I'm Trapped in the Internet and it Sucks

I remember when I got my first login name for AOL. I was 10, and I can recall the sheer joy of hearing the dial tone of the phone line we set up just for the internet like it was yesterday. I believe my name was BlueQTbaby, and I had the account with a parental block, which means no year 2000-era Worldstar searching for me. But I didn't care. I was now a member of the web world, albeit a small one with limited connectivity.

A few years later, I pestered my father to upgrade my account so that I could officially graduate from blocked pages and use AIM. AOL Instant Messenger was the zenith of my post-pubescent internet experience. I was ecstatic. Time spent there was always engaging, full of laughs with all of the people I knew, song lyric away messages (which was damn near the predecessor of the subtweet), and GroupMe's great-grandmother, the chatroom.

That block of time when you knew everyone would be logged on was a thrill, but it didn't consume us. At some point in the night, you'd notice more and more grammar-insulting screen names convert to grey italics, paired with all the shuttering, gaudy exit sounds (I specifically remember snippets from Dipset and Alicia Keys frequenting my speakers). Other than that, all I ever used the computer to do was homework. Seriously.

My, how things have changed over the course of 13 years.

The World Wide Web has morphed from pleasurable sideline activity to a bubble none of us seem to be able to escape. It's linked to our phones. There is Wifi everywhere. Computers are tiny now, so there's nowhere we can't take them. Abbreviated lingo crafted from lazy fingertips has become everyday spoken word. Events and experiences catered exclusively to social media presentation happen every single day. It's like a lifestyle. It's not even that we are living on the internet anymore. We are living the internet.

Even whole music albums are touting both its glory and destructive capabilities with morbid (but brilliant) accompanying screenplays designed to be consumed through the vessel in question (thank you Childish Gambino for Because the Internet. 'Twas great).

The internet has reduced casual web surfers, triple degree holders, dignitaries and entertainment personalities alike to snarky, comment box trolls, cyberbullies and fizzling background noise.

I spend too much time here. "Here" as in behind an LCD screen. I can't stay away no matter what I (want to) do or where I go. And it drives me crazy.

I dream of a day devoid of pixels and bright screens and keyboards and search engine optimization and usernames and faceless commentary and self-proclaimed experts and iTunes promotion and apps and G-chat. But that doesn't even feel real. I can't imagine not discovering breaking news via Twitter, digging through 20 thinkpieces on a celebrity's latest blunder or hashtag conversations. What is life without live-tweeting, Tumblr reblogging and communal album reviews? Does it even make sense to live out your twenties when you can scroll through listlicles and GIF-lists summarizing the unlived decade instead? Who has time for ice-breakers and dinner table small talk when you have to repeatedly refresh an Instagram timeline of people at the same event as you, sitting directly next to you, encapsulating the same framed, staged and Valencia-filtered moment?

At that point, a break from that world is necessary. But how? Even if I fasted from the digisphere alone, it would feel like exile. I would be virtually alone. Nonexistent, even. Without engaging in RGB, I'd be a figment of the world's imagination. To "exist," you must prove you are present, despite never actually being seen. HTML, urls, handles and IP numbers trump flesh, sight and sound. Tactile experiences. It's just the way the world works now. What can I do about it?



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