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.
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?