Thursday, October 18

It’s late again. I am eating dry Cheerios by the handful and sitting on my couch messing around on the Internet.

A personal trajectory, re: what I am doing instead of sleeping when I really should be sleeping: I used to be reading a book, and now I am quite often aimlessly refreshing the same half dozen URLs.

This thing about books: When I was reading, I inhabited a place bigger than immediate circumstance. For better or worse, I spent my time as much in the experiential universe created by all those pages as I did in the objective structure of rural Nebraska. I still feel this way if I read in earnest now. I’ll finish a book and go around for days or weeks after with the nagging sense that something important has happened to me which I should tell everyone about.

This thing about the Internet: It too used to seem vast, something like the pages of a book with no discernible beginning or end. Or rather, something like the space inside of the experience of a book, of many books. It used to be a frontier, an unknown city full of the sound of construction, a series of doors opening onto strange corridors, a shifting surface through which other minds could be seen moving in realtime, could be approached and known.

The ‘net of 1996 was not a thousandth the physical size that it is now. It was probably not one millionth as big as it has become. It permeates, it suffuses, it attaches itself to every event and every physical place. It’s likely that before long average first worlders will actually be cognitively impaired in its absence.

And somehow, in this science fiction now, it all feels so small so much of the time. So flat and full of static. So shallow. Almost frozen.

What happened?