What the Internet Did to Me

Sad As Hell is  ostensibly a book review for Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story, Alice Gregory writes an essay that finally captures what I’ve felt around the edges of my daily life for the last few years.

I have the sensation, as do my friends, that to function as a proficient human, you must both “keep up” with the internet and pursue more serious, analog interests. I blog about real life; I talk about the internet. It’s so exhausting to exist on both registers, especially while holding down a job. It feels like tedious work to be merely conversationally competent. I make myself schedules, breaking down my commute to its most elemental parts and assigning each leg of my journey something different to absorb: podcast, Instapaper article, real novel of real worth, real magazine of dubious worth. I’m pretty tired by the time I get to work at 9 AM.

This was my exact commute to Aruba. From Shteyngart:

“With each post, each tap of the screen, each drag and click,” he confesses, “I am becoming a different person—solitary where I was once gregarious; a content provider where I at least once imagined myself an artist; nervous and constantly updated where I once knew the world through sleepy, half-shut eyes . . . With each passing year, scientists estimate that I lose between 6 and 8 percent of my personality.”

And finally, the impact that chosen isolation, in all those stolen moments on the sidewalk or in the cafe, has on us:

Shteyngart says the first thing that happened when he bought an iPhone “was that New York fell away . . . It disappeared. Poof.” That’s the first thing I noticed too: the city disappeared, along with any will to experience. New York, so densely populated and supposedly sleepless, must be the most efficient place to hone observational powers. But those powers are now dulled in me. I find myself preferring the blogs of remote strangers to my own observations of present ones. Gone are the tacit alliances with fellow subway riders, the brief evolution of sympathy with pedestrians. That predictable progress of unspoken affinity is now interrupted by an impulse to either refresh a page or to take a website-worthy photo. I have the nervous hand-tics of a junkie.  For someone whose interest in other people’s private lives was once endless, I sure do ignore them a lot now.

A manifesto for the digital age (and a decent book review to boot).

Sad As Hell [via longform]


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