I am sick of the fucking internet. I’m not supposed to say this because I am a child of technology. When I was 12, my big brother got us on AOL. He was in a chat room for fans of the Allman Brothers Band and introduced me to all these people. As they all said hi to me, I felt shivers running up and down my spine. I was so excited I couldn’t stop moving.

Chat rooms felt like a dark closet full of strangers, outrageously intimate. I liked to engage in religious debates the most. I also wanted a boyfriend but found teen chat rooms annoying. I would stay home when the neighborhood kids went out to play because I didn’t like them and preferred to talk to strangers on the internet. I mailed my cheer-leading pictures to a boy in New Orleans who may or may not have been a real person.

I hang out with real geeks because I wish I was one of them. I am uncool in the non-hipster way of being uncool. As in, I’m too awkward to get along with normal people but I don’t know any programming languages. I taught myself HTML once upon a time and thought I was pretty badass, but I couldn’t stay afloat once CSS came on the scene. I know how to crimp a Cat 5 cable, and I can put together a PC. I married my husband because I thought it was hot when he wrote code.

Every now and then I get this need to be well informed about the world, and I go on a news binge. Last week, it was a combination of Norway, Lulzsec, the debt ceiling and Google News Badges. Those badges don’t update properly. The thing says I read 5 articles about Norway, so I started reading a lot of articles on different topics. Then I read like 20 on Anonymous, but it wouldn’t update. I have a bronze Norway badge. I am disappoint.

Although it damn near made me kill myself over the weekend (only a slight exaggeration), I go back to Google News on Monday like an addict looking for inspiration. There are people out there breaking the law and pissing people off and making a difference in a way I can never do. It’s totally possible that the things they’re doing all completely wrong. I’m not convinced anyone is doing anything that’s not completely wrong.

I am a project manager. I am a rule follower. I respect authority.

Every few months, I decide I’m not really a writer. I am angry that I went to college and even more so that I went to grad school. I wish someone had told me how worthless it was. I’m not saying it wasn’t fun or that I didn’t meet lovely people and learn some stuff, but look, I discovered yoga at age 16, and I knew I wanted to teach yoga at age 17, yet I dropped that idea and went to college because that seemed like the appropriate thing to do. I am so tired of the appropriate thing.

If I had followed my instinct, I would have a career by now.

I try to tell myself this is my dharma, that karma put me here. I tell myself I’m here to learn something, and I’m working extra hard to learn it as fast as possible so I can get the fuck out of this cubicle and start doing what I wanted to do all along. Did I really need all those student loans to have this realization, karma? I am $32k in the hole for a degree I will never use.

I don’t mean to be such a downer about it. I mean, I can use a semicolon like nobody’s business, but I rarely do because most of the time it’s pretentious. I fucking love run-on sentences.

I’m tired of buying things. I hate things. I hate stuff. I hate clutter. It’s not just the laptops littering the living room but also the server racks down the hall from my bedroom, and also the ones in the basement, and the miscellaneous cables scattered around the technological wasteland that is my house. It’s also the unwashed underwear, the piles of recycling, the perpetually half done renovation projects, the stacks of unread books and magazines on the floor and dust bunnies, my god the dust bunnies. And furthermore, it’s Twitter and Facebook and Google + and Google Reader and Google News and my two blogs, one of them disused. It’s also IRC and GChat and once upon a time AIM and ICQ. It’s also Skype and Ventrillo and Stickam and Daily Booth and Youtube.

There is a BMW being born on my behalf and a loan check to prove it. I feel like a teen mom except I’m not a teenager, not a mom, and not a reality TV star, but my life does have that familiar ring of this is not really- this- this- this is not really happening

You bet your life it is.

I am often afraid that if I said what I really thought about the world, I would be burned at the stake. Maybe I should just make peace with that. After all, this flame proof suit will not last forever. Maybe sometimes it’s better to douse yourself in gasoline and go for the fucking glory.

Maybe I should be a little less dramatic.

Some days I just want to get a lot of tattoos and become totally unemployable as a way to force myself out of the corporate world. One day I will. If I achieve only one thing in life, it will be becoming unemployable.
I hate the way journalists on television say “hacktivists” like they’re trying to drive home a clever pun. They deadpan the news like the world’s worst comedy troop telling grand sick joke. Why hasn’t anyone hacked Congress yet? Those guys are the real assholes, right? I wonder what kind of delicious secrets they’ve got. Just a thought.
A guy walks into a universe and says “God? Is that you?” and the Pope says, “Yes, son, take off your clothes.” The headlines spew sex scandals and it’s all the same to them whether you’re a rapist priest or a member of congress who fails to grasp direct messaging. If there are genitals involved, they’re all over it.
Sex crimes are our favorite joke, but trading legal tender for an orgasm will cost you your career. Sometimes I hate the world.
Every generation has its drama. We all think we’re in the middle of something new and brilliant. They had Kennedy and Nixon and all those poor dead boys, and we have about half the world protesting, a handful of countries with no governments, and a digital revolution that is not at all what we were hoping for, no matter what you were hoping for.
Tomorrow. I swear. Tomorrow I’m getting that tattoo.

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MARY HENDRIE (formerly Mary Richert) is a writer living and working near Annapolis, MD. Her blog is missdirt.net. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Goucher College. You can also find her on Twitter, @MissDirt. Mary really likes it when people comment on her blog or talk to her on Twitter so she can meet new people and get new ideas, so feel free to say hello any time.

30 responses to “Anger is the American Condition”

  1. Becky Palapala says:

    Every generation has its drama. We all think we’re in the middle of something new and brilliant.

    Don’t we, though?

    *snap snap*

    And this aversion to/disappointment with the internet seems to be a thing lately. A lot of people feeling it and expressing it. Some people just kind of wandering away from their computers. Something cosmic, maybe. Mercury goes retrograde tomorrow. Maybe that’s it.

    Though I’ve been having major aversion for a couple of weeks now. Started with a minor aversion some months ago.

    Another friend’s status update today spoke to the overwhelming meh-ness of the internet just earlier today. My reply to him:

    Lately I feel about the internet the way I feel when I walk into an old watering hole in my hometown. A mixture of shame that I ever spent so much time there, boredom in the moment I’m there, and the smug superiority of knowing that while all these other losers are still loitering around every day, I almost never go there just to “hang out.”

    • Mary Richert says:

      Yeah, that’s the sad thing, Becky. I’m on the internet ALL DAY. I am totally one of those people.

      • Becky Palapala says:

        Well, yeah. I mean, I’m the internet all day, too.

        It’s largely a function of work, but it used to be even when I didn’t have to be.

        It’s not like that’s some far-off reality for me.

        It’s like someone who’s only quit smoking for a month looking down his/nose at a smoker.

        But there does seem to be some kind of widespread internet hate going down lately, and I’m kind of curious about why.

        • Mary Richert says:

          I think the internet largely jumped the shark with the launch of Google +. It was like suddenly, the information overload and networking overload hit me all at once. We simply have too much access to information, I’m afraid, and our work situations and our lifestyles are such that we’re just constantly absorbing more. Google + finally put me over the edge, but it was building for a while.

        • Mary, I loved this essay, and I’m with you on the love/hate for the internet. There are times when one more email, even from someone I really like, is just one email too many, and other times where I frantically roll over in the night and grab my phone and hope someone has written to me. But the internet is endless and it’s hard to know where to stop.

        • Mary Richert says:

          Thanks so much, Rachel. I think the internet is becoming like the collective consciousness, the hive mind of all technology-centered societies. It’s beautiful and dangerous.

    • Nathaniel Missildine says:

      There could very well be a shared, widespread exhaustion with the Internet. It’s not farfetched that we’re all experiencing it at once, given how much of our psyches we’re already sharing.

      I had planned to step away for awhile and found myself looking forward to this past month where I was more or less disconnected entirely from the internet. One funny thing that happened, I downloaded pages and articles to read on my laptop while offline, and enjoyed each piece more, savoring the writing suddenly set down in quieter surroundings without links and click-throughs.

      Then I come back and it’s like learning to swim again.

      Anyway, excellent rant, Mary. I actually think more dramatic might be the way to go. But that’s just me.

      • Mary Richert says:

        I have a history of being less interesting than I would like because I’m afraid of offending people, which is weird b/c with people I know and love, I tend to never censor myself. Only on the internet and around authority figures I become this boring little person. This is a pattern I intend to change.

  2. Matt says:

    After having orthopedic surgery last spring, I was physically unable to sit at my home desk for long periods of time, was in fact confined largely to the bed and the couch for six weeks, and since I don’t have a laptop my internet time was largely curtailed beyond the immediate necessities of email. And then right after my recovery period ended and I was finally able to move about, my home computer died it’s final death, and I was without a replacement for almost two months. Being at home meant having no internet access save for my iPhone.*

    And you know what? After that initial withdrawl period, it was bliss. So much more time to do other things. Since getting a new computer, I’ve found that I don’t much want to sit in front of one after work; I’d rather take my notebook out to the patio and write by freehand out there than sit in front of my PC and type. Expecially considering I already have to do so much of that for my day job as it is.

    I think I’ve just hit a point of oversaturation on digital information. I’m finding myself enjoying reading books in part because they represent single information sources: no pop-ups, no hyperlinks, no additional tabs to click on, no accompanying audio to stream. Just me and a handful of paper and ink.

    Living in The Future is a nice thing, and I’m happy I have all this technology at my disposal. But it’s a good idea to unplug and go outside from time to time.

    • Mary says:

      A similar thing happened to me when we had no TV for 3 months while I was in middle school. It seriously changed my life. To this day, I don’t understand why people obsess over TV shows.

      • I grew up pre-Internet on a farm without cable television. Via antenna, we got three fuzzy channels — just the major networks. In college, throughout my twenties and into my thirties, I never cared enough about TV to purchase cable for my apartments. I didn’t miss it at all.

        I met my husband in 2004, and when we moved in together, it was the first time in my life I’ve ever had cable television. The extra cable channels are the first thing I want to turn off during tight financial times, which horrifies him. He grew up with multiple channels and simply doesn’t want to live in a world without ESPN. I enjoy TV, and am not one of those “Kill your television!” people because I think it has great educational shows and quality entertainment if you choose to seek out such things. But like yourself, I don’t understand the obsession, and would be just fine without it.

  3. James D. Irwin says:

    There are large parts of this I could have written (that’s not a boast… I mean I agree heartily with a lot of sentiments expressed…)

    My relationship with the internet feels weirdly like a harmful addiction. I think part of it though is due to the fact that I have haphazard internet connection which means if I want to use the internet during the day I’m pretty much governed by the technology itself so I’m in a habit of spending as long on the internet as I possibly can whilst I have it.

    Then I had a massive ‘fuck the internet and having stuff phase.’ It was nice for a while. I quit facebook, I felt superior to everyone else.

    And then I got bored.

    And I learnt important things about myself (mostly that as much as I hate social networking, I miss being connected to certain people). This has led to a rather elaborate game involving a fake fake-profile to draw attention to myself and alleviate boredom. It’s no fun pretending to be an eccentric loner if no-one can see your performance…

    And as much as I agree with Matt on books and the merciful lack of pop-ups, and the joys of writing distraction free by hand… well… I came to appreciate the internet a bit more. I somehow ended up not hating technology and wishing I lived somewhere cut off from the 21st century and instead marvelling at how fucking incredible it is that the human race has invented a tv/computer/phone with access to pretty much the sum total of human knowledge that fits into a small bag.

    Even my crappy laptop… any curiosity can be indulged, most queries answered, many celebrities viewed topless…

    It started to seem kind of stupid to me that one could be bored with the internet. I know the feeling, but it seems that in only about ten years it’s already gone from sending shivers down spines to being taken for granted. I’m as guilty as anyone. I visit TNB most days, and most days I engage in the comments. I rarely stop to think how damn insane it is that I can instantly engage in a discussion with someone on the other side of the world.

    It’s amazing. Ten years ago my family didn’t even have a computer. Now I have a palm-sized device with which I can use the internet. That should never, ever be boring.

    Love a good run on sentence as well. Also occasionally wish I hadn’t bothered with college. Not convinced the debt is worth the end result. Not sure it’s made me a better writer. Anything useful I’ve done has been outside the academic system. But people have to be kept happy…

    • Mary Richert says:

      There is definitely a fine line between using technology and being consumed by it. Creating technology is perhaps THE hallmark of human intelligence, right? I mean, I’m sure someone told me that once… probably someone on the internet.

  4. Gloria says:

    Where’d you put the keys, girl?

    If you get the tattoo, you can get employment in Portland. Just sayin’…

    Love this post, Mary. 🙂

    • Mary Richert says:

      Thanks, Gloria. I’m 99% sure that I would not get fired from my current job for an arm tattoo, but it might make getting future corporate employment harder, which is sortof the goal.

  5. Jeffro says:

    I love this and agree with it in so many ways. I believe I am getting an Internet hangover.

    • Mary Richert says:

      Thanks, Jeffro. The worst thing about an internet hangover is going to work the next day and sitting in front of your laptop and doing the same damn thing you did yesterday. I just want a way out of this ridiculous pattern.

  6. I take an occasional Internet break for a week at a time. I actually just took one last week. Maybe because I remember a time before the Internet, before cell phones, texting, and constant technology, I sometimes need to step back from it all and make sure the pre-plugged-in me is still there. (And I’m always slightly depressed that “not getting on the Internet” has become my Walden Pond.)

    I don’t do this to feel superior to people still using the Internet or because I feel disdain for it — I think the Internet is amazing. Because I remember a time of running to a dictionary instead of Google, and a time of tedious library research when writing a paper in college, I will never knock the Internet. I only take breaks from it because I truly enjoy the mental peace. I like to see what else is out there, what different choices I make with my time when I remove a large chunk of how I usually spend it. I always appreciate the Internet more when I get back on after a break, too. Like taking a vacation away from a significant other in a way.

    And yes, the fact that I just compared the Internet to my husband makes me think I might need another break from it very soon. (:

    I really enjoyed reading this, Mary.

    • Mary Richert says:

      Thanks, Tawni. It’s definitely not a feeling of superiority that I get when I exit the internet for a couple days, although I used to feel that way about not watching television. I now realize that not watching TV puts me at a disadvantage in certain social situations when everyone is talking about their favorite shows and I’ve never watched any of them. But when I do escape from the internet, it’s a feeling of sweet, blessed relief that I get from simply not being bombarded by so much information!

  7. SAA says:

    If I sell my book I’m getting ‘born 2win’ tattooed on my knuckles. I figure knuckle tattoos will officially take me out of the game as far as prospective employers are concerned.

  8. The Allman’s chatroom? That was me! Dickeybetts23!

    Actually, my totally useless tech protest, which does make me feel incrementally better, is that I still use my pre-texting flip phone from 2005. I like to whip it out in crowds and watch everyone act like I’m holding a ceolacanth egg.

    • Mary Richert says:

      The other day, I thought I lost my phone while drunk in Baltimore. For a few minutes, I was pretty upset. Then I was really happy. I got excited about the idea of going back to a regular old flip phone with buttons and shit. But then I found my phone again, so … back to obsessively checking Twitter when the dinner conversation gets awkward, I guess.

  9. Herb says:

    Should I take this internet article and post it on FaceSpacePlacewitter after I +1 it? =D

  10. Richard Cox says:

    “Every few months, I decide I’m not really a writer.”

    I know what this feels like. I think all of us writers do it from time to time. But you’re one of the best around here, so if you’re not a writer then most of us aren’t. Which is obviously not true.

    I declare shenanigans.

    • Mary Richert says:

      Thank you, Sir. You are so kind. The truth is, I don’t know what it means to be a writer. Anyone can call themselves one, you know. We’re all writers in some ways. But writing for its own sake becomes less fulfilling over time. Writing for glamour is a doomed pursuit. Writing because you have something to express, though, is worthwhile. Whether it’s anger, confusion, love or lust — that’s when writing gets interesting. So, I’m thinking of myself less as a writer these days and more as an experiencer who has a decent grasp of syntax.

  11. Art Edwards says:

    “Chat rooms felt like a dark closet full of strangers, outrageously intimate.”

    Yowza, that’s good.

    Never leave the internet, Mary. Bandwidth junkies rock.

  12. […] Anger is the American Condition: in which I discover my dharma is to be a foul mouthed yoga teacher with a world view more like that of George Carlin than the Dalai Lama […]

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