I Don’t Want to Be an Internet Person

Reading I Don’t Want to Be an Internet Person — Ginevra Davis

Trying to stay off the internet feels like pushing back against a wave. 

That quote captures a bit of my relationship with the internet. It’s just so captivating, so hard to look away from.

Everyone knows someone who has lost a piece of themselves to the internet. They latch onto a digital community and start to think it’s the whole world. 

Yeah, I know a few like that.

Everyone loves the idea of the internet. The live wire—touch it and watch the world flash before your eyes. In the late 1970s, home computers only had primitive internet precursors like phone-in BBS forums, but people bought them anyway because they liked the idea of being connected. Everyone together, all at once.

That’s what sucked us all in. Everyone together, all at once. What a promise. And as time passes more people start to believe it. Never mind that it’s patently untrue, never mind that even with more than 5 billion people online1 we’ll never communicate with more than a handful of them. All that matters is that maybe we could. It’s electric, captivating, tantalizing. It’s bollocks. Because the venn-diagram of very-online and very-interesting has a vanishingly small overlap.

Being online today mostly means constantly performing your personality—or whatever online schtick you develop. Liking is a personal endorsement. You post iPhone photography of yourself, or of your family and friends. You write mini-essays about your beliefs. Most of us go on and try to present the best version of ourselves. Because this is the future, whether we like it or not.

5 billion people trapped in a race to conform.

Their real lives, their better lives, were somewhere online. Seeing them in person felt like an intrusion.

So many zombies.

I am not afraid of Charlie because he writes extreme, offensive things online. I am afraid of him because I recognize so many of his proclivities in regular people—the shifting eyes, the formless references and mental absence. If you spend all of your time consuming internet culture, you are consuming stories and myths and personalities that only exist online. To curate your online presence is to give up a piece of your physical self, to live in a simulated universe of your own creation. 

The scariest thing isn’t how strange it all seems, but rather how much less strange it is than it seemingly ought to be.

You can close the computer, but the world will go on without you.

Davis’ article was interesting, but not great. It’s written for a very credulous reader, and falls apart a little due to the mismatch between the apparently neutral voice but the heavy handed judgement within, which is a shame because there is some really good writing in it.

  1. Digital Around the World↩︎︎