Living in the Internet Age

July 31, 2008

Preface. This entry, and a few of the subsequent entries, will be in 2nd person. That is, me talking to myself. This happens to be how I think through things typically (I rarely use the 1st person, and even more rarely use the 3rd person). So, I’m not talking about YOU, I’m talking about ME. But it’s just easier for me to just transcribe my thoughts rather than transpose them into the 1st person. Forgive me. That being said, I do feel that this phenomena goes well beyond just me. In fact, I seem to see it popping up over and over again in my generation, at least through observations of the constant complaints of ‘boredom’ that show up on Facebook feeds, AIM away messages, etc. This, as well as the phenomena that even as our nation becomes more wealthy, our populations become less happy, interests me. So, here I examine myself, and hopefully in the process, exam the collective mind of my generation.

The problem: complete acquiescence to the modern information economy.

What does that mean? Back, long long ago (in, like, 9th grade), the internet was a relatively sparse place, so you basically only ever went to Macworld and IMGgames. You didn’t ever check your e-mail. The web was neat, but it wasn’t interesting enough to be all consuming.

What was all-consuming, then? You had to spend all those hours doing something. IIRC (if I recall correctly), those hours were spent mostly reading or playing games or talking on AIM. (All three activities I will argue are far more valuable than how you spend your time now).

Flash forward six years. What is all-consuming now? That’s easy: the internet. The internet in all its myriad forms: e-mail, Facebook, blogs, fake AIM, Wikipedia, etc. As you can see, the internet has REALLY grown up a great deal in the past six years. But you’ve ‘grown up’ along with it. By grown up, I largely mean had a symbiotic (perhaps parasitic?) relationship with the internet all this time.

And what does that mean? Well, if the internet has become all-consuming, it must have consumed the original trio of activities (reading, gaming, and IMing). Put another way, if you’re doing the ‘internet’ you’re not doing anything else.

But ‘expand’ on that. What does ‘doing’ the internet 24/7 really mean? How does it effect you and how do those effects carry on into your life at large?

Well, using the internet can be defined in several ways: hit-or-miss, piecemeal, sugary, non-filling, flashy, instantly gratifying, and of course addictive. Though it’s never so much that you go through withdrawal when you’re away from the internet (really and truly away, as in nowhere near your computer-away). You can do just fine when left to your own devices. But put you in a room with a computer (especially ‘your’ computer [or are you its human?]), and you immediately feel drawn to it. As I said, you’ve developed a symbiotic attachment to this tiny machine: you give it attention and it pushes the pleasure buttons in your brain. Not such a bad deal.

Or so it seems. What do you miss out on as a result of constantly using the computer as the ‘go-to guy’ when the initial pangs of boredom first hit? You lose depth. You probably also lose span. You lose repetition, exposure, and contemplation. You lose self-control, volition, and the chance to exercise your will. Largely, you lose all the things that make humans human and not non-human animals.

To be continued. This post easily ‘expands’ into several other more or less self-contained posts, all subtitled ‘LIA,’ so rather than write one giant post, I’ll write several shorter serial posts (and by several, I mean at least two more).

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