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YOU GUYS, WHAT ARE WE DOING ONLINE ALL DAY?

May 2, 2012

Guys, what the hell are we doing? I mean, here we all are, together, on Thought Catalog. On Facebook. McSweeny’s. Personally, I’m also reading a lot of Mad Men blogs and TV recaps in general. Others, I know, are on Reddit, although I myself have been told that I am “not good enough at the internet” and “don’t like cat videos enough” for Reddit. That’s okay. I have The Onion, The Huffington Post, NPR.org, NYT.com, and Googling the name of every person I can think of to keep me occupied. Not to mention Twitter — open all day — and my own Gmail account, which I have found creative ways to use as entertainment*.

I never knew that this 9-to-5 online world existed until I graduated from college and landed myself a cubicle. But here I am (no longer in a cubicle, but still at a computer), and I’ve discovered a community. An entire world of twenty-somethings, in jobs that allow for a fair amount of while-working Internet time, wildly exploring excellent essays and mediocre essays and long, insane comment threads and, of course, those cat videos (which I personally do not like. And I recognize that many of you will now unequivocally hate me. I’m sorry about this). We’re just SEEPING THINGS UP, non-stop. It’s a full-time job, all this seeping.

And then there are those days when the Internet feels empty. Completely discovered: there is nothing left. I’ve found that this happens on days when other parts of life are feeling hopelessly dull, and sitting in an assigned chair makes me feel like a FAILURE. HOW DID I GET HERE?, I shout (inwardly). It’s those days when I want to just jump up and down and scream “What’s the point of all this!! THE POINT!!” so that the words echo through each cubicle. Next, I want to run through the office making inappropriate jokes and saying things like “oh yeah, THIS is my childhood dream, you assholes”. But instead, I just Google stuff. Listlessly, wordlessly. I’ve been known to write the occasional haiku on days like these, and send it to a friend without any subject line or explanation. Something like:

I arrive, so sad.
Someone brought cookies today.
Will I eat them all?

Or:

Yup, another day.
I hate my outfit, my face.
Well, that’s all, and you?

Dismal. That’s what it becomes, some days. I find that I metaphorically hurl myself from website to website, feeling engaged in nothing, probably eating the cookies that are in the office kitchen and then spending subsequent half hours regretting them. And then, twenty minutes before it’s time to leave, someone sends me an oral history of Party Down, and there’s not enough time in the day! Life, am I right?

What did people in our position do before the Internet, in the ancient 80s and 90s? Was everyone just covertly reading under their desks? Writing postcards? I get the sense from old movies that people made a lot of phone calls that annoyed their co-workers, leaning back in their chairs and fiddling with the windy phone cord. I get the sense from Mad Men that prior to that, people just drank to get through the day. But here we are: the Internet is our three-martini lunch. We soak it up and leave the office loopy, legs wobbly from over-consumption of media.

I need to note that I don’t mean to imply we’re not getting our work done. I was, and am, and I know that you are too (as were, I’m sure, our gabby and/or boozy ancestors). But, 9 hours is a long time, and normal human beings aren’t productive without taking breaks — hence, the Internet, the telephone, and (previously) the booze.

So, I guess we’re just doing what humans do and have always done: getting through the day. The difference is that now, instead of being isolated at our desks, a la anyone in olden times, we’re all communicating, sharing opinions, together facing the sometimes disappointing realities of our adulthood. We’re a team, you guys!

P.S. Please don’t kick me off the team because of the cat videos thing. You’ll like me anyway once you get to know me better, I SWEAR.

*My creative way to use Gmail as entertainment: just search for weird words. Like, “shoelace” or “space-age.” See what emails you find! Seriously, you might not remember the day that you compared your emotional state to a broken shoelace in that email to your mom, and when you find it, the memory might make you cry, or laugh. Either way, it’ll take up at least a half hour!

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