Sometimes I wish the Internet didn’t exist.

Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to Internet and he’ll masturbate for a lifetime.

Information has never been more available, and it has never been more portable. We are living life On Demand right now. Socialization has given way to the Facebook, friendship to the blogroll, and appointment television to the Hulu. Our attention spans are shorter than ever, which is certainly aided by the fact that we don’t have to wait for anything.

With technology at our fingertips, what is there that’s really worth working toward? Why craft a funny joke when a funnier video is on YouTube? Why write the Great American Novel–or at least a well-crafted short story–when we can just blog? And for that matter, why spend all that time blogging when we can Twitter in 140 characters or less? Why read a book when Google Reader currently has 219 unread items? Why savor an entire album when it’s so damn easy to make a mix of our favorite singles, or to click a button and buy just one cheap song (automatically billed to our credit cards, of course)? And why bother to learn an instrument when it’s easier, quicker, and, frequently, more rewarding to play Rock Band?

If we want to play a game, it’s easy to do so without ever socializing or seeing our opponent’s face. Video games, which once required a friend to sit next to us, are hooked up to the Internet, where twenty faceless foes are more than willing to blow our heads clean-off with a plasma cannon. Instead of playing tackle football in the backyard, we can play Madden. Even board games and card games are played more against computers than with actual people these days.

I feel like I’ve never been closer to people in my life. I know more about one of my best friends, Chris, for instance, than I ever have before. I know who all of his other friends are. I know when he goes to a party. I Facebook him and I MySpace him and I read his blog and I follow his DeviantArt and I watch his YouTube videos. I have seen Chris maybe five times in as many years. There’s a growing social distance between me and everyone I know. My family and I live in the same house at the moment, yet we hardly talk (although my mom sent me a “piece of flair” on Facebook the other week). Why don’t we talk? Because we are all on our own individual computers all evening.

I feel like I can attribute a large part of my depression to technology–or to my obsession with technology: my need to keep up with the latest crazes; to read all “my sites” that provide information useless to my daily life; to update all my social networking pages so that others can keep track of my latest favorite-band-ever or bad haircut. I work, I go to the gym, I come home, and I compute. I compute in the kitchen while I’m cooking. I compute in the den while I’m watching television. I compute in my bedroom while I’m going to sleep. I compute in the bathroom while I…well, you know.

I read a book recently (my first in a year, by the way) called “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan. The book is one of the key works on the food blogger’s bookshelf, and I won’t belabor anything by reviewing or pontificating on any of the author’s key points. However, I was perhaps most moved by the idea that this guy throws dinner parties. Imagine! Social functions! You don’t have to eat food in front of a computer. You can even–shock–eat the same food as the others around you (which I’m finding one of life’s smaller joys now that I’m trying to break free of this eating disorder business), engaging in conversation all the while. My technophilia has grown into a sort of social phobia, and it’s just another small tick-mark that I’ll need to erase in order to become a fully functioning robo-human once again.

I was also pleased to find, in Pollan’s book, the origin of the phrase “corn hole.”

I’m done typing now. Just plain finished, at least for this nonsequiter entry. I’m Andy Rooney, and I’ll see you next week on 60 Minutes.

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7 Responses to “Sometimes I wish the Internet didn’t exist.”

  1. Hm. I’ll be in Philly next month. We should play Boggle.

  2. I know what you mean but maybe that is more about addictive personalities than the internet? Webber will sit on his computer all weekend if we let him but I can only stand it for a wee while. Perhaps if you lived before the internet you would be obsessed with whatever ye olde timey people did? Like watch fixing? Cobbling and millinery? Anyway you should deffo have a dinner party, people are always so impressed! I got some good recipes if you need ’em!

  3. Take it back!! (He didn’t mean it internet gods…) LOL. I am definitely a certified internet addict but I don’t think its a bad thing. Actually I think I am more informed with the internet than without. I can connect with more ppl sitting in my office than going to a social gathering. I guess even though it does hog my book reading time the perks outweigh the costs for me. Heck how would I have “met” you without it right?
    /Clara

  4. This is a really good post. It’s nice to see that people still value the craft of combining sarcasm and intellect. Sometimes I have a hard time distinguishing between the two. I was told NOT to read that book on the grounds that it will make me never want to eat anything. Is this true? I’m highly influencable. I might be worse than you, though, because I compute in all the places you mentioned (except the bathroom–I’m a lady) AND I don’t have a job so I can compute all day on my kitchen computer AND I have an iPhone so I compute in the grocery store, at red lights, during the less acrobatic forms of sexual activity, etc. Oh, and my gym has a computer room so I can quickly write email responses to the emails I’ve read while I’m on the treadmill. This is terrifying to me.

  5. I get to feeling the same way about the Internet, but I think it’s important to remember that even in the greatest magic bullet, there’s a challenge. So our challenge is to read more, open our minds more, work ourselves more. And when you think about it that way, you see the liberation. So it’s an opportunity. And believe me, I’m a book editor. Five years ago, I was swearing “That internet thing is going to just be a fad. People LOVE books – they won’t want to read them on their computers!!!” We just have to adapt and figure out how we’re going to be better at the end of the day. And, to some extent, that means logging off…

    Good post.

  6. I can relate to so much of what you say in this post. I can be a natural loner-plus I have an urge for industriousness, so it’s easy for me to stick my head behind a computer and work my life away. Still, I have kids and they force me out of doors and into real sunshine, and I’m always glad when I’m done.
    I read the OD book and it had so many good points. Makes you really think about the complicated way in which we live and long for simpler times. Hope you find some balance your way..

  7. My husband and I occasionally declare “Technology Free Weekends” for this very reason. And although we’ve talked about having a dinner party, we haven’t gone through with it.

    Imagine — real contact vs. brief, passing updates. I could even live-blog the experience.

    Oh wait…

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