You know, after I moved to Medway (about the 6th week of term - long story), I didn’t have the internet for two weeks. I know, pretty scary right? I mean, what did I do whenever I had 30 seconds to spare, imagine checking my e-mails? Fantasize about scrolling through endless twitter feeds for the last funny thing Stephen Fry said (which was about 1995, by my estimate ;) )?
Actually, no, it was great. It was better than great, actually. Because I couldn’t go online at the drop of a hat, I somehow lost the compulsion to, and I didn’t miss it at all. In fact, when we eventually got connected, I almost didn’t want my halcyon hiatus from the all consuming vastness that is the World Wide Web to come to an end.
It was nice to be able to just sit back and read, knowing that, yes, there is news happening out there that I could be reading (/tv I could be watching/blogs I could be blogging) but that it was ok. It’ll all be there tomorrow.
And for those two weeks, when I was at home, I just worked (manically, as ever) and then chilled out. Compare that to now which is more like this: work, (check e-mail) work, (check e-mail, facebook + twitter), take a break (probably on facebook and guardian.co.uk), eat, work, watch tv (with multiple checks in the ads), sleep - but not before a judicious checking of everything before I lay my head to rest.
What is it with this compulsion I have? Is it just me? I check this website every time I log on to any computer, anywhere. And the weird thing is, I’m never really expecting anything new, I just need to be sure that there’s nothing I’m missing out on.
And that, I think, is the crux of this weird little techno-centric obsessive-compulsive correspondence-checking disorder (or T-CO-CCCD, if you like to pointlessly abbreviate meaningless phrases as I do) - I feel like I’m always on the cusp of missing out. On what I will never know, but it’s out there, like some ephemeral spectre haunting me, taunting me as I go about my day.
Because everything is live now, from Iranian opposition marches (on Twitter) to the Cern experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (thank you, Guardian blogs), at any moment the most significant events in history could be passing you by. That is, unless you’re plugged in, logged on, and monitoring every nodule of info-informing technology in the world. And hence the need to check, or T-CO-CCCD (which is starting to grow on me as a term for this thing).
And it’s not just history, we feel, that is passing us by - it’s our own lives. Years ago I would come home from a night out and feel safe in the knowledge that I knew what had happened and that my memory of it would become the definitive version of that night, at least for me if no-one else. Now, before you’re home there are photos of you on facebook before you’ve even put your key in the door. Rather than existing in your brain, the night starts to pixelate across the next few days of your life, like some forlorn dog who’s lost its owner. It’s not the past anymore, it’s just another part of the 4-dimensional online cyber-space (or 4-DOC-S, as it shall now be known) that contains everything - past present and future, and all with a helpful Google bar at the top.
And then the comments start, and a disparate group of social-networkers (S-Ns, or ‘lame-os’), many of whom weren’t even out on the night in question, start to dissect, poke fun at, and generally redefine the whole night in terms of whatever collective mindset they happen to have at the moment. And if you’re not part of that conversation, what are you? I know you were there, sure, but if you’re not participating in the essential multi-lateral debriefing that follows every such occasion, then you’re not really ‘in’. You haven’t really got your finger on the pulse any more. Actually doing things, you see, is overrated - it’s the beautifully inane re-examination of everything through the medium of Facebook that makes life complete.
And so, here I am, blogging away to try and vent my frustration with the internet (a pretty savvy idea, I think you’ll agree. In fact, I may have to coin an abbreviation for it...). But, at the end of the day, am I really gonna change? Were those two weeks simply a nice way for me to say to myself ‘You’re not really taken in by all this modern bullshit, John, you just play along to get buy’ ? Well, sadly, I fear, the answer is no. I haven’t checked my facebook while typing this, but I’m sure as hell going to when I’m done.
Maybe it’s ok, maybe it’s just the times we live in. Someday, though, my eyes are going to get tired of this screen, and I’m gonna start remembering all those things I used to do before high-speed broadband (H-SB, obviously).
Merry Christmas everyone.