I hate this Internet »- that’s the name of a book by the American writer Jarett Kobek, which was published in 2016. And I have to admit I haven’t read it. I no longer have time to read books; after all, I’m wasting my time online.
I hate this Internet. I just stole that sentence even though I didn’t yet read the book, but that’s okay. In the internet age, you can take ideas from each other. You just have to call it “quote” or “share” or speak wisely of the “postmodern remix culture”, and so it is excellent the stealing. That’s why I hate this Internet.
I hate this Internet because it made me a goofy fool. I have forgotten how to read it correctly. And by that, I mean going through a text carefully, from top left to bottom right, sentence by sentence, idea by idea. Instead, I have turned into a potent scanning machine that can look at a newspaper article, search for keywords and within a few seconds can reproduce the content of what I have written – without even thinking about it. The worst part is that, unlike reading, scanning is not fun at all, like a lot of things that are subject to productivity logic.
When I get up in the morning, the first thing I do is scroll through my feeds, always following the same procedure.
I can already hear the first objection: “But on the internet, there are mostly cat videos and stupid challenges like the one with planking, and don’t you remember the Harlem Shake?” I remember it logically, but like me, As you can see, the Internet is now divided into two poles: the funny, stupid and the rushed-efficient one, which forgets that we are human beings and not machines. (Of course, things are not entirely as black and white, and I would never put it that way in “real life”, but in the Twitter era, it takes steep theses to be read.)
In his book “How to waste time on the internet”, art critic Kenneth Goldsmith formulated the idea that people today are no less concentrated than they were fifty years ago – and he advocates that we fundamentally rethink concentration: not as contemplative sitting at the desk, but as juggling lots of information at the same time. So he thinks that there is also a kind of concentration in the distraction of the web – scanning, sharing and chatting. I understand what he is aiming for, and I don’t think in principle that everything was better in the past because in the past there was also Chernobyl and shoulder pads – but I can’t get anything out of this idea because the digital-only stresses me.
When I get up in the morning, the first thing I do is scroll through my feeds, always following the same procedure: first messenger, then mail, then Instagram, then Twitter. On the plus side, you could say that I have never been as connected as I am today. In my teenage years, while I spent hours on Myspace at the cost of the time I could have spent with real girlfriends, social media has become a facilitator for my “real” relationships. So a friend sends me a voice message every morning to wish me a beautiful day, and I have a chat for each group of friends in which people short-circuit who is where.
After ten years of Internet torture, I can no longer think just one thought at a time. My brain always feels like ten tabs are open at the same time. When I think of my mind, I don’t think of a red, slippery mass, I think of my browser. In one window it feels about deadlines, in the other about an argument with a friend, in the third, an inner voice thinks about what you could cook for dinner, and in the fourth self-doubt rages because a text does not want to come. And the nasty thing is: when I go to bed at night, these tedious pop-ups pop up mentally. But it’s not about terms and conditions, it’s about fundamental issues. Am I living right? What does happiness mean? How is dying? Who Invented the Internet?
Tweet instead of writing a CV
I hate this Internet because I could read a book, but I get stuck on a tweet saying “Pretending to work more stressful than working”. I hate the web because I want to put out the waste glass and then do a BuzzFeed quiz to answer the question: “Which Kardashian sister are you based on your favourite pizza toppings?” I curse myself because I have so many every day. Look at things that I don’t enjoy. If I were to muck out my feed with Marie Kondo, 99 per cent of the stuff would have to be removed. To be honest, I would like to delete all of my social media accounts – but don’t, because I feel like I don’t exist otherwise.
And the thing is: I would not exist. I don’t just tell myself. Sure, I would be less stressed – but honestly: What good is it if I don’t get any more from parties and podiums because all the flyers are posted on Instagram? What brings me relaxation when nobody thinks of me anymore? And what should I do with more freedom if I don’t get any more jobs as a freelance writer? Finally, an employer once told me that he didn’t want a CV, he’d rather watch my Twitter.
I have so much to do — no time for internet security.
That said: I hate the impatience that comes with overstimulation. On Spotify, I push almost all of the songs away after a minute because they’re boring me. I hate the Internet because there are people now who choose their holiday destination according to the criterion of how “instagrammable” it is. I hate it because everyone behaves like they’re famous. How do people get to post three selfies a day? Why do you feel that I am interested in your new gym outfit? I know: It is not imaginative to get upset about people who share photos of avocado toasts or “inspirational quotes” – you could say it is as unimaginative as people who take pictures of avocado toasts or “inspirational quotes” divide. But unfortunately, my brain is so dull
The Internet controls every aspect of my life. I have no idea how much information I feed these algorithms, but I can say this much: The Zalando recommendations are getting better and better. While they used to suggest ugly college sweaters to me, today they want to make me pretty leopard coats. It populates my credit card number on almost all websites. I am the worst in internet security. I know I should read myself in there, but it’s so complicated and annoying, and I have so much to do with all the messages that I have to answer and the memes that my friends post. No time for internet security. And if I don’t want to react to all the beeping, I just open YouTube and watch music videos by the rapper Deichkind.
On evil days there is also the phenomenon of the «Internet Voids». There is such a dark gullet on the Internet that opens up now and then, mostly on Saturday when you have nothing to do. Then you start somewhere and google something that interests you (“What happens in the body if you don’t drink for a month?”). Then you end up with an animal documentary about the turtles of Galápagos – and cooking recipes for gluten-free bagels you to all music videos that have ever been uploaded to dead legends on YouTube. While the sun is rising again, you lie exhausted on your bed and ask yourself whether Falco is dead or whether he is making a beautiful life somewhere like it in this confused blog?
The Internet is a voracious monster that gobbles up all my life energy – which is a shame because once the mood was hopeful. For example, the scientist and feminist Donna Haraway had the utopia that the virtual would liberate us. In her famous “A Cyborg Manifesto” from 1985, she formulated the thesis that humans will soon become cyborgs in the technological age: hybrid beings who live in reality and cyberspace at the same time. She imagined that in this world all dichotomies (man-woman, man-machine, etc.) would become fluent, and egalitarian society would be possible. Because: If all avatars in the virtual consist of zeros and ones, it doesn’t matter what position someone has in “real life”.
And to a certain extent, the Internet has freed us. Freed from a public in which only a few speak. Everyone has the chance to be heard. The Internet is the new street. The Internet is the place for discussion, for arguing, for protest, for # outcry, for #MeToo, for #blacklivesmatter. And nothing is further from me than to downplay this progress. However, what neither Haraway nor anyone else could have predicted was how social media would work. Because no egalitarian utopia is created. By filling these profiles with your own life – pampering selfie, relationship status, political opinion – old role models and prejudices simply shifted into the virtual.
I hate the fact that likes make me feel good. I hate the fact that I am afraid of the silence and that I am always irritated by information. I listen to podcasts while I’m cooking, I need the Nike app when I’m jogging, and I answer emails on the train. I hate the Internet because you can’t get lost in a city and generally think you know everything. I hate this Internet because it provides information about knowledge and we always confuse the two. We live in the age of two-dimensionality because the way the Internet works has killed the depth, the slowness and the stubbornness that is inherent in knowledge.
Sometimes life with the Internet feels like I’m starving to death, even though someone is choking me all the time. This feeling is particularly bad when dozens of people send me emojis at the same time – and I reply to their communication bombing seconds later with GIFs and carelessly typed «hahas». It’s like cotton candy: chatting is sweet and gives you a short rush, but in the end, you probably feel sick. Studies are showing that people have to spend time alone to be empathetic – so I’m concerned about how badly I can endure myself now.
I hate this Internet because I can only see what’s missing, what party I haven’t been to, what text I haven’t read. It hurts that I seem to be missing out on all of these things – and at the same time stupid. Whenever I have nothing to do, I reload the feed. Nietzsche once said that you have to endure boredom to experience creativity. But how should that work if you have 4G? I hate the Internet because I want to create something permanent, but I only watch Insta stories. I hate the Internet for its compulsive irony and Kylie Jenner. I hate the Internet because I’m afraid that in fifty years from now I’ll say fuck, I’ve wasted my life online.