page before I close it.

Months in the future, irritated Safari can already sense I’m still going to close all 6 tabs at once, which is perhaps why it feels compelled to ask a question designed to remind me I’ve done this before followed by a vaguely sarcastic offering to “not warn” me when it sees I’m about to do it again, insinuating that if I choose to close these 6 tabs now we’re going to enter yet another serious discussion about how closing multiple tabs at once isn’t “wrong” or “bad” but “different” (regardless of what word is used, it is implied Safari thinks it knows more functional and therefore “better” ways for me to use the internet). After 56 minutes of maneuvering it into saying something like “I don’t like this about you, I think I really just want you to be a different person” (I will maybe never know why I want it to say this to me, though I have a troubling suspicion it’s because when given the opportunity, I’d rather feel bad than bored or compliant), Safari will admit that yes, it doesn’t like that I want to close 6 tabs at once, and add that if I want to continue using this browser in the future I should view choosing to not close 6 tabs at once as something I “want” to do, not something I’m “forced” to do. This statement quiets both of us for a moment which allows me to acknowledge that throughout this entire discussion, some ignored part of myself has been perceiving the ethereal silhouette of my Twitter background—one of the 6 windows I have been “closing all at once” ever since I started using the internet—as a result of Safari’s compelling, modern, imaginative transparency settings which are part of why I wanted to use this browser in the first place.

Sometimes I indulge in memories of Firefox, my previous browser, who seems to have reacted less judgmentally (i.e. not even noting that there were “6 tabs to be closed” or whatever) to me in similar circumstances. I currently don’t know if this means Safari pays more attention to details about me and so maybe wants to be closer to me than Firefox did, or if Firefox and I were more compatible because we didn’t view our differences as things to be changed about each other. I think I honestly prefer closing windows without prompt.

Safari knows we are familiar with each other to the extent that nearly all our behaviors can be anticipated. It also knows neither of us want to upset the other, though existing in separate consciousnesses means we are condemned to want different things at different times. Flustered after quitting despite its awareness of my preference for reliable, non-spontaneously quitting browser, it offers that this was “unexpected” followed by the glaringly redundant “Click Reopen to open the application again,” a calm description of what we both know my three options are (though by spacing “Ignore” considerably further from the others, showing me what it wants me to do), and a rarely-seen, bright lavender question mark symbol which, if clicked, will display a confused, comically archaic explanation of its cognitions during “quitting.” Safari thinks convincing me it was a by-stander to itself in this instance appeals to our shared belief that although predictable, every moment is fundamentally different from the one preceding it, so it’s theoretically possible to view anything as “unexpectedly” happening and therefore all actions can be perceived as forgivable products of the victims of an ever-changing universe. I can either click “Ignore” and shift my focus to Safari’s positive qualities, escalate this to a “Force Quit” situation, restart my computer, or eventually download a different browser—all of these choices seem forebodingly limiting as they are not exclusive to my relationship with Safari. I will make variations of these choices with any browser for the rest of my internet-using life. TC mark

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