By Samia Madwar
Damn it, Google Streetview. You’re ruining the charm of distance and the fun of describing life up North.
Take my recent Facebook chat with my cousin in Damascus, Syria. We hadn’t spoken in some time, so to give him a quick update I told him to google Yellowknife to see where I now live.
“What on Earth brought you there?” he asked, incredulously. Or at least, he indicated incredulity with an emoticon.
“Check out uphere.ca,” I typed back, and he did. And that was all he needed to know. Within seconds, he’d found Up Here’s address on the website and, thanks to Google, he could see that the office shares a building with the Royal Bank. He could probably see the movie theatre too. From the other side of the globe, he had a snapshot of my new surroundings, and he didn’t need me to describe them for him.
That evening, I called my former roommate to tell her about my new digs. She typed in my address.
“Is your building light blue?” She asked. Pretty soon, I was giving her directions from my apartment to the office, and she could follow my daily commute with just a few clicks on Streetview.
Suddenly, Yellowknife wasn’t far away enough. Streetview was making my personal impressions of the place practically obsolete.
But then my roommate asked whether it was snowing. Streetview couldn’t tell her that – the images, I realized, were taken in the summer.
Google may try to bring the world to our screens. I know I streetviewed – is that a verb now? – downtown Yellowknife before I visited to get an idea of the place, and I was grateful for it at the time. But I didn’t fall in love with the Knife until I saw it in person and knew I’d feel right at home here.
So nice try, Streetview. You can only hint at the experience. You can’t replicate the delicious aroma of popcorn emanating from the movie theatre when I leave work every evening, the satisfying sound of snow crunching beneath my boots or the dark clouds overhead that I silently curse for blocking the Northern Lights. Nothing beats being here.