Stay your torches and pitchforks my friends. Please, hear me out.
Something’s changed in me. And no, I don’t mean that I’m turning into some gray-haired old guy still struggling to understand this newfangled series of tubes known as the Internet (and what do we call the netting inside of swim trunks now?)
This is about me. But not in a narcissistic way. More in an “I’m calling you (me) out” kind of way.
I can’t focus anymore thanks to the Internet. Looking back on my life, so many things were analog growing up. I read the phone book. I read the TV Guide to see when any show I liked was on, I actually walked outside to see if it felt nice.
Now we’re in the days of Amazon Prime which will deliver everything save illicit drugs and prostitutes to your door within two days (and Craigslist can handle the rest). Instead of driving to the video rental store, we have Netflix and Hulu (and, yes, Amazon Prime, but I’m trying to not draw attention to the fact that I have to repeat it here).
Bookstores are going extinct, too. Don’t get me wrong here, I love my Kindle, and self-publishing is in its golden age. But the bemusement of walking into a bookstore and going, “Okay, how the hell am I going to make a choice out of all these thousands of books?” is gone. Now, you can go online and have the books that you want recommended to you based on algorithms that know everything you’ve ever Bing’d, Googled, or asked Jeeves. And in a way, that’s a good thing. In others, it’s turned me into a drooling, idle mouse-clicker, saying, “Sure you have my credit card saved, so all you need is my security code? I can remember three numbers. Here you go, take my money, give me digital goods.”
If I haven’t already turned you off by sounding like a… how did I put it? gray-haired old guy still struggling to understand this newfangled series of tubes known as the Internet, then I promise you, here is the turning point.
I used to be a better writer.
By that, I mean I was a more prolific writer. I had a project I wanted to write, and I wrote it. There was no “One more Youtube video and then I swear I’ll write” going on. Okay, there was a little of that. But for the most part, in my first apartment in a new town, I had no Netflix, no cable, only average-speed Internet (for 2007) and a mid-end computer incapable of running Crysis (the most resource-intensive game at the time as I recall).
I also had a Wii and a PlayStation. I beat Final Fantasy VII for the first time in that apartment. That was nice. I also became addicted to Guitar Hero and had to sell it just to kick the habit. And I’m being serious about that. It was shameful.
But in general, I got bored a lot. My dad recently reminded me that “the more things you own, the more things own you.” And that’s absolutely right. I think even digital goods play into that. A look at my Steam games list will show you a ton of games I bought but have never played, and more that I bought and have played for less than an hour. All because I got them on sale. Somehow it weighs on me to have all these games that I don’t play, like it’s my duty to play them or something. Maybe there will come a day with Steam that I’ll be able to give games away to people, and I’ll take advantage of that. If they were physical games, I could have sold them, gotten rid of them, wiped my hands clean of them. But for now, they’re my problem.
I used to find it easier to focus. I wrote novels so much more easily. I always felt like I had the time. I still do, in fact, but I just don’t use it. I waste it. All because there’s such a feeling of immediacy nowadays. Wanna know the weather? Walking outside’s too much effort, so just Google it.
There’s such an information overload coming at me now. And that’s both good and bad. It’s easy to find things to look at, read, or watch, but harder to sort out what’s worthwhile there. My time on the Internet used to be much more targeted. I logged on because I wanted to know something. Now I log on because… well, the fact that I lost my train of thought there just speaks for itself, doesn’t it? I don’t know why I get online all the time now. I idly scroll through Facebook to pass the time. It got so bad, in fact, that I removed the bookmark from my browser.
What is this all driving at? Well, mostly, it’s just a better use of my time than browsing the Internet. But I’m lamenting what I was before the Internet. Okay, not before the Internet, but before what we have now. We used to think it would be great to have all the information in the world at our fingertips. Now we know that we can’t trust all that information. Now we know that people trick us into clicking on things and buying their shit because they know what we like because they’ve seen where we’ve been. Now we lounge around seeing the world from our desk chairs or couches or beds, even “meet” people from other continents.
It’s interesting to look at certain TV shows from different times. Sitcoms are better snapshots of history than Of Mice and Men. In How I Met Your Mother, there’s a bit that references how arguments have changed. Before smartphones, an argument could go on and on; but with smartphones, you can solve any dispute in seconds. Hell, sure, conflict is generally bad. But those arguments of yore are almost nostalgic now. That was when you really got to know people. If you had a film buff friend with you, you would know what other movies “that guy” has been in. Now, everyone’s film buff friend is Siri. Even just go so far back as Friends and you’ll see payphones as an integral part of American life.
I’m not trying to bring up some superior temporocentrist view. I’m only twenty-seven after all. Technically that makes me a millennial. I don’t miss the inconveniences of the past.
What I miss is what I was. I was part of an online writing community, and that was where I spent most of my online time. Facebook and Twitter both bored the hell out of me, so when nothing was happening on that writing site, I was either working my way through Final Fantasy or writing my novel. Things were simpler. And I know that’s in line with the gray-haired line but it’s true. Technology’s a monster, and I don’t hate it in general. I just hate how it’s changed me.
Assuming the urge to blog I’m feeling right now keeps up, I’m sure I’ll tell you how I plan to rectify this soon.
I guess that makes me part of the problem… But at least I’m still just a niche.