a girl’s guide to the internet
The internet suspends us in an endless landscape of self-loathing, loneliness, glee, and hysteria. Here’s your guide to surviving it.
It's a challenge to write a guide to the internet because the internet is not a thing or a place or even a series of connected events. It's neither Coachella nor a selection of "cheap eats" in Zone 1. We do not have anecdotes about the internet or memories of the internet or even really a conscious acknowledgement of the internet. In many ways the internet does not exist; we exist as we always have and the internet is simply the space between us all. It connects us with people and it alerts us to things in the same way that a telephone or a dog might. But a telephone and a dog are unlikely to contain within it multiple reflections of your identity, your projected ego, and your aspirational self. Depending on the breed, anyway. Here I am attempting to curate a guide to the internet, it's a Girl's Guide because people enjoy that alliteration, but really this is a guide for any mortal human who suddenly finds that their existence is tethered to an iPhone charger. I hope you enjoy it.
People used to think you could be addicted to the internet but they were wrong because the internet has become an essential quality along with earth, water, fire, and MacBook air. You no longer choose to engage with the internet, it is now a pillar of life like food or sex. How/why? Probably because it provides a constant supply of two of the most fundamentally indulgent human feelings: guilt and pleasure. As far as I can tell, the internet suspends us in an endless landscape of self-loathing, loneliness, glee, and hysteria. Here's a video about a Syrian pediatrician being blown up notification; Bertie liked a picture on your timeline notification; three people are attending an event within seven miles of you this evening notification; here's a tear-jerking video about a dog's journey from roadside stray to loving home notification; watch how to make one-pan pasta notification; how I healed my gut from gluten in seven easy steps notification. Suddenly it's 5:43 and you've done literally nothing but you're completely emotionally exhausted. The internet is the seventh emotion: fucking dumb and crazy.
People used to think you could be addicted to the internet but they were wrong because the internet has become an essential quality along with earth, water, fire and MacBook air.
People do not browse the internet in pairs, therefore the likelihood of the internet being able or even interested in presenting sex in a sensuous or realistic way was never that high. Instead, sex has been re-imagined as a juddering, shrieking charade where women constantly mouth 'O' and flash hatred in their eyes and gurgle at the majestic power of the penis. That's pretty much fine as long as you remember that penises are actually just flappy courgette flowers made of skin which taste similarly underwhelming. If aliens intercepted our internet connection which I assume they are, judging by the amount I pay per month (Virgin media I'm looking at you), and tried to understand sex they would probably assume that men had barbed genitals. I mean that says quite a lot about the fragile state of masculinity does it not? I shed a tear for all men. Let's move on.
Well this is the crucial one isn't it! The one they do all those trend-forecasting panels about in Shoreditch! Would you exist without the internet? Who are you and how bound to your online identity is the You that you think you are? Sorry. But it's prescient. All the people who were too cool for Facebook in sixth form have literally vanished into thin air, at first noticeably absent from milestone events they are now specters haunting digital photo albums from 2007, occasionally sighted in the background of a profile picture, their disappearance punctuated by the feeble hashtagging of their first name on Instagram. We mourn for the lost souls of social media, those who aren't even on Snapchat. Poltergeists of the Myspace generation, determined to exist with both feet in the physical world and worship the Gods of tangible reality. Well sorry to all the soldiers without smart phones but the internet is reality and T.S. Eliot would definitely have had Facebook. He would also definitely be mutual friends with your posh ex-girlfriend who was into squatting for about four minutes. As far as the rest of us are concerned, our digital identity is obviously fundamental to who we are. No one checks your Facebook profile as much as you do. No one reads back through your tweets as often as you do. The internet is basically a person standing alone in a huge, mirrored room looking at endless reflections of themselves. It invites you to gaze Narcissus-like into the chasm at what could have been and what could be. And you will. For eternity or until your battery dies.
No one checks your Facebook profile as much as you do. The internet is basically a person standing alone in a huge, mirrored room looking at endless reflections of themselves.
Everyone hates online feminism because it's really militant and it gives black women a voice. No but really, can we please stop overlooking how important Twitter has been in terms of diversity and accountability for feminism. Yeah sure, no one wants to read Cuntry Living anymore but to be honest a private feminist collective born out of Oxbridge was never going to be that important anyway was it? Don't overlook the whole movement just because initially online feminism was a bunch of private school brunettes in leggings ruminating on Miley Cyrus for the Guardian (me). They all stopped getting commissions because they didn't have 10k on Twitter anyway (follow me here). Actually online feminism is producing and distributing art, poetry, and criticism of an achingly brilliant caliber and you'd be a fool to ignore it.
And finally, the real purpose of the internet -- to sell us things packaged up by slaves in unheated Eastern European warehouses and 'left with a neighbor' never to be seen again. The internet is the cherry on the cake of late capitalism. It provides next day delivery in one-click. It encourages you to shop the look. It has absorbed career, culture, social life, leisure time, and orgasms down into one furiously smeared screen. When you talk, it listens and when you tap, it remembers. Did you buy a one-sleeved top from ASOS? It wants to sell you the other arm. Only a fool would forget that the majority of content birthed onto their socials feeds by the four upstanding pillars of online media: Lad Bible, Daily Mail, the Guardian and VICE, is fueled by the desire of a tanned man in Paul Smith socks to make enough money to buy a really beautiful tortured horse. The internet is not a utopian democracy, it's boring, predictable, greedy, shallow and corrupt. Just like everything else in the world. Enjoy.
Text Bertie Brandes