I mean, I am gonna quit you. And I will miss you when I need to look up at 2:27 a.m. what happened to Peter Ostrum (Charlie Bucket in the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) hint: large animal vet …but I won’t miss much else.
I am quitting the internet.
I am quitting, but not in the way people wean themselves off cigarettes or stop watching Sandra Bullock movies on hangover Sundays when there’s been too many commercials.
It’ll still be around and I’ll still be around it, but unless I’m on it for a specific reason: this platform, as a means to purchase (not steal) books or music or movies, buying running shoes or ordering up a ride — I’m done.
If you need to communicate with me, you can text, or call. I’m going to be better at calling back. I promise. Scroll down and leave a message if you’d like. My email’s in the footer too. And meeting up. Let’s fucking meet up. Let’s meet somewhere and sit on a bench and watch birds land or ask what the other is ordering before we make a decision or grab a pitcher and keep our phones in our pockets and make eye contact. If you have pictures to share make sure you print them out beforehand and I can thumb through them and linger on one for a sec and look at you deeply and ask, “Can I get a copy of this?” And then you tell me to just take it.
If I need to noodle over something, idle for awhile, I’ll do so over my Sunday Times, my stolen work copy of the New Yorker or some paperback I found at an estate sale that I can pull out at the doctor’s office or in the car wash gift shop. I refuse to be that guy head down on his device crossing the crosswalk anymore.
If you need someone to talk about how you think Beyonce’s Lemonade has too much bitter and not enough sugar (or the other way around), or how Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book is good but still trying too hard especially on the wordplay, or your theory about how there’s going to be a new strain of unstoppable bed bugs that manifest through Airbnb homes that are going to spread like a zombie virus via dating apps and that’s basically how we’re going to end up killing each other thousands of invisible ones and zeros at a time, I’ve got time for all that. I’m all about that.
The problem I have isn’t with technology as a time-saver, but with how we’ve used it to do nothing with that time saved. A phone is a phone is a phone is a phone. And a computer is a computer is a computer is a computer. Old inventions, really. Meant to meet utilitarian needs and co-opted by nonsense. They are machines that were designed to help you get stuff done, not hug you back.
What the icons of the information age recognized early on was that the luster would eventually fade. Like any movement, a preexisting agenda defined the early days of the internet as it does now. The notion was that it would do something, produce results, make life easier, bring us together, continue our narrative. But does nothing without us. And we do nothing because of it. It’s ephemeral.
Some folks of note are already there with this notion of quitting. I think of Emma Cline, whose new book “The Girls” is set in her native Northern California (she’s one of seven sibling heirs to the Sonoma-based Cline Family Cellars) and recalls the journey of a 14-year-old girl, Evie, who is bewitched by a group of women she finds in a park and later joins their commune, as protagonists do. More importantly, Cline, who was busy the last few years writing about cults, has refused to join the cult of Facebook or Insta or Twitter or the Snaps — a pause-and-take-note moment and a statement of how not doing something can make one stand out, especially a 27-year-old female first-time author on the come up.
Louis C.K. recently declared with little fanfare that he is off the internet porn and even inferred in the corniest way possible that he instead chooses to use his imagination when he masterbates. Awesome. I can just smell my 8th grade gym socks now. He goes on: “I don’t look at any of [the internet] now. Obviously I sell my shit on it: my stand-up tickets, Horace and Pete. I just don’t look at any web pages. …Boredom is a big word. Boredom is depression in some cases; maybe it’s ennui, whatever that means. When you take a thing like the internet out of your life, so many things come up as you go through your day. You go, Wow, I spent an awful lot of time doing useless shit on the internet. I’d rather not know what happened all day in the news is the other thing. I read the physical New York Times in the morning and then I pick up the Post at some point. And I watch TV and listen to the radio.”
These people understand that when it comes to creating something significant you have to block out the noise. Sure you can tweet 9,000x a year but that doesn’t equal one well-written passage, or one blistering five-minute bit.
Real stuff takes time.
This week especially — with all the gun clinching and gun fearing and flag waving and (blank)-aphobes crowding all the feeds coupled with the constant barrage of awful surrounding the presumptive Republican nominee for president: A man so full of vitriol, lies, pathos, insecurity and evil that his legacy will only be described as one that was the nation’s, if not the world’s greatest threat of the early 21st century, and/or the spoiled brat who swung from the chandelier till he brought it all crashing fucking down; used the internet as his pulpit, made it his bitch, his slave…made himself indispensable with a 24-hour freebase of hatred — makes me think it’s just a thing that’s over, or that I’m over.
Either way, if we all walked away from it, he goes away.
The entire internet has been seized. Yes, it does boil down to a single irreducible notion that what’s happening, whether we have good intentions or simply just want to be heard, is all bad — on both sides. The fact that there are people I like, no, that I love in real life, on the internet right now saying things I hate, that make me hate them…means it’s bad.
And so, since our real selves are being obscured and our sympathies and shared history and actual dialogue is being bleached by soundbites that aren’t even our own — it’s time to go. Don’t WARN me. Talk to me. Regard me as a person. Shake my hand. Laugh or don’t laugh. Don’t push your agenda, or likely, the agenda of a giant company who you’re unwittingly doing their bidding for, on me — and I won’t do the same back to you.
Our friendship and shared experience, the time we’ve actually spent together is more important, carries more heft — than any of this; than all of this combined.