The Internet’s No Fun Anymore

apps, social media, network-426559.jpgI still vaguely recall opening my laptop with a sense of positive anticipation: that there might be a message, a retweet, an engaging email thread in my inbox, even a like, some kernel of connection with the wider world. It was this beautiful gateway to a network of faraway people with shared interests. Plus, like many Gen X writer types, my earliest submissions went out through snail mail; checking the mailbox for possible story acceptances or letters from friends had been a once-a-day thrill. Suddenly, the advent of email unshackled that periodic rush from a set schedule. News and communications that could arrive at any time? Holy shit, what a game changer! Then social media swept in, providing other ways to connect with the far-flung members of my remote social circles—long-distance friends and people I had never met, all exchanging ideas and support, on listservs and LiveJournal and the Speculations Rumor Mill, or exchanging banter on Facebook, Tw&%ter, even the rapid-fire guild chat of World of Warcraft.

But at some point during the past dozen years, the internet started to suck. I mean, obviously. Shiny apples do tend to lose their luster, and of course there’s all the misinformation, the rampant toxicity, the political divisiveness, and the ruthless commerce. The internet went from being an inspiring, entertaining portal to a distasteful but unbreakable habit. Even when it isn’t a doomscroll, it’s often a dispiriting visit to a digital ghost town, once-thriving social watering holes boarded up, many inhabitants long gone. What’s left seems to be a mix of digital big box stores and tacky content mills.

I mean, who could blame anyone for leaving? These days, one of the few things I look forward to during my aimless, knee-jerk web surfs is a new post from Cory Doctorow’s blog Pluralistic, which frequently discusses the many ways the internet sucks, why it got that way, and what can be done about it. His analysis of the internet’s “enshittification” decoded the vague sense of repulsion and discontent I’ve felt about this place for years—and how increasingly disconnected going online makes me feel, despite all the shiny new tools of supposed connection at our disposal. The problems of the internet are manifold and entwined, driven by broken systems, corporate interests, and the unfettered power of Big Tech.

He’s right. The internet got shitty. But here I still am, on it every day! And yes, this may seem like a weird post from someone who has been pathologically devoted to maintaining his own modest corner of the internet for over a decade. “Dude, why are you even here then?” I reflect on that question often, and I’ve finally settled on an answer: for me, this blog stopped being a part of the internet years ago. Long-time readers (hi, Dad!) may have noticed: I stopped sharing my posts on social media quite a while back, not to mention turning off comments. This site started in the spirit of connection, it might even have had “career move” aspirations, but at some point it stopped being about communication. It’s basically a media diary: a place to channel my thoughts on story, a home for the flow of words that stream out of my head. If a few fellow media junkies or science fiction readers or Mission: Impossible addicts stumble across these musings periodically, I’ll call it gravy; but mostly this place is for me.

Well, the internet isn’t going anywhere. It’s not all bad, and it’s increasingly necessary. Ultimately, I’ll need to do something about my unhealthy relationship with it. I’ve got my reasons: improving my mental health, alleviating the sense of having lost touch with so many people I care about, feeling one step removed from the communities that used to sustain me. And yeah, I’ll also be launching a self-publishing venture soon. Mending my relationship with the internet—and with personal and professional telecommunications, really—is going to be essential to making that work.

Hopefully this post is part of that process. I’m making some changes. I have ditched the former bird site that shall not be named, because it has done the most damage and, with its deplorable new owner, seems poised to get even worse. For the sake of my friends still entrapped at Facebook, I’m still semi-there, although I have scaled back my participation considerably. Beyond that, I have a Bluesky handle (@christophereast.bsky.social) I’m hopeful I will start to use more actively. Finally, there’s my newsletter, which you can subscribe to from the header of any page on this site. The word “newsletter” may be aspirational for what I’m currently doing with it; indeed, right now it’s more of a group email to assorted friends and acquaintances about what I’ve been up to, another attempt to feel connected to my long-distance created family. Eventually, though, I’ll be announcing new projects there, as I start flinging more fiction into the universe.

The internet is no fun anymore, but I remember when it used to be, and I kind of want it back. The things that are bad about it are beyond my control, but there are aspects of my relationship with the internet that I can control. I’m going to try start trying more of them. Consider it, like everything else in life, a work in progress.

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