Home Sweet Homepage

Why surf the Web when you can live there?

Family on the Internet
The Internet seems to be the place to be, no matter how bad the smell or low the water pressure, so I guess we're here to stay. Eric Palma

Last month our family made the big move. We migrated to the Internet. For many years, we rented an apartment in Queens, New York. But everyone we knew moved to online communities and our neighborhood changed.

It's a pretty long trip to the World Wide Web, about a three-day drive. Somewhere between Newark and Camden, my wife started pleading with me to turn back, saying it was too soon for our family to go digital. Would the Internet have enough room for all four of us? How safe was the water? Where would we store our linens? Luckily, our son talked his mother down off that particular ledge. He had visited friends who had already made the move. They had nice places, he told her, complete with backyards, and seemed quite happy. He also reminded her of what the real estate agent had told us about the Internet's good schools, low property taxes and charming downtown with cute boutiques. Besides, my company promised to pick up our relocation expenses.

Of course we'd seen this coming. The old bricks-and-mortar economic model no longer provided our family with a competitive advantage. Our apartment skewed too old, inadequate to serve our target audiences, particularly our kids, both teenagers and big believers in 24/7 interactivity. Oh, sure, we considered re-engineering the apartment: narrowing it to cut electrical and heating costs, getting rid of a bedroom to make us more nimble, and shifting one of our children to part-time status. But we quickly realized that such measures would merely be stopgaps against the inevitable seismic shift taking place the world over.

As we approached the Web's main portal, I caught sight of all the Microsoft and Apple logos and my heart swelled with hope for our future. Soon we passed through customs, got our vaccinations and our green cards. We've lived in cyberspace only 14 weeks so far, but already we just love it here. It's much more spacious than any of us expected, with his and hers blogs in the master bathroom, wikis in all the bedrooms, a microwave oven that picks up YouTube and hyperlinks for FreshDirect in the basement. There are even search engine optimization capabilities in the sunroom, and a private security patrol protects our streets against pop-up ads.

The only problem, we find, is the odor. No sense mincing words here: the Internet smells funny, somewhat like baby vomit. It might come from all the spam that comes through, or the occasional computer virus, or the tendency of the toilets to get backed up. We've complained to our real estate agent and he has promised to ask his IT guy to check it out. Oh, and sometimes our hard drive crashes, hurtling our family back to a hard-copy existence—until our superintendent reboots it. Still, the Internet seems to be the place to be, no matter how bad the smell or low the water pressure, so I guess we're here to stay.

Sure, I sometimes miss the actual physical universe, its tactility and all. But take my word for it: you get used to life's little intangibles. And our new home is already delivering optimal metrics. The number of unique monthly visitors we get is growing by leaps and bounds. We're drawing as many click-throughs as any family on the block. Even the advertising dollars have finally started trickling in.

Most important, the move to the Internet has brought our family closer together, though that may be because none of us has yet figured out how to navigate around here, and we have no other place to go.

Bob Brody, an executive and essayist, lives in New York City.

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