Hanging Out With the In Crowd on

By Mary Sykes Wylie

July/August 2006

Some weeks ago, The New York Times reported on a group of Amazonian Indians--the Nukak-Maku--who wandered, nearly naked, out of the jungles into a small Colombian town and declared their intention of settling down there. The Nukak, the article said, had no last names, no concept of money, property, government, the future, or the existence of a country called "Colombia," the nation they inhabited. They were amazed by the buildings, streets, and paved roads. They wondered whether the planes they saw flying overhead were moving on some sort of invisible highway. "The Nukak don't know what they've gotten themselves into," said a physician who'd been working with them.

Like most adults who grew up before computers, I feel like the Nukak when confronted by the entire youth pop culture scene, particularly its cybernetic components. I know there are all these entities beginning with "I"--iPod, ICQ, iMac, IMing, iTunes, IRC--but I don't really know what they are, what they do, or how you use them, and I don't much care if I never find out. It's enough excitement for me just to be able to go online and listen right there at my own computer to Fresh Air, with Terry Gross. Actually, it was pretty exciting for me just to learn how to go online.

And then, there's I can't say that I hadn't heard of this site before (or its kinfolk,,, etc.) but I can't say I had, either. It sounded vaguely familiar, like a stray wisp of the…

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