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Kenneth Goldsmith (1961) is an American poet and critic. He is the founding editor of UbuWeb and is a senior editor of PennSound at the University of Pennsylvania, where he teaches.
Wasting Time on the Internet, 2016
Kenneth Goldsmith, Wasting Time on the Internet, 2016
- The Internet has been accused of making us shallow. We’re skimming, not reading. We lack the ability to engage deeply with a subject anymore. That’s both true and not true: we skim and browse certain types of content, and read others carefully. Oftentimes, we’ll save a long form journalism article and read it later offline, perhaps on the train home from work.
- Edward Snowden said that if we want to protect ourselves against government agencies scraping our data, we should get off Dropbox, Facebook, and Google and that we should “search for encrypted communication services” because they “enforce your rights.” Few have taken his advice. Zombies can’t be deprogrammed. The social media apparatus beckons us and we become addicted, joining the billion-plus strong for whom a life without social media is an impossibility. Social contacts, dating prospects, job opportunities, communications with loved ones—just about every interaction we have—flows through social media. For most of us it isn’t a choice; it’s a necessity. Even Snowden couldn’t resist: on October 6, 2015, he joined Twitter.
- Many decry the loss of “real time” to capturing moments on-screen, claiming that the recording of memories as they happen threatens to replace the actual memories you have of that moment. I’ve read many articles in which parents bemoan the fact their kids were seeing family vacations through GoPro cameras, rather than actually living them. After a day on the ski slopes, they edit their raw footage into action-packed greatest moments and post it to social media, where it’s shared and commented on by their friends, hyperextending their time on the mountain. For a generation raised on reality TV to be able to replay those moments over and over through a mediated interface is a way of reliving an eternal present, loved for a moment then replaced by the next day’s upload. In this way, we’re simultaneously archiving and forgetting: archiving because we continuously upload media, and forgetting because we rarely go back to visit what we have uploaded. Today’s upload is the best upload and keeps us very much present and mindful in the here and now.