Web Disorders

The Condition: Chronic Self-Disclosure

A decade ago, the internet's signature feature was obfuscation. You could invent a new identity; embellish your life to make it that much more interesting; buff out the imperfections; or just hide without feeling like an anti-social creep for it. Message boards, chat rooms, and nascent blogs, all depended on a technology-induced veil, a curtain that shielded online actions. What you saw was what people had selectively chosen as representations of themselves. Sometimes, though, information flowed in the opposite direction. Insider-y knowledge that had previously been the mark of real-life, earned inclusion in a community now could be readily acquired online. The internet was an unstable space; it allowed us [...]


The Condition: Personality Seepage

I can’t tell if the Internet is a never-ending job, an inescapable workplace, or both. I suppose my job is “writing” (I try to stay a notch above “warrior of content”) but it still feels weird to introduce myself as “a writer." In my ears this always sounds like I've been revising a historical novel about my great-uncle's flight from a Cossack bandit gang in the latter part of the Crimean war, complete with an appendix explaining several varieties of cannon.

For pretty much all my waking hours, I sit in front of a laptop, juggling windows and frantically typing as the world goes white behind me. Multi-tasking was a [...]


The Condition: The Eye That Never Blinks

I’m on the internet again. This is how I begin most days, any day, immediately upon waking pulling the machine against my body. I often sleep with the laptop on the bed beside me waiting, as well the last thing I touched before I stopped and tried to begin drifting off. The strobing eye of my MacBook Pro must be covered so as not to wink and wink its light against my face and keep me up.

I don’t even know what I want to look at most days ending and beginning the day in this way. The first and last things are almost always the same sites. Gmail, [...]


The Condition: Existential Googling

Type “why am I” into a Google search and autocomplete will suggest “why am I here?” Type “why did” and you’ll find “why did I get married?” These questions seem so hackneyed, the kind of generic lamentations you might hear in a bad movie. And yet, Google’s autocomplete algorithm insists that searches relating to marital strife and existence are, in fact, incredibly common. This has led me to wonder again and again: has Google become one of our expressions of existential moaning?

Outside of the confines of autocomplete, we generally know very little about each other’s online searches (although blog metrics can provide surprising—and sometimes bizarre—insights). But back in 2006, [...]