What is the internet doing to our minds?by Jacob Mikanowski / April 24, 2014 / Leave a comment
Published in May 2014 issue of Prospect Magazine
“Maybe it’s time to start asking questions about exteriority; to switch from the corner to the phone, from the introspective essay to the online profile”
I used to ask the internet everything. I started young. In the late 1980s, my family got its first modem. My father was a computer scientist, and he used it to access his computer at work. It was a silver box the size of a book; I liked its little red lights that told you when it was on and communicating with the world. Before long, I was logging onto message boards to ask questions about telescopes and fossils and plots of science fiction TV shows.
I kept at it for years, buying new hardware, switching browsers and search engines as needed. And then, around 2004, I stopped. Social media swallowed my friends whole, and I wanted no part of it. Friendster and Myspace and Facebook—the first great wave of social networking sites—all felt too invasive and too personal. I didn’t want to share, and I didn’t want to be seen.
So now, 10 years on, Facebook, iMessaging, and Twitter have passed me by. It’s become hard to keep up with people. I get all my news—weddings, moves, births, deaths—second-hand, from people who saw something on someone else’s feed. I never know what’s going on. In return, I have the vain satisfaction of feeling like the last real human being in a world of pods. But I am left wondering: what am I missing out on? And is everyone else missing out on something I still have?
Virginia Woolf famously said that on or about December 1910 human character changed. We don’t yet know if the same thing happened with the release o…