Disconnected Connections

I kind of hate the Internet. I hate the way it’s imprisoned me, made me dependent on it, filtered my life into some kind of video game that is constantly trying and succeeding to press up against real life. It’s bizarre that we can control the way our lives look on the Internet – we can craft them into our own little utopias and choose to share as much as we want and that becomes us. We filter our lives through Instagram filters and present this as our reality.

We crave constant gratification, the immediate. We do not wait more than six seconds for our Facebook to load before furiously turning Dartmouth Secure on and off again and pressing the refresh button four or five times. We are flashed with images, one after another, too quick to truly take anything in. Our brains are flooded with information; quicker, faster, more condensed, simplified, summarized.

This makes me very nervous. I resent myself for being unable to be more than six feet away from my iPhone at all times; this nexus of interaction and comfort and the ability to reach most of the people you know without an effort. We are used to speed. We are used to 140 characters, to six second Vines, to images on Tumblr click click clicking past in a kind of meaningless nothingness.

Sometimes I try to hide from this: I lock myself in the bathtub with a heavy book and force my toes to get pruny and stop to concentrate and pay attention and think deeply and purposefully. I am tired of skimming the surface. The pages get slightly damp and my hair floods out underwater and I am present in a way that I am not with my phone permanently cradled in my palm. I have to extract this kind of focus now; it does not come naturally. Over the summer, I traveled to the northernmost part of Sweden, to a summer cabin without electricity or running water or Internet. This was forceful cleansing, this was pure and focused and alert. When I breathlessly arrived at a hotel with Wifi, I scrolled through my various social media outlets with a rabid excitement to see what everyone had produced in my absence. I was shocked by the lack of surprise. So much of it was the same as when I had left; there was no revolution in my absence.

I sense large-scale resentment towards the smart phone phenomenon. Watch campus as everyone rushes to class at 10; heads slightly tilted downwards, illuminated by that flickery blue light screen. How are we supposed to marinate in the human experience if we are constantly somewhere else? And yet this is paired with an inability to stop, an inability to store our phones and greet one another. We are, to quote the viral video, smart phone zombies – and it feels irreversible.

The Internet is a cool place. It can make us feel important and loved and help to find a community that we desperately crave. It can teach us about sexism and racism and what it means to be cisgender or queer or any of these social justice-y buzzwords like problematic or appropriation. It can birth movements like the Arab Spring and spread the word about Free Pussy Riot and hastag cultural appropriation (Miley, I’m looking at you). It can be important and monumental and scary and fascinating, and yeah, maybe we need the Internet. We need the Internet, but we need it as a revolution.