“The two enemies of human happiness are pain and boredom.”
– Arthur Schopenhauer
Earlier this year I bought a copy of The Wind In The Willows. For those unfamiliar with the book, it’s the story of some talking animals who go on adventures. Written in 1908 the intended audience is children. Here’s a brief excerpt from it:
“He saw clearly how plain and simple – how narrow, even – it all was; but clearly, too, how much it all meant to him, and the special value of some such anchorage in one’s existence. He did not at all want to abandon the new life and its splendid spaces, to turn his back on sun and air and all they offered him and creep home and stay there; the upper world was all too strong, it called to him still, even down there, and he knew he must return to the larger stage. But it was good to think he had this to come back to, this place which was all his own, these things which were so glad to see him again and could always be counted upon for the same simple welcome.”
This children’s book, written over a hundred years ago, was more difficult to read than most contemporary fiction. I’ve read books that were marketed to adults that were written in a simpler style. Right now the bestselling book on Amazon is called Divergent. While I haven’t read the entire thing, I did look over some of it. Here’s a brief excerpt:
“He leans his face close to mine and wraps his fingers around my chin. His hand smells like metal. When was the last time he held a gun, or a knife? My skin tingles at the point of contact, like he’s transmitting electricity through his skin.”
While I’m not going to knock the book, it’s back cover proclaims it to be “A Brainy Thrill-Ride Of A Novel.” From what I can tell, the standards for “brainy” have sunk a lot over the past century. Past societies children’s books explored themes of nostalgia, friendship, wanderlust, and fear. Our current culture lauds a story concerning two people boning each other.
If you were 12 in 1908 and someone gave you a book, you read the book. Aside from playing outdoors and helping with household tasks, you didn’t have anything else to do. There was no TV with 6,000 channels, no YouTube, no Reddit, no Imgur. If you wanted to be entertained you had to use your imagination.
Now when people try and get facts of learn something, they do so in the laziest manner possible. They read some post off Science Facts and then declare themselves to be “such a nerd.” In reality they’re basically read the electronic equivalent of a Snapple cap.
They didn’t exercise their brain. They simply read two sentences, with zero citations I might add, and looked at a picture. A first grade biology book would have more accurate and useful information.
Modern intelligence is basically a joke. You can read a book written at an eight grade reading level and look at some “educational” memes. Last year I bought an introduction to philosophy book at Barnes & Noble. I breezed through it. Afterwards I picked up Ecce Homo and struggled with it. I doubt that half the people who subscribe to Nietzsche quotes on Twitter have ever actually read a single one of his books. Yet they’ll smugly post quotes on their atheism forums while mocking Christians for never having read the bible.
Aside from the faux learning material, the internet also creates a superiority complex. While old media, like the news, typically relied on manipulating fear, the internet cultivates a lot of hate. Almost every single forum or group has some kind of nemesis. Republicans, “Leftoids,” Feminists, Misogynists, Sheeple, Conspiracy nuts, thin privilege, fat people, white people, black people, or a plethora of other groups. Most websites pander to the lowest common denominator and become little more than sideshow attractions. “You might be a loser, but at least you aren’t that guy!”
I haven’t checked my Twitter all week. As a result I stopped looking at clickbait articles. Instead of reading some nonsense I used my internet time to listen to an audiobook on YouTube. Until this week I’d never realized that YouTube even had free books. Now I’m listening to them every time I’m at my desk.
I’m probably going to take a permanent hiatus from Twitter. I might also take a break from treating the internet as a source of entertainment. While I had a lot of fun goofing off on it, I wasted a lot of time. Arguing with someone on Reddit, looking at viral videos on YouTube, and browsing Imgur didn’t actually improve my life. They just provided temporary little jolts of happiness, gone the second I clicked a new link.
I’ve quit the internet for now. There are a ton of books I want to read and the weather is warming up. I’d rather go for a hike and thumb through a paperback than sit inside and stare at a screen. I’ll still be posting on here every day and I’ll be working on my web businesses, but I’m not going to do anything related to social media.
Men have gone millions of years without Twitter feeds and list articles. They built empires, mastered the power of flight, and landed on the moon without ever taking a break to look at cats wearing funny outfits. I think I’ll be alright.