Justin E. H. Smith’s recent book, The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is: A History, A Philosophy, A Warning (Princeton UP 2022) has received plenty of notice here on 3 Quarks Daily, and for good reason. Smith’s books and essays always remind us that, no matter how bizarre and ironic some recent damn thing is, we are always part of a long anthropological history of bizarre irony, and indeed the harder you look the more bizarre and ironic it all gets. At least, I think that is one of the main vibes of 3QD: seeing where we are in some map of the strange natural/cultural universe.
There are plenty of books complaining about the evils of the internet, and to be sure Smith offers four complaints: it is addictive, it warps human lives through algorithms, it is ruled by corporate interests, and it serves as a universal surveillance device. There is enough evidence, both objective and anecdotal, that too much time on the internet turns one’s brain into a Twitter slushie that leaves one in no condition to meditate upon difficult problems, but instead only to scroll and click and scroll and click at digital gewgaws, feeling empty and alone, a terrible feeling one then tries to escape with more scrolling and clicking.