It's not that I completely eschewed the Internet. It's just that my phone was good enough for what I was doing: emailing sometimes, texting, Instagramming, timing feedings, reading books on the Kindle app, listening to music, Netflix, banking, setting the DVR. I could do all that right in the flow of my day with one hand.
As the days went by, I began to notice some of the things that were deeply important to the core Internet user in me began to seem very strange. Chief among them: Twitter.
When you're plugged in all day, Twitter is fun. Whatever happens in the world, other people on Twitter are talking about it, turning it over, composting it, growing new things in the substrate of the day. If you're following along, each successive layer of jokes and elucidations make sense, but if you come in at 4pm just to check in, it's like starting The Wire in season 4 ("Wait, who is McNulty again?"). Twitter can add blue lines to connect conversations and inline images to spice up the timeline, but it's the very things that make Twitter fun for the core user that make it daunting for the casually interested. And what's interesting is that this phenomenon is horizontally scaled: the same problems crop up whether you're talking New Yorker literary circles, biochemists, comedians, or Black Twitter.
None of which is to speak ill of Twitter, exactly. It's great for what it is. But if you're not a professional information gatherer, you don't need it. Which might say something about its potential for growth, ahead of its IPO.
On the other hand, Instagram was paced perfectly for me as a casual user. I only follow people that I know personally, so I can reasonably expect to see most of the photographs people post. Because of the way I've designed my network (private, small) and the way the Instagram works (few people have incentive to post a lot), it felt manageable. Instagram also felt cozy: The day's news rarely makes an appearance. It's all about private life, family and friends, cooking and parties and sleeping in late. I enjoyed it immensely, especially after I got my parents on board to see pictures of their grandson.
Speaking of baby pics, I found myself asking the kinds of questions we ask ourselves in this techno-anxious age. I'd snap a photo of the kid and then wonder, "Am I detracting from the experience of the child by photographing the child?" Was this all just digitally driven narcissism, driven by corporate feedback loops? As the New York Times' Nick Bilton put it the hard version of this argument in a piece about sunsets, "What’s wrong with me? I can’t seem to enjoy anything without trying to digitally capture it or spew it onto the Internet."
Which itself is a variation on a widely held belief among particular classes of Americans that one’s physical and digital lives should be kept distinct, largely so the inferior digital one doesn’t pollute the purity of one’s embodied experienced.