There was a time, not too long ago, when having a computer marked you out as being one of the clever folk. In addition to the computer, you had a white coat, glasses and your own bunsen burner with a plaque your parents had made to commemorate when you built the dog its own robotic exoskeleton at the age of four.
Now, the way you know you've been eating enough oily fish is if you've got your own Large Hadron Collider. A computer? Not so much. Never mind that NASA made it to the moon and back with the same computing capacity as a Tamagotchi, that laptop you're fiddling with on the sofa may be capable of breaking into the Pentagon and redistributing a nation's IDs, but it is simpler to use than velcro Adidas. Steve Jobs has ensured that all you need to work a computer is a basic command of pretty much any language and you're good to go. You don't even need to be able to type any more, you can just bellow at it from face down in bed.
But while our computers have the capacity, we have not kept pace. A great number of our functional needs are now taken care of in one place - basic office antics, shopping, not having to go to a garage for porn - but we have not evolved at the same speed.
The clearest illustration of this is in the swirling vortexes of mindless rage caused all over social media by the likes of, say, Jeremy Clarkson.
Well, not so much caused by Clarkson, as caused by people who have a bit of a beef with his woolly-haired self, who then froth up those who like to listen to those with a bit of a beef, further aided by those who follow/like/are nearby on the Croydon tram from the beefy types. By this point, the beef is more gristle, but its effect is such that this meaty ripple is washing up on far-flung shores.
Now Lord knows not everyone has the resources that journalists have (although we do all have mobile phones and barely anyone has bothered to password protect them), but in the case of the apparently ongoing war on Clarkson, the feeling is amongst those with computers that it's enough to believe their fellow computer users and research be damned.
Witness the One Show debacle. Just in time for the public sector strikes, up pops Clarkson calling for the strikers to be shot in front of their families. Cue a maelstrom of righteous indignation sufficient enough to all but sweep the strikes from the news.
And yet the BBC resisted calls for him to be publicly flogged, releasing the transcript of the show instead, just in case, perhaps, not everyone complaining had seen the full thing. Or, as was apparent from reading it, seen it at all. It was clear that Clarkson was mocking the BBC's need to appear balanced, by presenting two contrasting viewpoints. And not just clear to someone with a PhD in hidden meanings, but clear to the most basic intelligence. The piece even ended with Clarkson saying: "They're not [my views]. I've just given two views for you."
Since then Clarkson has landed in various spots of non-bother, most recently over the Top Gear Christmas special, with the burning torch-lighting aided this time by MP Keith Vaz, a man who recognises a bandwagon when he sees one.
Still, I'm not going to ring in the New Year defending Clarkson. He's three times my height and I think he can look after himself. What concerns me is that the immediacy of social networking is allowing many, otherwise clear-headed individuals to be sucked into frenzies which, if we witnessed them outside our computers, would have us slapping each others' faces to ward off hysteria.
It's so exciting, after all, to be part of something. These are social networks and we're a social bunch. Communication is the backbone of civilisation. But as well all learned (again) this summer, just because something is printed, doesn't make it so. If it seems unlikely that a national broadcaster would celebrate Christmas by allowing one of its most high-profile broadcasters to launch a 90-minute racist attack on another country, then maybe it is. Or maybe you live in North Korea and that's par for the course. Either way commit the brain before you commit the fingers.
Follow Katherine Doggrell on Twitter: www.twitter.com/KDoggrell