The Internet Ruins Lives

love-of-the-internet

I’m trying out this new idea, an hour at a time:

Zero internet.

For an hour.

No checking email, no Twitter, no Facebook. No CBS Sports, no New York Times, no CNN. No following a rabbit trail from Eugene’s 10-Day Forecast on the Weather Channel’s site to Antonio Brown’s Facebook Live fiasco to Youtube’s “The Netherlands Welcomes Trump In His Own Words” (which, trust me, is worth 4 minutes and 4 seconds of your life).

But it’s SO difficult. Especially while writing on a laptop. I go to research something related to my writing, say, Hiroshima 1945, and suddenly I’m reading about how to make sushi with Willamette Valley trout, then off to a fly-fishing trout video filmed in western Montana, then how to pack raft down the Escalante River in Utah.

Wait, what was I talking about?

Right, the internet.

Yes, I recognize the irony of writing about no internet while posting on a blog…on the internet.

Meta.

But this is real. The addiction. The distraction that is the little guiding Safari compass or gorgeous little orange Firefox wrapped around a globe of pure, pure blue. I want to click them. I want to click them so badly.

Yet, I’ve found a way not to be on the internet, using a mantra. Each morning – when I get up to write, to write a real book, a manuscript, not a post or status update, but a real book – I say this to myself:

“The internet is broken. The internet is very, very broken right now.”

But sometimes I don’t believe myself, so I have to be emphatic:

“The internet is broken WORLD WIDE RIGHT NOW!!! So there’s no possible way it’ll work for the next hour. You can’t search or click anything. You can’t check your notifications.”

The only thing is, sometimes my finger acts of its own volition, just drags that little arrow down, down, down – to the toolbar at the bottom of the screen – and sometimes I even click that internet icon without meaning to and a page pops up, and…

I yell: HIT “COMMAND Q” BEFORE GOOGLE LOADS!

Damn. What is this internet thing, anyway? This vapid little pill?

I used to have a wrestling teammate in college who’d tried crystal meth once – only once, back when he was seventeen years old – and he talked about it for the rest of his life. He said, “There’s nothing like it. Nothing at all. And all I want to do is do it, do it all the time, every single night. I think about it all the time.”

I nod and smile. Say, “Yes, I know what you’re talking about. I too have this little addiction.”

Twitter Murders The Novel.

Here’s me selling out a guy named Courtney.  An outlaw friend.

Courtney’s a Twitter fiend.  Pure junky.  He shoots tweets all day long, all evening long, all night long.  He sips a couple tweets just before bed so that he can fall asleep. He takes a few tweets in the kitchen when he thinks no one’s looking.  He lies about how many times he’s tweeted.  He says he doesn’t have a tweeting problem.  He says it’s under control.  He says he can quit at any time.

He probably even tweets while he showers.

But yesterday I read an essay Courtney wrote for a fatherhood blog zine, an essay called “Good Enough Is Good.  Enough.” (Click on it and read)

And this essay is good.  Honest and real.  Developed and engaging.

But unfortunately that’s not Courtney’s normal medium.  One of his Twitter followers even commented on the fatherhood site that she loved hearing him write more than 140 characters.

And that’s the problem.  The Twitter limit. The 140.

Twitter is great for sound bites and one liners.  It’s great for a pic or a link. It’s even great when we need to hear Shaq tell the world his new nickname:

“In Boston…I’m the Big Shamrock”

Thank you, Shaquille O’Neal.  We are all now dumber.

Twitter’s just not worth the time people put into it.  Not worth hours of following. Not worth hours of tweeting.  I know people who literally spend four to six hours a day.  Yep, that’s right.  Four to six hours every single day reading and writing something that should come out of a small bird.

140 characters or fewer.

No depth.  No development.  No revealing dialogue.

Tweeters can’t lose the plot because there was no plot to begin with.

So, as an experiment, I thought I’d drop the first 140 characters of a few great novels and see if there’s a “there” there.  Yep, I just used the word “there” three times because I can, because I’m not limited by character count.

140.

Here’s the opening to Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion:

Along the western slopes of the Oregon Coastal Range…come look: the hysterical crashing tributaries as they merge into the Wakonda Auga Ri

Hmm…an okay hook.  The Wikonda Auga Ri sounds violent.  But I think it means “River,” not a Ri, and in that case I’m not into water books.

But how about Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, another supposed classic:

He lay flat on the brown, pine-needled floor of the forest, his chin on his folded arms, and high overhead the wind blew in the tops of th

I’m guessing “trees” is the next word.  Easy to guess.  Predictable.  So this must not be a very good novel.  A little cliche in fact.  The wind blew in the tops of the trees…blah, blah, blah…

And, finally, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye (and you’re not going to believe this one).  Here it is, Morrison Tweeted:

Here is the house.  It is green and white.  It has a red door.  It is very pretty.  Here is the family.  Mother, Father, Dick, and Jane li

Dick and Jane?  Are you kidding me?  Is that for real?  And Toni Morrison won the Nobel Prize for Literature?  How?  How could she win with a tweet like this?  I mean, honestly, this is one of the worst novels I’ve ever Tweeted.

On Cell Phones and Facebook.

I realized that my-only-friend-in-the-entire-world-Jeff-Hess doesn’t understand my decision-making process.  He defended his phone and Facebook addictions.

But for me, it’s all about time.  Anything to save time, set aside time, put more time into the things I care about.

Thus, to start, no cell phone.

I know.  I’m the weird one.  What used to be seen as a cool oddity – that I don’t have a phone – is now thought of as a freakish character flaw.

To quote a lady I met recently.  “WHAT?  YOU DON’T HAVE A PHONE?!!!  ARE YOU KIDDING?  THAT’S RIDICULOUS.”

People don’t even try to hide their disgust.

So I get it.  I’m passe.  So far behind the times that I’m picking up its garbage.

But I know myself.  I can get addicted to anything.  And if I had a call anyone at any time/text as much as I want/check the internet anywhere I go/Twitter it/hand-held device, things would get ugly.  I’d be like those hunched over University of Oregon football players who, I swear, cannot walk two steps on campus without checking their phones.

Same with Facebook.  Or as the cool kids say, F-Book.

Pictures and messages and updates and three-hundred “friends”?  Really?

How much time could I spend browsing there?  Five hours a day?  Ten? Fifteen?

I already blog for two websites, check my email with the mouth-slobbering frequency of a meth addict, read inane sports posts until way past my bedtime.  So do I really need one more thing?  One more time suck?

Like I said, I understand people’s reactions.  I’m the weird one.  But I know me.