There’s nothing on the internet tonight


Helena Fitzgerald considers the masochism of our online lives at The New Inquiry.
One of the thrills of adulthood is that no one can see you. You can slough off identity, move to a large city, and get lost in the open-ended possibilities of anonymity. But the cloistered intensity of social media has pushed us to redefine intimacy back toward the adolescent. As Zadie Smith argued in a recent New York Review of Books article, Facebook’s private-in-public mode of operation traps us:
It feels important to remind ourselves, at this point, that Facebook, our new beloved interface with reality, was designed by a Harvard sophomore with a Harvard sophomore’s preoccupations. What is your relationship status? (Choose one. There can be only one answer. People need to know.) Do you have a “life”? (Prove it. Post pictures.)The juvenile mentality built in the medium pushes us to broadcast our private lives and expect that the details we share will be obsessively dissected. We sense, more or less consciously, that with the capability to broadcast our lives comes an obligation to be entertaining.

As we begin to consume one another’s lives and even our own lives as entertainment, the most important person to keep entertained is, of course, oneself. Recently, a friend told me about a recent evening: She came home, checked Facebook, checked Twitter, checked her email, and said, “There’s nothing on the internet tonight.”
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