TThe Internet has given him, and at the same time, the Internet is turning away. On the one hand, it gives us access to almost unlimited knowledge, instant connection with anyone around the world, and cute cat videos. (Also: Surprisingly cool clips of turtles chewing a watermelon.) But the internet is robbing our privacy and killing so much letter writing as an art—not to mention the handwriting itself. (Many teens can’t read and write in cursive, and don’t know how to sign their names.) And our concept of stopping has changed, too; People don’t meditate or daydream like they used to.
Do you have a free minute? You probably don’t use it to think about your existence, plan your future, or let your mind wander. Maybe you take out your phone to check email, Twitter, TikTok, or YouTube. Scroll and swipe and swipe.
The internet has taken more from us than we realize.
Pamela Ball wrote a book about it: “100 Things We’ve Lost on the Internet.”
Think of it as 100 short eulogies for the things the internet has killed.
But this is not a preaching text. 100 short and funny articles.
Mrs. Paul is not a Luddite, though she has left her inner lost at times.
“I think we’re weird, funny creatures, and you have to see the humor in that,” she says. “The Internet has done some terrible things, dangerous things, but the effects on democracy, privacy and misinformation have been extensively covered (in other places. Things like).”
“I tried to look at some everyday, smaller, more personal and funny things.”
Included in her list:
Number 79: Find out who this actor is.
#33: Birthday Cards.
No. 29: Rolodex.
Number 42: Patience.
No. 15: No restriction.
Not only did she have trouble coming up with the 100 things we lost, but she had to “dodge the math,” as she puts it, mentioning different things in one article.
Its list includes things like Record Albums (#59), Checkbook (#74), “TV Guide” (#47), Maps (#53), Lost Your Ticket (#5), and Card Catalogs (#83).
But it also includes solitude (#25), productivity (#26), being in the moment (#57), how attentive you are (#63), humility (#93), empathy (#54), and fully caring for parents (#95).
The first thing you listed and lost online?
Miss Paul is an editorial writer for the New York Times, the former editor of the New York Times Book Review and host of her weekly book podcast. (No. 36 on her list: Paper).
In February 2019, I wrote an op-ed for the newspaper titled “Let the Kids Get Bored Again”. The subtitle of the clip: “Boredom teaches us that life is not a show of entertainment. Most importantly, it breeds creativity and self-sufficiency.”
The opinion piece sparked the idea for the book.
“The idea is that when you have this little device, you have a phone, mobile internet at all times, and you have constant access to an unlimited array of distraction and entertainment,” she says. “There is never a moment in the day when you have nothing to do, it is just gone.
“What do you lose with that, you’re lost in boredom. How can you be bored when you have all that at your fingertips? Good salvation!”
But the truth is that moments of boredom stop all input. It’s when we produce the output, that is when we are creative. Since we are not constantly processing things coming from outside, we can create our own ideas.”
We have our most eureka moments in the bathroom, she says, because that’s the only place we don’t have our equipment and let our minds wander.
“We just don’t teach people to put up with boredom anymore,” she complains. “They don’t have this opportunity to be creative, to think for themselves, to find things for themselves, and to be resourceful. People complain that (that) the younger generation needs to be entertained constantly, they can’t be alone.
“We set them up that way. They weren’t forced to[deal with boredom].”
When the pandemic hit, the Internet was a life saver, notes Paul.
“During the lockdown, we have had access to the internet,” she says, noting its importance in providing “connection with loved ones, communication between people to work remotely, and to earn a living.”
But she mourned some of the things the internet had erased from our lives.
“I really have a great appreciation for things, not just in the past, but things that were there before my time,” she says. “It comes from being a reader of literature and studying history in college. A lot of things have improved, but I don’t think the world is so simple. There are many things from the past that I value, and we as a culture do.”
But often she says we get the message that “Going forward is always better,[that]acquiring the next thing will make our lives better. Some people realize at some point that this is not true. But in terms of technology, the selling is: it will be better.” Much when you get this. Or: There’s something wrong with you, you fear the future if you don’t buy or use this new service or the app that has been created.”
It objects to the forced obsolescence of modern technology.
“There is no reason to buy these things, but the industry forces you to buy them,” she says.
Mixed feelings and choices
The things we lost online are mixed. It indicates that one loss can mean one thing to one person and another to another. One person can feel confused about the loss.
For example, I was relieved that it was no longer lost, because it now has GPS, Siri, and Google Maps.
“I can constantly locate myself,” she says. But still, “You might remember, in your twenties, that you get lost on purpose. Frank Rich wrote in his diary, where he remembers traveling with his mother or grandmother, and she said, ‘Let’s get lost!’
“There is something really great about that. There is a missed opportunity in not knowing your place in this world. So things can be both positive and negative, depending on the person at the moment.”
Ms. Poole says the loss she feels so sad about is being able to be in one place at a time.
“With the internet out there, in the background, it’s really hard to focus on what’s going on at any given moment, and not get distracted,” she says. “I think we always realize that there are 100 or more people knocking on our virtual door: chat, text, something like that, follow, email, invite Google.
“There is a constant feeling that whatever you do, there are all these other things you can do at the same time. For people, that makes living in the moment and focusing on where you are and giving yourself to that, difficult.”
You remember a time when people would go on vacation to a different continent or country, and they couldn’t be reached while they were away.
It did not end with a global crisis. There is nothing stopping us from doing it again.
“I think what people don’t realize is that we are responsible for our choices here,” says Ms. “You can choose when to call. But most don’t.” ¦