It’s time to put our extreme online year (and myself) behind us.
It should have come as a surprise to anyone who’s ever been on the internet that — during a pandemic, under various lockdowns — our worst online tendencies, in the immortal words of “Spinal Tap,” went to 11. It felt like everyone was going to be a little Jack Torrance from “The Shining.”
That’s okay: Outside, an invisible, potentially deadly virus was floating around, politicized as it killed people and spread unabated. It is actually used to be a Stephen King novel (adapted by Stanley Kubrick). We rushed online and tried to mitigate the impact of our solitary confinement by seeking out other people. We tried to save ourselves.
Some good stuff from all that time came online. But there were also some extremely bad things: It started with sweltering takes on how Shakespeare wrote “King Lear” under quarantine. Before people could read it, we were showered with magma-temperature responses about how no one should feel the need to be productive in quarantine. Everyone had someone to hate, someone to cancel, someone to praise, a way to practice self-love, and someone to do wrong.
And so I’m making a proclamation here for everyone to read: It’s time to put our extreme online year (and myself) behind us. It’s time to stigmatize the internet.
At least for the next two years, let’s have some standards, some sort of unified code of etiquette that will keep us (and our conversations and our passions) tied to a world that isn’t so extreme online.
For example, if the person consuming your brain space has some sort of nickname that implies some incredibly stupid online-only drama (“Bean Dad,” “Bodega Lady,” “Cinnamon Toast Crunch Shrimp Tails Guy”), or their primary mode of attention seeking is through self-created melodrama (anyone whose name is collected under the search parameter “influencer apology”), don’t bring them into decent conversation. We may be able to reduce their incidence.
If someone brings up someone who has been “cancelled” and their cancellation takes more than a single sentence to explain, without any follow-up questions, they and their inquisitors are already taking up too much space in your conversation. And live.
If you need to grab your phone to demonstrate something to continue a conversation, don’t do it.
If you’re into something that went on almost entirely on social media platforms — someone tweeted or TikTok’d or Instagram storied something ignorant — back that punch and take a walk around the block.
No more laptops in coffee shops, or at good bars. Ruin SoHo House or WeWork with them, but nowhere more crowd than that.
Yes, the internet is a part of our daily lives, inextricably linked to most of the things we do now. But if it’s not quite necessary, the internet should be known as the place where work and procrastination is done, and that’s it.
After a year at home we will have freedoms that we did not have last year.
We look in new eyes, sit in public spaces; go to concerts; sweat on each other in gyms. And we will do it all without fear, hesitation, strangeness or reluctance. We will have long silences with each other.
If you got your phone for this, or if you’re talking about things that happen exclusively on your phone, let’s agree: you’re wrong. Are you out for dinner with others and checking your DMs? do not. That concert doesn’t really need to be filmed, does it? Don’t want to get lost in the ecstasy of life, of dancing to a downbeat?
We can, now! Unplug! unfold! Switch off, log out and invade: the world of proximity will soon be available to you again. Don’t let the internet drag you out.