Saturday 12 November 2011

Why the Internet Makes Me Sad

Don't get me wrong I love the internet- how else could you spend hours and hours in the same position, seemingly doing very little but actually giving your brain a total workout? Ok, sure, reading, I guess. But tell me this- where else could you meet people from your very favourite place in the world that you don't live at all near (i.e. America), and who one day might invite you to stay with them and then you'll actually be able to afford to go there again? Exactly. Nowhere.

But, amongst all the undeniable good of the internet (this blog being, of course, the shiniest of all shiny points!) there is one thing about it that makes me sad. And that is this. When you have, more or less all the information in the world and about the world, at your fingertips and quicker than you can say google or wikipedia, you've lost a lot of the joy of discovering rare and wonderful things. There is of course, always the chance of finding an amazing blog, or someone so exactly on your wavelength that you mourn the fact that you don't live near them, but the challenge of being obsessed with something has long gone, to be replaced with basically more information than you can handle.

Here's what I'm getting at. When I was 14 (nearly 15) I had recently gotten satellite TV, and had music channels for the first time. Correlating with this was the 10th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's death, and the combination of the two meant that, for the first time in my life, I was introduced to music that reached right through my ears into my soul, and it was fucking amazing. So, from this time I was obsessed with Nirvana- I wanted to watch, read, consume anything I could about the band, about Kurt, about the whole of the 90s grunge scene- basically everything short of building a time machine and going back there. But, in a pre-youtube time, I had to be extremely well organised and tactical about this. This meant, checking TV schedules to find out when there would be programmes about Nirvana on, setting up the video to record shows on too late, watching music channels for hours just hoping they'd play Smells Like Teen Spirit one more time. It was all consuming, and it was amazing.

If this had happened just a few years later, I know exactly how it would have gone down, because it's been a curb of obsessions ever since for me. I'd have gone onto youtube, watched a few videos, read the wikipedia entry for Nirvana, and Kurt, google-imaged the band, and then pretty much have lost interest. And, while that's probably a much healthier way to enjoy something, it's so not the same as having an all consuming obsession, and I have to ask if anything is as good this way around. I'm kind of reminded by something that Kurt himself said- that, having money made him happy to begin with, but in the end it feels kind of hollow, and for him, going to a thrift store and finding something really good for very little money was a lot more exciting, because he didn't know that he was going to have it, whereas with money, he knew he could have anything, and so wanted it less. Isn't that true of the internet as well- before, when MTV2 randomly did a Nirvana night, it was the most exciting thing in the world because I didn't know it was going to happen. Now, I know that I can go onto youtube and watch pretty much every recorded thing that Nirvana ever did, and that's great, but it's not the same.

I guess that, in order to have something as wonderful as the internet (and the internet truly is wonderful, don't get me wrong) we have to make some sacrifices as to having the excitement of something that isn't always available to you. As for me, I still remember the heady obsessions of my teenage years, so I'm fine, but I just feel sad for discoveries of old bands by new teenagers- sure, they'll be able to find all recorded mention of them with the click of a mouse, but somehow, because they can have it all, it's a bit hollow. The benefits of the internet far outweigh the negatives, but this all still makes me sad- there's no replacement for the high of an unexpected Nirvana night on BBC4, and even though we've now got everything at our fingertips, sometimes, I'd like to have a little less.


  1. I agree completely. It's the same with movies and theater-going: you would go and see a movie several times because you never knew if/when you would see it again. Now, not only are there home videos of everything, but you can pretty much download good quality copies of things while they're still in theaters (illegal, yes, but easy to do).

    And I miss spending hours listening to the same song over and over while writing the lyrics down. Now all you have to do is go to one of those lyrics sites. It's not the same. :(

  2. Aww. While this puts us in the camp of "Things were better in the old days" people have always been in that camp, so I see no reason for us to try to change up things. Therefore, yes. There was certainly something rewarding about doing things the hard way back in the early days of the internet.

    Embarrassing example: at age 12, I was mightily obsessed with Days of Our Lives (NBC soap opera). More particularly, with John and Marlena, a couple on the show. The internet was advanced enough for mailing lists and Geocities sites, but not much else (1997), and some people sold old tapes of the show. Glorious, glorious tapes. So I worked for my parents, doing chores for $5 an hour, and I EARNED those tapes, and watching them was maybe close to the happiest I've been.

    Now, basically everything on them is on youtube. Which is great in a way, but I wouldn't trade that experience for having easier access to them.

  3. @Silsbee- I'm a bit young to remember a time when there weren't videos, but I imagine that going to the cinema and waiting for the next film to come to your cinema would be so much more exciting than going to a cinema and being able to see about 10 (mostly bad) films. And YES to the lyrics! I once spent an evening figuring out the lyrics to Californication by Red Hot Chili Peppers, and it was so so satisfying! Stupid access to ALL information...

    @Reading Rambo- We do sound a bit 'ooh, it wasn't like this in my day', but I stand by my 'working for things is better than being handed them' thing. This is why I don't really have much interest in winning the lottery or anything, because like, what would you do with your days?! Apart from spend money you didn't earn and then feel bad because you have so much more than most people. But maybe that's just me...
    I love your Days of Our Lives anecdote! And it is about earning things, as well as having the anticipation of having them that's so much better than just having them straight away. *sigh* the modern world...

    Still do love the internet though. Since, you know, that's my medium for saying all this shiz!

  4. I remember growing up and if we had a disagreement in the family about an actor and what movie they were in, we would call up Blockbuster to ask one of the clerks. My students have no clue what innovative research is!