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Living in the Web

I was recently reading a piece by Andrew Sullivan in New York magazine about his overuse of the Internet. He used a turn of phrase that caught my eye: living-in-the-web.

In other words, he didn’t use the Internet, partaking in it as a tool.  He lived in it, spending more conscious hours connected to the Internet than not connected to the Internet.  His primary mode of communication was writing or sharing on the Internet.  In his heyday, he posted every half hour or so.

And then he stopped.

I guess it struck me because I am always mindful of how much time I spend online, creating or consuming, and I try to set a lot of personal limits so I don’t feel as if I’m living in the web.  I like to visit, sure, but not live here.  Yet I do feel pressure to go online daily, and maybe I’m worried (and why I read an article that he wrote in the first place) that believing that I must go online is the first step to living in the web.

Maybe some of it comes down to that idea that if you use a smartphone, you’re taking the Internet with you:

At your desk at work, or at home on your laptop, you disappeared down a rabbit hole of links and resurfaced minutes (or hours) later to reencounter the world. But the smartphone then went and made the rabbit hole portable, inviting us to get lost in it anywhere, at any time, whatever else we might be doing.

It is convenient, of course, but it’s more than that.  There is something comforting about carrying all of you in my pocket.  There is something empowering to knowing the answer to many questions that pop up during the day is in my hand.  I agree with him that the distractions that come from being plugged in often feel pleasant and not annoying because it’s usually people or information I want to hear from or about.

He writes,

We all understand the joys of our always-wired world — the connections, the validations, the laughs, the porn, the info. I don’t want to deny any of them here. But we are only beginning to get our minds around the costs, if we are even prepared to accept that there are costs.

It’s a long piece, but I recommend reading it if you’re interested in this topic.  I’ve been chewing it over in my mind for a few days.

I think I am doing a decent job of just visiting the web and not living here, but doing so means constantly looking at the way I use my time online.  Where are you living?


1 Noemi { 10.02.16 at 10:55 am }

I had started that piece, but never finished it. Thanks for reminding me to go back and read the rest. A really important piece to be sure.

I am not on most forms of social media. Really I just read and comment on blogs. That helps me not fall too far down the rabbit hole of click bate and I’m not being so constantly bombarded by notifications. That is not say I’m not addicted to my phone, but since I deactivated my FB account I don’t have as much to do on it. I don’t think to share a moment with all my friends because I don’t have an easy way to do that. (I have found I take considerably less photos of my kids since I left FB, sad but true). But I still open my phone a million times a day looking for a way to escape where I am. I’m still working on that.

2 Sharon { 10.02.16 at 4:48 pm }

This is one of several ways in which my life has changed for the better since having children: my children force me to live more in the present moment and in the real world. I would say that I spent a lot more time on the internet before they arrived.

3 torthúil { 10.02.16 at 4:48 pm }

Haven’t read the article, but the issues raised sound familiar. I like the internet because it’s an easy way to get a sense of what people are thinking and talking about (of course one has to make an effort to read a large enough cross section of “people”). I dislike the internet because…well for the same reasons really. It’s possible to know TOO much about what people are thinking and doing. I can think of several individuals I like and trust less because I read their thoughts online. I feel sort of bad about that. I use Facebook but I’ve stopped trying to expand my network: I won’t add anyone unless I have a really good reason to (i.e. I’m not adding people I work with anymore).

4 loribeth { 10.08.16 at 8:10 pm }

I used to love Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish, and read this essay with interest. I certainly don’t think my own online life matched the intensity of his — and I understand why he felt he had to walk away from it — but I do get flack from dh now & then about how much time I’m spending online & whether I’m living in the “real world” — and yeah, sometimes I KNOW I spend too much time online & on the couch. :p I don’t have a lot of friends around here, even more so since we moved last spring, and email and other online are often the only way I can stay in touch with my family and friends — both those from “real life” and those I’ve “met” online but never met in person. The Internet is a blessing — but it can be a curse sometimes.

I’m grateful that Sullivan has been liveblogging the U.S. political conventions & debates for New York magazine, though! 😉

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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