The physician’s assistant pushed through the door into the scrub room to find the doctor gloving up for the surgery that just wasn’t going to happen.
“I’m so sorry.” Her voice broke as she said it.
The doctor’s shoulders sagged. This was supposed to be the emergency surgery that saved a life, but now… “Do we even know what the cause of death was?” he asked through gritted teeth.
The P.A. nodded, a tear dripping from her chin. “That kind of long-term deterioration from Tumblr… it just wasn’t viable anymore, Doc.” She stripped off her gloves and wiped her cheeks. “Even if we’d done the surgery, I’m not sure enough of it could have grown back.”
“When will these kids learn this stuff just isn’t real?” He yelled, ripping his gloves off and throwing them into the surgical waste container. “Self-feeding monsters eventually run out of food!”
Hi, I’m the Nomadic Troglodyte, and I’m here to talk about something that most of America’s under-fifty crowd probably resolved about this New Year. The Internet. And how we should probably not spend so much time there.
My brother told me something rather unforgettable the other day, “Almost every site on the internet is designed to hold all of your attention all of the time – that’s what they’re competing to do, anyway.” While Netflix might ask Are you still watching? and Pandora sometimes questions Still Listening? both sites are really hoping you just click ‘yes’ and keep on cruising, listening to their ads and generating more of their revenue. Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and, yes, even WordPress, all want you to just keep clicking on that next ‘related to’ post or to simply keep scrolling through an endless feed, gathering more and more ad impressions and making them even richer.
Some of us know we are addicted to the internet. Some of us don’t. Some of us even were addicted to the internet, but somehow learned to cope in this world gone mad. My generation is known for checking our phones constantly: our pants just don’t feel right when that little device isn’t in its pocket, and our purses are way too light. The best way to get us up and moving is to tamper with the WiFi so we’re forced to stand up and at least restart the router.
Every generation has its addiction, though. Every generation has a way of creating these monsters that prey on our collective and individual sanities. My generation (under 30, for those wondering) is, however, somewhat notorious in history: never before has anyone been able to tailor-make their self-eating monsters to the obscene specificity and addictive quality that we have via the internet. Particularly for women.
Women and Pinterest are kind of like peanut butter and chocolate: it tastes delicious – but… healthy…? I think the reason for this is because you can tailor exactly what you see on Pinterest. If, for example, you like Paris, beautiful shoes, and literature, you may find some interesting or inspiring images and articles down those streams. You may have tastefully curated boards, a stunning home feed, and a dozen notifications every morning that tell you complete strangers agree you have good taste. The monster is created when you start picturing life on the other end of those pins, though. You start thinking that perhaps you should go to/move to Paris so you can create that kind of content… so you can live that kind of content. You start trying to wear impractical shoes: they’re beautiful, after all, surely those models’ feet don’t hurt this much. Perhaps you toss aside the novels you were given for Christmas to re-read Moby Dick because… well… you should like it more than you do. As you find more pins on shoes, your shoe closet gets more cluttered. As you find more content about Paris, you start looking at plane tickets. And Moby Dick is really boring.
But you press on, because your streams are telling you these things are wonderful, sparkly, and glorious, and that if you possess them in real life you will be… happy? smarter? more? beautiful? So you pin more because it’s making you HAPPY, right? These are, after all, the things you like. The cycle repeats. The monster feeds on itself and grows fat. And somewhere along the way it started eating your sanity, too.
Maybe your addiction isn’t Pinterest. Maybe it’s Facebook, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Twitter, or YouTube. Or something less tasteful altogether. The internet is rife with opportunities for getting your next fix.
So how do you keep your sanity alive in the world that’s mad for this digital realm?
I recommend taking a break. Shut your computer down, leave your phone on silent, and go explore the real world. You might just learn that it isn’t quite as pretty as the internet told you it was. The real healing comes with this revelation: the reason is because the internet doesn’t tell the whole truth. You can get food poisoning in Paris. High heels are uncomfortable across the board, no exceptions. And literature is great, but so are a lot of the novels coming out this year; re-reading a Bronte novel won’t make you smarter. But if you go to Paris, leave your phone in your pocket and be in Paris (not the internet-version of Paris). Save those shoes for when you need to look like a million bucks (but know that you’ll also be doing a decent amount of sitting). And grab that battered copy of a book you love and read it again. Sure it isn’t pretty enough for ‘bookstagramming’, but you love it – so love it for your sake and not for the likes.
Yes, there is beauty! Shocking, awe-inspiring, simple, amazing, inexplicable beauty in the real world. If you can see it, then you have reached the same level as those who post that loveliness on the Internet. Nobody posts pictures of their favorite old mug or the bed-head that made them laugh into the mirror. The internet shows only what the internet can, and it isn’t real because it’s only one side of a multifaceted story.
The way to defeat the self-eating monster of internet addiction is to take reality as it is. But sometimes we need a reminder. We need to unplug. We need to live in reality.
So if your New Year’s resolution had anything to do with spending less time on the internet, thanks for taking the time to read this post. Now, go ahead and click that little red ‘x’ in the upper right-hand corner of the window, stand up, and live.