No Happy Nonsense

You Won't Always Have a Calculator With You

April 30th, 2019 | Essay

I read something recently where this dude said he would be "very far from the internet" when he was on vacation. This immediately stuck out to me, namely, "how the fuck do you get far from the internet?"

You have a phone. I do too. I think most anyone reading this site has a phone. I don't mean a jitterbug grandma phone, either. You've got a smartphone with a touch screen and it has rare minerals in it and it ultimately took slave labor somewhere along the line to make that phone in your pocket. Maybe the phone is on a table in front of you. Maybe you're reading this on your phone. Whatever. We both have these death phones.

So we never get away from "the internet" because of this phone. We have the internet right there, always. It's odd, to me. I used to have to actually go to the internet at one time in my life. We had AOL on our family computer which was in the corner of our dining room. If you wanted to go online you had to physically sit at the computer and go through the process of signing onto AOL to then surf the web. It was so popular because it really did feel like you were exploring something. There was hardly any infrastructure anywhere, so you were just floating around. It was fun. People started making their own websites with free webpage hosting sites and such. I had a bunch of these. Admittedly, they were mostly DBZ fan pages that had marquee text and tons of pop up dialog boxes for some reason. I didn't even know anything particularly interesting about DBZ. But I had that page, dammit.

Anyone who wanted to throw something out into the wild west of the web could do so, and they did. Sites like Geocities were popular because it made it easy to throw together your shitty website. This site that i'm posting on, Neocities, is the spiritual successor to Geocities. There's a certain fun quality knowing that the sites you're surfing are just made by some girl in her apartment who doesn't know how to code too well, and isn't trying to impress corporate sponsors or anything. You get some genuinely interesting stuff, amidst the heaps of garbage. Just like the olden days.

The biggest factor of this old garbage pile surfing adventure was that you had to be at a computer that was connected to the internet to check all this out. So it felt like you were actively engaged in something.

Now you absentmindedly hit the Instagram app on your phone as soon as you unlock the screen, scroll down three posts, and close the app. You open your Gmail app, no new mail. You open Instagram again. You put the phone down, look back up at the TV to whatever episode of The Office is playing on Netflix, and then pick up your phone again. Let's see if anything cool is on Instagram. This is the internet now. It is stuck to us like that annoying piece of plastic from a bag that you can't seem to shake off of your hand.

The internet is just the same six apps pounding everything into their version of the internet. You don't have a Twitter?? How do you find out about things? I really want to see what you've been up to lately, what's your 'gram handle? We like this because we have the internet always with us, and we want to consume it in microbursts. We don't want to decipher weird color schemes or challenging content. We want pictures of sunsets and pizzas. We want juicy gossip.

I'm not anti-phone, either. Phones are crazy useful. I've ditched the smartphone and done the tracfone thing. It sucked. No music on demand. No Google Maps navigation. No scoping out cool coffee places. No nothing. But I also don't think we should be touching our phones upwards of 3,000 times a day according to some report I'm too lazy to link. That seems drastic.

What's the middle ground, really? I'm much less of an active phone user than most and some days I feel consumed by the endless entertainment machine that easily fits in my pocket. I could read endless amounts of articles, or listen to any song ever, or watch high quality movies and TV, or contact my friends at the drop of a hat. Who wouldn't be all up on that?

My phone will die. I will too. I'm trying to be content with both. I don't think I ever will.

Thank you for reading.
Filed Under: Essays