“How might we live without the world’s largest note exchange?” Blake Snow asked recently at the Atlantic. “Or, in other words, what would the world be like today if the Internet ceased to exist?” A few preliminary thoughts:
1. You could learn something new and have time to digest it without immediately hearing a) why it was wrong; b) why it was the last thing you needed to know on the topic; c) why it was actually the opposite of what it said; d) why no, it wasn’t actually the opposite, and people who said it was the opposite were just being contrary for clicks; e) why what someone else had to say was actually more important and better (even if it was mostly about another topic altogether) and g) the same lame variations on the easiest, quickest joke, a million times.
2. The dumbest things in the world would not be celebrated as innovation or disruption and people who were only tangentially connected to them because they were “on the team” wouldn’t feel the need to vociferously cheerlead for them as if their cynicism were actually a forward-looking embrace of “the future.”
3. Your awareness of just how shallow, vapid, rage-filled, dense, empty, angry and otherwise tiresome your fellow human beings are would be restricted to your personal observations of the few people around you who were unable to hide it, rather than being something informed by the constant universal broadcast of the vast army of people who were proud to proclaim it. Your general low opinion of humanity would not be confirmed on a minute-by-minute basis.
4. Your understanding that things are only getting worse would be a small, nagging worry in the back of your brain rather than the blatant announcement trumpeted by every word you read.
5. People would have to actually write — or say — “I’m sorry to hear that” instead of [here is a sad face emoji].
6. Without smartphones (because, let’s be honest, how much of how terrible the web is can we attribute to the prevalence of smartphones and their reduction of attention bandwith? It says here “a metric fuckton”), people would have to find some other excuse to avoid raising or paying attention to their children, and, being lazy, would probably just default to raising or paying attention to their children, because TV is only so distracting.
7. Oh my God, people would stop verbally jizzing about how a ’60s soap opera or an elf incest show were signs of a Golden Age of Television. At most you’d get, “Hey, you catch the elf incest show last night?” “Yeah, I can’t believe that dead guy came back.” “Me either. Now let’s go to a bar and drink, which is what we do during work hours because we aren’t so easily distracted by pointless content.” The disgusting effusion for every embarrassing thing people feel no humiliation over enthusing about online would be dialed down by a degree of about 99% because if it were even slightly more complicated to share those opinions people might have to confront just how sad and empty they were.
8. Your own self-loathing would be based on the terrible things you actually did instead of the terrible things you actually clicked.
9. Idiot lists like this would never be published, or if they were they would be in places you would never have heard of. OMG, grown men wouldn’t talk like 13-year-old girls. Pieces would actually be less rushed, better edited, lengthy only when length was required rather than padded out for the window-dressing of prestige that the meaningless term “longform” is supposed to provide. Sentences and paragraphs wouldn’t go on and on, turning back into themselves until even those rare moments of original thought were so buried under a thicket of verbiage that comprehension became virtually impossible you see where I’m going with this etc.
10. Lists could end at 10 as God intended rather than “37 items of cheap nostalgia we can sell you against” or whatever. Also dozens of people who work for the list-production factories wouldn’t have to share out those lists with empty effusions about how amazing they are as part of their soul-eating “careers.”
That’s just off the top of my head. What are your thoughts? Tell us on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Kik, Peach, the one where you’re like a Wii avatar of yourself, what’s it called, Bitmoji? Is that still a thing? If it is, fuck it, tell us there, tell us on every goddamn platform you’ve got! We’re waiting to hear from you!