It’s a well-known fact that if the internet suddenly broke, the apocalypse would pretty much be upon us. I can see it now. The landscape would resemble that of the film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road: small children in huge coats huddled around an oil-drum fire with their beleaguered fathers fixing them a desperate stare and telling them to eat their can of beans, slowly, so it lasts. This is something akin to what my flatmate and I have experienced in the last month, living as we have done in a nightmarish, wireless-free world, ambitiously checking the neighbours’ signals to see if they were the first people ever to not bother with a password. The temporary solution was to experience the gut-wrenching guilt of increasing our data just so our Tinder pictures didn’t take so long to load. Desperate times, desperate measures.
When we finally managed to sort ourselves out, the choice was overwhelming. Twitter. Netflix, Fifa, Sky box sets, Spotify, Tinder, the depressing realisation that I instincively wanted to load up Facebook on my phone and computer and basically the same time. Strangely I didn’t want to touch any of it. All I did was turn the computer on again and wander onto sites that I didn’t particularly want to read. I stopped quickly, because I realised that my attention span had fully regressed into that of a child: bored immediately. It was oddly empty experience. What the fuck is wrong with me? There’s a big bookshelf over there, with actual books on it. Some of them I haven’t read.
This isn’t a rant about how the internet has made us all stupid. But it’s effect on me has undoubtedly been to shorten my attention span to the extent that I almost feel that by reading a book, I’m missing out on something. That time is passing me by because I’m not bang up to date. It’s FOMO, effectively, something I’ve been afflicted with for ages. Awful business really, but the internet definitely makes it worse. What if something happens on Twitter and I miss it before I go to bed? There’s a high chance someone has tweeted something even wittier about Milibrand (“It ain’t gonna happen! It ain’t gonna happen!” Christ Ed, what were you thinking with that piece of horrendous cosying up to the youf) than the person who tweeted before when I was still checking it.
Sometimes the guilt can be stomped down by finding a compromise; my preferred method being the West Wing. Though in a ‘use of the internet just because I have it’ episode, I’m downloading episodes of a show that I’ve watched from beginning to end several times on DVD collection lying approximately ten feet from my Skybox. I suppose in my defence, walking several paces over to the shelf, finding the right CD and inserting it into the Playstation would be a Herculean waste of energy when it’s all available while sitting perfectly still.
But I guess that’s how it works these days. Not a single second can be wasted. I’m not too worried; regular trips to the signal and TV-free Lake District retreat remind me that I at least have the ability be without the constant brain-melt of waves of electric whatever. That comes with its own insecurities, though – the thrill of elongated vibrations when the signal comes back after several days or the horrible alternative: absolutely no buzzes whatsoever after several days. For now though, I’ll just have to find a balance. Right now I’m typing this while my housemate plays Call of Duty. Conceivably I could put on Spotify and check my phone at the same time to maximise my guilt…
No, that’s too much. Hang on, what’s this? A Tinder match. I’m sorry, internet. Let’s never fight again.