The shame of expecting an immediate reply to a text or a Gchat message after just having failed to provide one. The narcissism of urgency.
The pull-snap of a timeline update on a smartphone screen, the spin of its rotary gauge. The feeling of relief at the surge of new data—in Gmail, in Twitter, in Instagram, it doesn’t matter.
The gentle settling of disappointment that follows, like a down duvet sighing into the freshly made bed. This moment is just like the last, and the next.
You close Facebook and then open a new browser tab, in which you immediately navigate back to Facebook without thinking.
The hot fury of encountering yet another lowlife online. Of knowing how the argument ends (badly) but carrying it out anyway.
The sunburn of that fury hours later, the bleak shadow side of ha-ha “someone is wrong on the Internet” cartoon mockery in which you scowled through dinner, because you are a person and not a stick figure.
The comments, and reading them, and not reading them. Knowing that response and reaction responds and reacts to someone’s preferred idea rather than the ideas proffered. If you are a woman, knowing something much, much worse.
Notifications. Click me, read me, look at me, “like” me, buy me, contribute to me, respond to me, retweet me, for I am on the Internet.
Another day’s work lost to the vapors of reloads, updates, clicks, and comments. Realizing that you are hyperemployed by the cloud, that you are its unpaid intern. Wondering what you’d have accomplished if you had done anything else whatsoever. Knowing that tomorrow will be no different.
The weight and heat of your smartphone in your pocket, silently whimpering for you, a glass and metal kitten with a small, fragile body.
The Internet is a thing we do. I’m doing it right now. And as I write this in my home office serviced by Comcast Xfinity, I am experiencing inexplicable delays and failures in DNS resolution. Couldn’t this be an example of the kind of deliberate neglect the backbone operator Level 3 recently used to exemplify the stakes of Net Neutrality? Of course it could. Denialists are worse than critics. It’s disappointing when the thing you do doesn’t work right, and it’s disheartening to learn that it doesn’t work right because the infrastructure that undergirds it is subject to collusion and backroom dealing. Of course, it’s likewise disappointing to discover this truth about roads and schools and jobs. Yet of these matters we do not protest—in part because we believe the Internet might make them irrelevant.
Do we have such a “better world” thanks to the “free and open” Internet that we can feel 100% great about “saving” it? You’ll say “yes,” I know you will. Even to pose the question is considered obscene. You might even say so, posting angrily on multi-billion dollar services like Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr. Such “discourse” is the very point! The system is working!