Published in December 1995 issue of Prospect Magazine
Stephen Fry reveals in the Daily Telegraph how the Internet “saved his soul.” I suppose I should not be surprised to hear that spiritual salvation can now come from cyberspace. After all, the Vatican is planning to train a special group of priests to deal with the conversion of extra-terrestrial beings.
Still, the Fry case is worth looking at a little more closely. As we all know, following his very public desertion of the West End stage, he felt he needed to get away for a while to work out a few things. I suppose we have all felt like that from time-to-time, but Fry did not want to cut himself off entirely and cause further worry to his loved ones.
Step forward the e-mail system, still the most common use of the Internet. Fry pointed out that having to telephone and explain things involves you immediately in re-living all the angst you were trying to get away from. Conventional post is not any good because if the postman can find you then so can the News of the World. Then you are back where you started from. Faxes are traceable too. Only e-mail offers the possibility of complete geographical anonymity, for good or-no doubt occasionally-ill.
The Internet as an aid to therapy or self discovery is yet another example of the doctrine of unintended consequences. Fry also notes that, far from killing off the art of letter writing, e-mail is forcing people to write again, leading to a revival of that creative art.
Regular readers of The Net Position might have detected a sceptical attitude towards the brave new digital order. But just occasionally something comes along which cleanses the jaded palate and reminds us all what can be achieved if the right people and the right resources are put together. The fact that the midwife in this case was the Millennium commission and the principal benefactor the national lottery adds a certain piquancy. I refer to the recent announcement by the Millennium commission that it…