The Cost of the Internet

You guys may have noticed that it’s been a while. Like, a long while.

I haven’t been any busier. I simply needed a blog-break. An internet break. I needed to remember all the things I did before the web began to dominate my life — read poetry, bake, do daily yoga, read novels for hours on end, spend my early mornings with the paper, the real paper, one I can fold and tear and get frustrated with when it won’t obey me. These things always focused me, made me feel sturdy and happy and whole. If I felt far away from myself, they brought me home.

In large part, its about ritual. My father’s wife is a devout Muslim, and prays, without fail, five times a day. He’s often talked about how each prayer session seems to transform her, calm her when she’s harried, steady her when she’s wavering. There’s something about taking the time, getting out the prayer rug, and just doing it.

My rituals are not religious, but all the same, I need them. Ritual is as old as the human story.

Sometimes I’m afraid that rituals are not dying, exactly, but fracturing — our ADD-addled brains, our fiending, multiple-tab-opening internet habits are making it difficult to give our undivided attention to anything. The internet has been an incredible boon to me, but it’s interesting — and sometimes alarming — to watch the way my life has changed since I got internet at home, which was only a year ago. In that year’s span, I’ve learned a ton about online networking, met incredible writers who are my daily motivation, and began to propel my self into the world of journalism. It’s a friggin’ revolutionary tool.

But everything has its cost. I look at the arc of this last year, and I see how certain aspects of myself have nose-dived, grown muffled, or just plain petered out. I notice how the subjects of my thinking have changed — from a Robert Hass poem to a post on Mashable. From a short story I’m working on to the branding of my blog.

What’s at stake here? Well, I think its our writing. Not our career, but our imaginations, our vision, our epiphanies. These things get interrupted and stunted by all the information coming at us in a million different mediums. For all I’ve learned online, sometimes my mind feels less expansive, like its shrunk in scope. I lose myself in the maze of constant input, moving so quickly, taking so many wrong turns that I end up in a place unrecognizable, far from home.

The odd thing is that I don’t find writers talking about this phenomenon very much — the tendency to spend our mornings reading helpful-how-tos, researching marketing tools, networking, networking, networking. All that is great but I often wonder if, 50 years down the line, we’ll look at the work that’s been produced and see that it has suffered. And that our lives have suffered, our energies split into two many tabs, too many articles, too much information. All this input should be freeing, but I worry that it’s binding.

I’ve had some important life decisions to make, so I decided to take a break. Sometimes having the internet is like having all of your families and friends huddled around you, shouting in your ear: Do this, do that. When I’m feeling desperate or confused, the internet serves as some kind of demented advice column. The rabble starts to invade my mind and I can’t think.

But I’ve learned so much from the internet, discovered joys I wouldn’t  have. I’ve met the most genuine, lovely people who’ve gone to bat for me and helped me reach opportunities I probably never would have gotten to. The internet has, without a doubt, helped me carve out an important path for myself.

But I wonder at what cost. Do you ever think about this?


8 Responses to “The Cost of the Internet”

  1. 1 Alexis Grant May 9, 2010 at 12:03 am

    I think about it! But I think all that I learn on the Internet outweighs the energy it sucks from my other pursuits. Still, a break often does wonders for me.

  2. 2 Theresa May 9, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    excellent point. i dont want to go on random walks to look for good writing spots anymore because im obcessed with the ease of typing in 5 different stories in a million different tabs, while reading blogs and not worrying about my spelling. A pen and paper that im going to have to transcribe later just feels like TOO MUCH EFFORT.
    ridiculous 🙂

  3. 3 littlehousesouthernprairie May 12, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    i love breaks from the web! funny how we never “miss anything” when we’re away from it, eh?

  4. 4 simonemarie May 12, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    Emily – Yes, and I will be going on a true, serious fast come the week after next — five weeks in the Ontario wilderness. Maybe I’ll come out fully rehabilitated.

  5. 5 littlehousesouthernprairie May 13, 2010 at 2:05 am

    STFU! That sounds SO awesome. What’s the story? Is it like Outward Bound for conflicted career gals?

  6. 6 simonemarie May 14, 2010 at 3:31 am

    Ha! In a way, yes. I’m hoping it clears the head. Will be doing sustainable forestry work (most of this involves splitting and stacking wood, which is exhausting and involves scary machines). But I won’t be working full time. Our little cabin is really isolated — the only one on a big, beautiful lake, and the reserve itself is over 10,000 acres. I’m super excited. I will be posting a photo soon, when my boyfriend finally remembers to email it to me.

  7. 7 littlehousesouthernprairie May 17, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    oh yum yum yummy

  8. 8 Marie August 9, 2010 at 6:32 am

    I think about this alot! I worry that my concentration is disappearing. Sometimes it feels like I can’t even sit and get absorbed into a book the way I could before. It takes me months to read a book these days and I know in my heart it is because I am on the internet all day (even if I deny it to myself). Working online trains our brains to flit about in seconds-long sessions where we would have had hour-long, or longer sessions before. What’s the antidote, I wonder? How can we pull ourselves away so that we rediscover the things we’ve forgotten about?

    Nice post, btw. I really like your blog:-)

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About Simone Gorrindo

Simone Gorrindo is a freelance journalist, poet, and travel writer who can't stay put.


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