Tag Archives: facebook

Internet problems

I got up really late this morning. And even after I woke up, I stayed in my bed for hours, just kind of tossing and turning, staring at the ceiling, not able to summon the will to stand up and get going. I reached for my cell phone and killed another hour or two on the mobile Internet. It’s gotten to the point where I can stay on the Internet indefinitely, not doing anything at all. I’ll go through my Facebook news feed, reading the statuses of my Facebook friends, a lot of people I haven’t even spoken to in years, just kind of indirectly keeping tabs on everybody’s lives.

And it’s weird because a lot of people don’t really use Facebook anymore. Or if they use it, they only lurk in the background, they’re not actually posting daily content. So it’s just this weird mix of friends, relatives, people that I went to school with twenty years ago, people that I’ve worked with ten years ago. And so I can always waste ten or fifteen minutes scrolling all the way the down, keep scrolling, keep loading more stories.

Then to Twitter. I’m really bad at Twitter. As in, I’m not really actively involved. I’m following something like seventy people, but I don’t really know how I chose those seventy. I’ll follow people on a whim, usually because Twitter suggests it. When I first started using it, I’d see a funny Twitter joke and I’d be like, “Ha! Follow!” only to realize that maybe that was the one funny thing that this person ever wrote in an otherwise boring list of daily nonsense. Like why am I following Ensign Wesley Crusher from Star Trek? If I ever tweeted out, “I’m drinking an IPA!” that would be a huge waste of everybody’s time. But Wil Wheaton does it and somehow I’m reading about it. I guess Twitter is really just like a backup Facebook, like if I’m very bored and I seriously just want time to disappear I’ll go through the feeds of all of these people that I really don’t have any connections to at all in real life.

And look at that, Reddit has a mobile app too. Whereas Facebook and Twitter are perfect for eliminating time in ten to fifteen minute chunks, Reddit is a great way to make a whole day vanish, as if you never had off in the first place. Let’s just look at stupid pictures and lame jokes, but indefinitely, a never ending sea of blue links to be clicked and mindlessly consumed. I sometimes have to make it a conscious activity just to refrain from even going to the home page, it’s that dangerous.

The worst part is, if and when I ever pry myself away from Reddit, I’ll get all anxious, looking at the clock, seeing how I’ve let the day totally slip away, something I had, time that I’ve lost that I’ll never get back. I’ll jump up, not standing up entirely, but I’ll leap up in bed and think, I’ve got to do something here, I’ve got to get going. But then I’ll look at my phone again. Well, after I check Facebook. I’ve been on Twitter and Reddit for so long that by now there has to be a whole new list of status updates to scroll through. And the process repeats itself.

There’s no escape. It’s not like I can just not have a phone. What am I supposed to do? How do I turn it all off? I can’t. I don’t know what else I’d do. And I can’t even turn to anybody or anything for any guidance. History doesn’t have any advice. We’re in new territory here. The great minds of humanity never had to deal with such bullshit problems like Facebook and Reddit. How can Plato or Socrates or any of the other great philosophers help me out when I can’t even get through a whole sentence without being distracted by the email sound going off on my iPhone? And look at that, it’s junk mail! What a surprise!

There’s no going back. We can’t turn off progress. But there’s got to be a better way.

Look everybody! It’s the Internet!

I keep having this nightmare where I wake up in the morning, come downstairs to use my computer, and instead of having a cool laptop, it’s my family’s first computer from when I was growing up at home. I try to get online but the AOL number is busy, over and over again, and I’m stuck just staring at a boring boxy monitor.

OK, I’ve never had that nightmare. But I’ve been thinking a lot about the early Internet and how, regardless of how new and incredible everything was, it wasn’t nearly enough. Of course, what I’m referring to as the early Internet isn’t really the early Internet. I know that before AOL the Internet was just a bunch of nerds networking their college computer labs through modems.

AOL wasn’t even like real Internet. I mean, there was a browser in there somewhere, but AOL was its own software, and it tried to tailor the Internet experience for you as it saw fit. Chat with your friends through AOL Instant Messenger. Read some news articles by clicking on the AOL news button. There were buttons for everything. AOL was basically a huge catalog.

Thankfully, that only lasted for a few years. New York got hooked up with fiber optic Internet pretty shortly afterward, a golden age of Internet exploration. Whereas before I could never really stomach non-AOL straight Internet, mostly because everything took so long to load, now I could do whatever I wanted.

Which is why I think it’s weird, the way the Internet is going now, almost backwards. When everybody had dial-up, we, by necessity, looked at the Internet through these filters that we paid for, AOL, MSN … what else was there? Prodigy? I don’t really remember. But it’s not important. Once we started paying for direct Internet, there wasn’t anymore need for these filters. You have your browser and you can do whatever you want.

But with cell phones and tablets I feel like the Internet is, like I said, it’s going in reverse, back into a world of ready-made preparedness. Instead of opening up a browser, we just tap a news icon on our devices. It doesn’t feel open anymore. It doesn’t feel like there’s a whole world out there. I feel limited to what apps are on my iPhone and what they can do over a 3G or WiFi network.

Facebook isn’t the same anymore. Not that it was ever anything great, but now I feel like it’s just people posting meme jokes and videos that I’ve already seen before. And who’s making these memes? Is there one centralized source where all of this stuff is being disseminated?

And now I’m going to sound a little conspiratorial, but we’re still going through the frontier years of the Internet. Business models are still being established. The main players, companies like Google, they’ve only been around for a couple of years. The government has yet to really restrict any access. But what if that changes? In China, whole swaths of the Internet are blacked out, unable to be accessed. What if some clever politician convinces all of us that that’s what we need?

And then they’ll put in limits on the hardware, on our phones and on our computers, so that even if we wanted to go outside the limits of our devices, we wouldn’t be able to. Is it so hard to imagine a future with no Internet browser, no individual web sites, just buttons on your phone, a news app, a music app? What if companies start charging huge licensing fees to start your own web site? It’s not how it is now, but it’s not at all outside the realm of possibility.

What is the Internet, just a bunch of connected computers, right? Maybe I’ll make my own Internet, a new Internet, and I won’t let anybody connect to it. And little by little news of my new Internet will spread, until people are driven crazy, lining up down the block to ring on my doorbell, begging to be granted a high speed new Internet connection. And I’ll wait and deliberate for years, making gestures like I might open it up, but I never will, it’s mine, because I’ll be the only one that can keep it safe.

Election 2012: The Recap

The election is over. I spent that night watching TV, and the results came in so fast that I almost missed the announcement. I had read all of these articles the day before saying how that, under certain circumstances, we might not have had a clear victor until mid December. So when all of the networks started calling it before 11pm, it was kind of surprising.

I wonder what it must have felt like for Mitt Romney, a guy who has been campaigning for President since 2006 really. Even the day of the election, he’s out there, holding rallies, firing up supporters. So was Obama. Up until the very end, everyone said it was anybody’s game, and so I guess each side had a legitimate hope that they could win. But as Pennsylvania went for the President and then all of the other swing states followed suit, and then NBC starts calling it and eventually Fox News does the same, I can’t even imagine what that must have felt like for Romney, for his team.

To get so close, only to be denied right at the very end. I can’t see how these guys can go out in front of their crowds and make concession speeches. How do you hold your head up like that? I’d want to just crawl away somewhere and disappear. And you have to get on the phone and call up your opponent, the guy who you’ve been trading barbs with for the past year, lobbing insults across the airways.

And then what’s the next day like? To all of the sudden have a campaign go from running at full capacity to the very next day just shutting down? It’s not just like losing your job. It’s like being the head of a business that overnight just goes belly up, dead in its tracks.

I can’t stand the gloating on Facebook, which is super hypocritical, because I’m right on the frontlines of it. I’m like a lieutenant, a Facebook amateur political commentary lieutenant. But I hate it. I hate it when I see comments from the other side, the opposing political viewpoint. A part of me just says, OK Rob, just take a deep breath and let it go. Just ignore it. Don’t feel like you have to post something of your own. It’s going to be a very fleeting sense of satisfaction at best.

Sometimes I’ll listen to my own advice. Other times I can’t help myself. I’ll throw something out there, something partisan, something divisive. Whatever, I already said it was stupid. But it was all of these small little comments, these occasional back-and-forths that, over time, they built up into something that made me feel like I had a personally vested interest in who won the campaign. And this was all very outside of the issues, outside of politics. A bigger part of it came down to, I didn’t want to have to go on to Facebook and see all the gloating from the other side if Romney won. It would have eaten at me from inside.

I kind of know how it felt. During the 2004 election, the first one that I could vote for, I was positive leading up to voting day that John Kerry was going to destroy George W. Bush. But what I felt as I watched that night unfold on TV, as the results came in a way that I hadn’t anticipated, that sinking feeling, staring at the screen, hoping for some “Breaking News” update that would tell me it was all a big joke. And then afterwards I would watch these political commentators and these smug right wing guys in suits would say stuff like, “Well, it’s evident that America is a fairly conservative country.” And I just sat there, boiling with impotent rage, unable to even properly let out the frustration that was building up inside. But why? Why was I angry? Was my life going to be that fundamentally different than it was before?

During this whole election season I had the same fear that it might happen again. And when it didn’t, I experienced a very hollow but palpable sense of elation. It’s over. I didn’t have to face a reality that I had not properly thought out. But the first thing I did was log onto Facebook and write “Four! More! Years!” a big middle finger to all of my online friends who happen to have a different way of looking at things. I felt great for like ten minutes, but then I felt terrible, realizing that I’m no better than everything I hate. I tried writing something sincere afterwards, talking about moving forward, of not letting ourselves get carried away by national politics, but it was too late. I could imagine a Republican doing the exact same thing and all I would feel would be a strong bitterness for some cheesy, magnanimous sore-winning.

And it’s all going to come back someday. Democrats can’t be in charge forever. That sense of loss, of being let down, of feeling politically marginalized, it’s all waiting for me four, eight, twelve years from now. It’s important, politics, but it’s all so silly. I get so fired up over people I’ve never met, will never talk to, about a system that I’m only very marginally a part of, policies and legislation that depend very little on my opinion or point of view. And I use it all as ammunition to make people that I’m close to feel inferior, not as smart as me, why can’t you see things like I see them? So yeah, I’m glad it’s all over. And I hope the next round of elections might just be a little farther away than the ones we just had.