Sick on the Internet
I am writing this sick and just getting over a flu that I am once again blaming on my hometown because it’s the one crutch that never fails to hold me up.
But the sickness of the internet is a bit different. We all now carry glass boxes in our pockets containing a few social media apps that many of us are absolutely incapable of pulling ourselves away from. Whether it be videos on YouTube, videos on TikTok, photos on Instagram, or tweets on Twitter and its many competitive apps, we’re just wasting our lives on these pocket computers.
Of course, we (not everyone, if this isn’t you it’s okay, you don’t have to tell me) also wasted our times on actual computers and laptops prior to social media on message boards and chatrooms and instant messengers. I once had a friend tell me it was easier to talk to me over an instant messenger than it was to talk to me in person. How does someone process that? Am I a different person online? Am I just nicer? Easier to speak to? Better at formulating my thoughts? Or am I just annoying to look at so it’s easier to have this virtual confession booth separating us? Who knows. He told me that back in high school. Still bugs me.
Even prior to that, people still had things we deeply engrossed ourselves in that we would be told we were wasting our lives on. Whether it be the movies, TV shows, videogames, books, plays, phone calls, phone party lines, writing letters to pen pals, going to social clubs, society has always found ways for us to drain the hours of the hourglass of our lives and there’s always someone to tell us we’re wasting time and doing too much of it. Sometimes they are right. Sometimes it’s just like fuck off buddy leave me alone.
I know I spend too much time online and I’ve had to do a lot of things to keep myself from doing it. After 10 years of medication, my ADHD is just too strong to grasp its claws into the most mundane and wasteful conversations on Discord or Twitter that I can’t pull myself away from until I absolutely exhaust the small dopamine that conversation provided me. I need to make my point. I need to see it throughout its end. Often I’ll drop a tweet and see, “Oh it’s doing numbers” and then find myself randomly checking Twitter to update and see if the number went up and see who is quote tweeting me to either agree or call me an asshole.
I have timers on my phone that are supposed to stop me from using social media apps before bed and after I wake up. They rarely work. I just flip them off. I try to set timers for scheduling things, I build spreadsheet calendars to track my schedule, and it’s all nice and pretty when I make them but they barely get used or followed. Internet addiction is a real thing for me and I’m usually losing against it. I’ll probably be losing to it in a retirement home one day. Ha ha. Retirement.
I’m usually losing against it because even though I’ve spent myself engrossed in the internet for over 20 years now, I still enjoy it? I enjoy the conversations. I enjoy the people. I enjoy the little worlds I’ve involved myself in. I like being able to look things up. I like being able to research, to learn, to laugh. I still use the internet to find things, which is unfortunately getting more and more difficult due to the AI stuff every Silicon Valley company has immersed themselves in despite having no through line to what actually it’s going to accomplish. It’s certainly not making anything easier. It’s not even making commerce easier to sell. It’s just making anything worse. But even knowing that? I still find ways to be entertained by the world wide web. For all that the internet hurts, I still get satisfaction out of it every day. That’s why it’s harder to quit than say the radio.
What can be interesting to me lately is how everyone is trying to figure out the right or wrong way to use social media. Sometimes honesty is good, healthy, makes you a better person to read and follow. Sometimes honesty means you’re TOO ONLINE and you need to back up. Get off the App and TOUCH GRASS. This tends to be based on how important you are online. If you run a company and you try to express yourself chances are people are going to yell at you for it. If you’re just some blogger or influencer or you run a podcast people say they listen to but can’t recap for even a minute, you tend to get the warm hug of online acceptance for your honesty.
People have also been trying to use the internet as a way to make statements, especially at a time when much of the world is at war and there’s an expectation for us to make a statement. I generally agree with this but I’ve found lately that making a statement is now harder than ever. There’s so much unverified information getting pumped into the social media pipelines, now with video that’s incorrectly dated, modified, edited, photos doctored, edited, or even artificially created, there’s a fear now of making a statement on something that isn’t true, or at the very least, manipulated to look worse than it was.
I have tried to stay clear of the many global conflicts currently going on, not because I don’t have an opinion, but because I’m just apprehensive of how much the narrative shifts on them. I watch as friends of mine either keep to one stance in a situation and refuse to budge on it, or they bounce back and forth based on information they read, and I just feel like it’s better to sometimes keep it to myself. And maybe that’s an example of the sickness of the internet not affecting me like it used to. I am so glad most of my old accounts are scrubbed or at least in the deep web. I was a dumb kid. I was a dumb young adult. It’s good to formulate an opinion on everything but I’m learning more and more you don’t have to say everything you feel. Or maybe the sickness is so much I don’t even feel comfortable to express myself anymore.
Even when you finally form a concrete stance on something going on, that doesn’t mean it has to go online. You don’t have to argue within the muck and mire. There’s a feeling of empowerment that comes with going online and expressing your opinion against others, and seeing popular accounts express their takes and countering them. It feels like you’re saying something to the world instead of just in your room, like it really means something. I don’t know if it does. I don’t know if it ever has. I understand the feeling you get when you get it off your chest, it can be satisfying. There’s a catharsis, and a hope that maybe the words impact someone else to change their stance to yours. Sometimes it absolutely does. But we too often think it always does. And it doesn’t always.
I sometimes yearn for the days of when I was a dumb as fuck teenager or in my 20s writing blogs that people would read and just say nice things about and walk away. The constant bickering online has worn me down. I don’t want to have to defend or debate every little thought I spit out. But I am also fully aware that’s the social media contract. If people can read what you say, they can reply to what you say. There’s times I just want to shoot the shit and say things that are funny to me. I feel like doing that more often than not. It’s less about whether my statement is honest and more about if it entertained me. And I get that can annoy people talking to me whose intention is to hear the truth, and hear your arguable stance, and not just what you want to say for a cackle. But I want the cackle.
So now I’m in this double knot of wanting to avoid saying anything important about major stories going on in the world but I also want to just be free to speak without a debate. I’m completely aware this is me wanting to be an asshole without consequences. It’s the burn out speaking more than anything. I don’t want this all of the time. Just sometimes. Let me cast a spell on certain things I say with protection from, I don’t know, consequence? No, maybe just protection from elaboration. Let me say things without having to elaborate on it. Let me shoot the shit.
Sigh. Privileged nonsense.
I’m getting over the flu, I’m in that death rattle stage where my throat hurts and my left nostril is only 75% clear and I still have weird green stuff coming up from my throat and I feel better but I don’t feel normal. The fever feels gone from my forehead but it’s still a little too warm. I’m currently fighting the urge to hit the gym because I feel like I’m good enough to work out without people feeling like I just got everyone sick, but maybe I am going to get everyone sick and I should just stay home? But I also have spent way too much time at home this week and I just want some fresh air and to go somewhere.
In other words, I am in a perfect situation to be lured by the loving claws of the internet, the addiction I cannot shake. Better to just stay home and eat some soup while scrolling an endless march of doom and cute cats and bad takes and trying to police other people for their internet addictions because bro you need to chill you’re going too far what about me this isn’t about me don’t talk about me I am baby. Was there a point to this? Not really. I should get some warmer socks on.
Photo is from my trip to Half Moon Bay near San Francisco, California on June 19, 2023. Say hi to bird.