The Internet is making us all crazy. And I'm not talking about the obvious stuff, like third graders screaming racial epithets over Xbox Live, 4chan stalking, or YouTube (literally anything YouTube; it's all nutbars and crazyshakes up in that place). There is a subtle and creeping type of madness slipping into us as we stare numbly at our monitors, digesting an endless stream of cats adorably failing to do things. Mental disorders that have always been present, in some form, but are now becoming commonplace. Disorders like ...
#5. Link Hoarding
For me, it all started with work. I have to know things. It is part of my job to find the ridiculous -- to collect, catalog, and comment on the outlandish and strange information out there. So I started with the gateway drug: bookmarks. I began manually bookmarking every interesting link I found, and at first, I sorted through them every single week. All was right with the world.
But then saving useful links wasn't enough anymore.
Maybe I should expand my focus beyond interesting scientific studies and pop culture theories, I thought. Maybe I can use these badass random images in my columns. Maybe I can find a use for this crazy Chinese shovel that can do everything. Maybe I can somehow pair it with this Chinese man crashing his scooter like 18 times. Maybe there's a link there that I can't see right now -- better save both, just to be sure.
Soon there were too many links to sort through every week, and after several months of buildup, I deleted that folder entirely. Not because I knew I had a problem, but because there were better ways to hoard links. I didn't notice I was smoking too much weed and decided to take a break; I noticed I was smoking too much weed and figured out that heroin would be more efficient.
I began downloading apps. I installed Instapaper and Dropbox, started using the "save" feature on Reddit. And let me tell you, brother, it is great!
Now I never have to read anything ever again.
Instead of clicking links, perusing their content, and then collecting that knowledge in my head, I now collect it on an external service just in case I want it later (spoiler: I apparently do not!). It's like building a library so you have somewhere to store the unread books that keep piling up on your nightstand.
#4. Impulse Gaming
I have done it: I have broken 100 games in my personal Steam collection.
How did I find so much time to game when I work a beyond-full-time day job and write books in my off hours, all while balancing a relationship and a social life? Simple!
I don't play them.
Well, that's not entirely fair. I have played perhaps 75 of those 100. It's just that, of those 75, I have only played about 50 for more than 10 minutes at a stretch. Of the 25 I haven't played at all, I knew, even at the time of purchase, that I was never going to play them.
It's not the same thing as link hoarding: I wasn't collecting them because I thought I might need them later. It's because they were only $3! $7! Only $10 for the whole collection, marked down from fucking $600! At that price, my brain says, you would be stupid not to buy this thing that you don't want and will never use!
This wouldn't be a problem if I were less picky or had more free time -- I might end up exploring some properties that I otherwise would never check out. But that's not the case: I have strict requirements for a game, and if even one of them isn't met, I will never play that game again. If it launches some bullshit third party thing -- Uplay or Rockstar Social Club, for example -- ye shall be banished from my gaming kingdom forevermore. If a game doesn't support independent audio controls, blasting out of my speakers at full volume every time I start it up -- I will never play it again. If a game doesn't support a controller (I know, I know, I'm one of those bastard console/PC hybrid gamers -- but son of a bitch, I spend two-thirds of my life in front of a computer, I'd like to at least sit in front of a differently shaped one in my down time), I will never play it again. If it turns out to have been published by EA, I will never play it again.
You'd think, considering my insane list of prerequisites, that I would ensure that a game meets them before purchasing. And I'm usually pretty good about my due diligence. Unless the game is discounted 90 percent or more. That's the magical number. If your game is a meager 85 percent off, you'd better meet my crazy demands or I'll start executing hostages. If it's 91 percent off, I will buy whatever crap you throw at me on pure muscle memory, and then shove it in a virtual closet like a digital NordicFlex, never to be seen again.
#3. Comfortable Playlisting
I subscribe to both Spotify and Netflix. They're fantastic. Excellent services. I heartily recommend them, especially if you never plan on experiencing anything new ever again.
Oh, they offer the world: Netflix has more hours of entertainment in their back catalog than there are hours left in the lifespan of the universe. There have been perhaps two albums that Spotify didn't have available for instant streaming when I went to search for them. They have the complete discography of Boris the Sprinkler, for fuck's sake: I've barely even heard of Boris the Sprinkler, and I love those guys!
And therein lies the problem: They have so many options that they're bound to have your favorite thing.
So there I am, with virtually every piece of televised or recorded media in the world at my fingertips -- all for less than 20 bucks a month -- and I'm watching reruns of Supernatural for the sixth time (god damn it, Sam, can't you see that you're all Dean has?!) and listening to the same album for the 500th time. Even if Spotify pays a ha'penny per listen, I still think I bought Ted Leo a new house this summer.
We've always done this to some extent. We bought DVDs of our favorite movies and TV shows, reread our favorite books, listened to our favorite albums on repeat. But we had an excuse for repetition then: New stuff just wasn't available to us. Where do you look? Where do you even start? Do you really want to drop the money if you find something? What if it turns out that album sucks?
But that's not the same issue that services like Spotify and Netflix present to me. I subscribed to both of those services specifically to explore. I forked over my money and the hangar gates opened. Before me stretched boundless vistas of new content -- then I looked two feet to my left and noticed my favorite chair sitting there, and thought, "Damn, that looks comfy!"
And I'm going to die here, comfortable in the thing I know while staring out at the unexplored territory. Captain Picard would be so disappointed in me.
Hey, look, they have Next Generation on Netflix now! I could rewatch that!