Have You Become Sealed Off from the Internet?

Last night I went to a reading/signing by Drew Magary (@drewmagary) for his new book, THE POSTMORTAL. During the Q&A, he made a comment about how Facebook and Twitter have “sealed off the internet” for a lot of people. That is, people largely only check these two sites, and if they look at another site, it’s because they are following a link from Facebook or Twitter. My first reaction was, “Wow, that’s terrible. I’m so glad that’s not true for me.” But the more I think about it, the more I think Magary might be onto something.

I do read more than those two sites. I use www.netvibes.com (despite how porn-y that url sounds) to collect a ton of RSS feeds that range all over–from news, to comics, political commentary, comics, cooking, and astronomy. And I have a few Google alerts set up. But a lot of those RSS feeds overlap with Facebook and Twitter. If you use Chrome, it will show you your top eight most visited sites when you open a new tab. How often do those sites change? Mine are fairly static. I might not have sealed myself off to the extreme that Magary suggests, but I may have fenced myself off a bit. Where is the randomness in my internet browsing?

Might this limitation negatively affect my writing? Might writers be less likely to create new stories because their internet browsing has become too routine? In my opinion, one of the worst aspects of the internet is that although it has the potential to expose people to so many things, most people tend to settle for a constellation of sites that act as an echo chamber, reinforcing already held beliefs. I wonder if my “chamber” has cut me off from potential story ideas. It seems incredibly likely.

Even worse, this is likely one routine among many–think about your commute, what you eat for lunch every day, or how often you visit the same places? I wonder to what extent routines stifle creativity.

So how should we go about injecting randomness into our routines? What are some ways to expose ourselves to new experiences, new people, and new ideas? Let me know what you think. I’d love to hear some of those new ideas.

6 thoughts on “Have You Become Sealed Off from the Internet?

  1. I’m sure they absolutely stifle creativity. You come up with an idea, do a search, see someone else somewhere has already done it, and decide not to. Or you browse for ideas for assistance and the work you find alters your output in some way or another, probably lining it up with what you already saw…meaning the creativity you might have put into it was altered.

    Maybe.

  2. I think there could be a lesson in the movie Yes, Man with Jim Carrey. Step outside your comfort zone and try new things. I tend to be fairly conservative and reserved. I know what I like (or think I know what I like), so I’m to stick to things I know and not branch out. If you get an invite to something that might make you uncomfortable, go. You might meet new people, see new things, learn interesting stuff.

  3. The internet has been on the decline for quite some time since the introduction of smart phones and apps. Some of our e-authors have a difficult time with readers who rarely use a computer. The most common complaint we receive is that ebook files we host on Amazon and Smashwords won’t download properly to an Android or some other version of a smartphone. It has grown to a point where we have to shrug our shoulders and say tough; the files were meant to be downloaded either on a computer or a designated ereader.

    The point is, websites aren’t being visited much. Your friend is correct. Pocket-computers (cell phones) have boomed. They provide web users with mobile internet access at their disposal. The price? Being 98% dependent on apps with a ceiling of 150 character blurbs…

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