An Indulgent Rant on Why I Hate the Internet

AKA, Woman Shakes Fist at Cloud

As I get older I notice I have less and less inclination to spend time on the Internet. I’ve reduced my time to using it as a research tool and research starting spot, a place to buy books and other things I can’t get in my hometown, and as a source of news I have to cross check to get an idea of the real story. I pop in on Facebook to keep up with friends, but seldom interact. I much prefer the friendlier confines of Ravelry.

I also use it to look up recipes, since physical cookbooks only have a few recipes I want. I hate spending big money on a special cookbook to find there’s really nothing I want to cook from it. Amazon’s Look Inside feature is no guarantee the recipes don’t require ‘Essence of Peacock’ oil, or a whole durian fruit in all its stinky glory.

One thing I’ve come to hate about recipe blogs and other sites are the continual pop-ups, moving ads, and self playing videos. Let me peruse the site before shoving a “Subscribe to my Newsletter” pop-up in my face 4 seconds after I land. Better yet, make the link prominent at the side or top. I’ll find it if I like what you offer. I stop self playing videos. News sites are the worst with this. The constantly twirling sidebar ads make me crazy. Popovers are the absolute worst, tricking you into clicking on them as you go to click on a website link, because they load late in order to screw you over.

Everything screams, LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME!

I don’t look. I’ve trained myself to ignore the side bars and ads in the middle of a story. I mute my computer, stop the self playing ads, and close the popups. All without taking in what they are advertising. It can be done. I have no idea what was advertised on the sidebar of the NY Times today. It could have been something I’m actually interested in, courtesy of tracking cookies following me around the Internet. (They are insidious, even if you have blockers turned on.) But NO. I don’t care to see them.

“Think of the poor sites, they need the advertising money!” comes the whine. I sympathize with running a website. It’s expensive. But it doesn’t have to be so in your face. I will look at static ads that don’t bleed my eyeballs. I will listen to a plea from a site asking me to use their Amazon link to buy something. But no twirly, bossy, whining ads. Just say no. Your ads fail anyhow, since I ignore them. And I refuse to feel guilty. And I won’t click on them.

After so much of this intrusion, I’ve reduced the places I go for my information, ideas and shopping. I haven’t missed any one of them. I use the browsers that block the most pop-ups and auto-playing. When the websites come to their senses and stop the overly obnoxious, intrusive stuff, I’ll pay more attention. It’s like back in the 90’s, when everyone used blinking type on their personal (and some professional) websites. That went away fast as people said “No more”.

I choose the way I want to use the Internet, although advertising tries to choose for me. So I ignore. My small way of fighting back. Sure, it’s like spitting in the ocean, but a person has to start somewhere, and take a stand. Is this the hill I die on? Today, it sure feels like it.

Reading, an Opinionated Overview

I remember the first book I took out of the not picture books side of the library. Not the title, but the fact it was a real book with more words than pictures. It was about a dog. When I held it in my hand, I was awed at the idea of whole different worlds were now available to me. I just had to pick them out. For an introverted child, that was heaven.

I think I read every book in the children’s section by a certain young age, and with the blessings of the children’s librarian, moved downstairs to the young adult and adult books. It helped that I went to the library with my mother every Friday afternoon after I got home from school, and took out 10 books, the library limit. Afterwards, we would go out to dinner at some cheap diner and talk, while in the back of my mind I would savor the idea of all those new adventures waiting.

Savoring is what reading is all about to me. Eyeball the cover, crack open the book, read the title page and its reverse (because I’m weird that way), ponder the dedications. Who were all these people? Writers had help? A deep breath before the rollercoaster like plunge into the story. Once in a while I was fooled by a prologue. I didn’t develop an overwhelming hatred of them, more a resignation and impatience. I wanted the main story, and I wanted it right now! Good thing I’m not a mystery reader, right?

It wasn’t until high school that I learned the joys of non-fiction. Histories, biographies, how things work books. Books about other countries. It all fascinated me even as I worked my way through the fiction on World War II, dipping into histories as seemed appropriate. Then on to the Vietnam War. I grew out of war stories into philosophy. My favorite art teacher, knowing my rabid reading habits, gave me a worn copy of Jean Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. He said, “We’ll discuss it when you finish”. Talk about being thrown into the deep end. Then came another philosophy book. And another. Lots of discussion. Thanks to him, I dual majored in philosophy in college. The places reading takes you shouldn’t be underestimated.

I still have diverse interests and read voraciously. There is so much I want to know. I’m grateful for my e-reader. Yes, it’s nice to have a real book to hold, and I like my non-fiction to be a physical book, but as many novels as I go through in a month, my house would be an episode of Hoarders with books. I’ve also noticed as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to a realization. I don’t have to finish a book. I can close it and walk away. Or throw it at the wall and not read another word. I couldn’t do that as a child. I felt obligated to read every word of the book until the end. Even if I hated it.

As my eyesight gets worse, I like e-readers more. I’m learning to like audiobooks. I use them to drive the long distances across Wyoming, but I notice I tend to grab books I’ve already read to listen to. Kind of like a reread, a comfort? Audio books don’t distract me from driving, like they do for some people. I remember getting to my destination one time, and sitting in the car for another thirty minutes, just to hear the end of the book. Isn’t that what it’s all about? The magic, the need to hear the end, but not wanting the book to end? The same with a series. I’m down to the last two books in an author’s series right now, and I’ve put off reading them. I don’t want my trip into her world to end. Eventually, I’ll dive in and read them. Then start looking for another series to turn my obsession on.

I want adventure, I want knowledge, and I want a peek into someone else’s life. I want to experience the pleasures without the physical pains. I want to sink into a book like it’s a bathtub full of exotic water, slip down to my nose and luxuriate. I want to transform, transcend, traverse. I want to pick up my first chapter book and start reading all over again.

Where does reading take you?

Insulated Writing

There is another side to being a writer that seldom gets talked about. Writing as a form of insulation. Mass shootings, government in a death spiral, racism run amok. All these things make keeping a clear head for writing your novel difficult, even when you attempt to avoid the news, as I do. But the churning is insipid, creeping in through waiting room television, the radio in stores, from coworkers and strangers in line at the grocery.

What’s a writer to do?

Plunge into the world of your novel and don’t come up for air. Insulate yourself from the outside world by concentrating on your world and characters. (Although if you are writing something political and contemporary, you’re pretty much screwed. Sorry. )

I safely insulated myself in the head of my protagonist, concentrating on what drove her and her various predicaments. All well and good, until I found out my insulation wasn’t air tight. Or world tight. News from the outside crept into my character, until there were a few dark turns and talks I never intended. It leaves you wondering, did that really come from me? Should I be keeping my characters in cotton wool? Why won’t the world leave me the hell alone, can’t it see I’m busy creating?

I didn’t want the outside world influencing my story. I want a blanket fort, with me inside, typing away. I want to be oblivious, so caught up in my fantasy world that coming back to reality would be a shock. I want to live elsewhere. Or elsewhen.

It doesn’t work that way. The world doesn’t care what I want. It insists I be more aware, open my eyes, look around, and oh, yeah, I need to tear away that insulation. Let some dirt in on my pristine novel. It will be better for it. And for me. I acquiesce, and throw my blanket fort back on the bed.

Bring it world. My protagonist has magic. And so do I.


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