This is Not a Place

These are words on a screen. You give them meaning in your head. Maybe. If I’m lucky.

The internet, which is a sort of infinite filing cabinet of humanity’s best and worst ideas, does not afford human contact, but only a simulacrum of such. Again, this is a thing you give meaning in your head. We can feel connected, you and I, if we suspend disbelief long enough to ignore the fact that we are not actually together.

If we were together we might walk together in the woods, you crunching through the leaves at the edge of the trail. We could talk, and I could hear the tone of your voice and see the expression on your face. You could disagree with me in a way that didn’t leave me feeling threatened or dumb. We might have an idea together. We might have a real experience.

The internet is like an endless Choose Your Own Adventure that rewards you for any question you can ask, any page you can turn. It is addictive because it pays out in whatever currency you request. When you reach one dead end, a tap of your index finger miraculously transports you to some new wide open highway of intermittent reinforcement.

I used the word ‘transport’ there, which betrays my base premise, that this is not a place.

Our brains tend toward solipsism naturally. We are us. We live inside our own minds. Our imagination capers more internally than our bodies ever do in physical space. The internet exacerbates that solipsism, sprays the roaring fire of our inner lives with long draughts of lighter fluid, does not care if the fire spreads and/or burns down facets of our real lives.

Yesterday I rode a ski lift to the top of a mountain, a magic, flying chair that floats through the tree tops. The snow plastered trunks and limbs swayed softly in the breeze. Cold air bit at my lips and nose, the quiet broken only by the hum of the lift and the occasional scrap of conversation from skiers passing below. My mind felt clear and things seemed possible.

The internet is not where life happens. Virtual is simulation. Intellectual is meta. The irony is not lost on me.