In 2006, I got a computer in my bedroom because I was going to community college and needed it to type papers and do research. That was when I really got to know the Internet. Before having a computer in my room, I got online only long enough to check email and maybe play a couple rounds of a game.
Now that the computer was always there, the entire online world was opened. Honestly, it was terrible. I never quite fit in on the Internet; on forums, I could never read sarcasm. I made the heinous mistake of mentioning religion among a group of people who were clearly not religious. I never could figure out how to argue online (which is not really arguing at all; he whose mind is most open is the winner [subject of another post]). When chatting with friends via MySpace, and later, Facebook, I felt awkward because I never knew how long was too long to be talking or what things to say because there were no cues. I became somewhat of a stalker on those sites; I lurked but never said a word. I cut myself out of those sites and others like them and never looked back.
One time, I ran into some porn. I forget how it happened, or what I had been searching for that turned up such a result. The minute-long sight of it scared me. On the Internet, you are always only two steps (clicks) away from discovering something that, to use Internet terminology, you “cannot unsee.” I feel bad for young kids, ages 9 and 10 and possibly even younger, who see that stuff and become consumed by it. It’s a pox on humanity.
On the more positive side, funny times were spent looking at memes and watching stupid videos on YouTube and scrolling through song lyric sites and successfully posting on a few forums. To be fair, I’ve probably had more good times than bad online.
The pitfall of it is, if you are online long enough, you start to speak that language. You become consumed by the need to be in the center of that bubble of constant stimuli. You constantly check your phone for updates and type meaningless words on forums and reblog pseudo-academic nonsense on Tumblr and read political rantings from people who have become as unhinged as you are. You post pictures of yourself and the food you eat and the stuff you buy on Instagram. You keep a blog. If you’re witty enough or post a funny-enough meme, then you (again, using online parlance) “win the Internet.”
I don’t want to win the Internet. I am not the Internet. Yes, I do post on the Internet. Hell, the Internet even enabled me to meet my husband. But I’m not going to let it consume me. I am a human being with a soul and not something ephemeral that will disappear. All of the Internet is ephemeral. It’s like the world but not the world, because it passes away even faster.
As useful a tool that the Internet is, it is only that, a tool. To become one with the Internet and to spend all one’s time on the Internet scrolling and trolling and looking for something is not an achievement to be proud of. Think about it. Your most memorable moments are those found in real life, among friends and family, not in front of a computer screen. Don’t let it consume you.