Rated a best book of the year in the National Journal, Kirkus, Backchannel, WIRED and more!
This will make your digital days brighter.
My book, “Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art,” shows how the Internet is a collective work of art. And it needs you.
1. Stop beating yourself up. The Internet has a bad reputation for being a silly distraction, and people who like it are considered brain-damaged addicts. Once and for all, Internet users: You’re not addicted or diseased; you’re enraptured. Pop culture is always said to be bad for you. Novels were supposed to poison women and make them sexually promiscuous.Shakespeare’s plays were considered bawdy and impious. But just wait: Those mesmerizing Netflix shows and insightful Facebook posts may be the Middlemarch and “Midsummer Night’s Dream” of the future. Be proud you’re getting there first.
2. Remember, it’s creative. At a time when the health benefits of getting creative are touted everywhere, it’s worth remembering that not all creativity looks like watercolors or jewelry-making. Writing one-line poems for Twitter, creating a fantasy-travel board on Pinterest, or finding your inner Nan Goldin on Instagram is just as creative as crafting. Take pride in your contributions to the Internet. It’s a collective work of art. Make your mark.
3. Enjoy the hearts and stars. Unless you’re a full-time troll, most of your time on social media is spent liking and being liked, hearting and being hearted. There’s layers upon layers upon layers of human support everywhere on the Internet. Let yourself tap into it. And spread it! Give some five-star reviews, regram a beautiful shot. Wish someone a euphoric Facebook birthday. It’s good digital karma.
4. Take the best and leave the rest. Maybe you love the shortform vanishing videos of Snapchat, or maybe they confuse you and make you feel old. Maybe Twitter seems like a jumble of barbs, but you’re an avid musician and you love getting SoundCloud just right. Or maybe you like nothing better than the Twitter fray, but pinning images of rompers and eyeliner on Pinterest is just not your jam. That’s how you get to know yourself on the Internet! Find the channels that align with your integrity, and quit the rest. Life is too short to force yourself to tweet (or pin or post).
5. Use your digital powers for good. The Internet has given all of us some…stalking skills, which often lead to more trouble than good. Turn to the light side of the force by stalking a subject that engages your curiosity not your ego. Start with Wikipedia, and track down every link you find on wild horses, say, where they roam, what their lives are like, what can be done to help them thrive. Find some videos. Assemble an amazing Facebook or Medium post, complete with a link on where to give. Or do this for any subject you’re passionate about—family history, Venus, gemstones, Elena Ferrante, Syrian refugees. Research and reporting is a way to deepen your engagement with the world—and make your mind a more beautiful and humane place to live.
6. Let the Internet heighten your appreciation for life offline. One thing our world of screens has done is given all of us renewed awe at everything that can’t be digitized. Birds. Magnesium. Frosting. Stones. Sextants. Drumkits. Time to savor it. ecently phone addicts have been trying a microdose of LSD o revive their lost interest in real life. It works! After they took a smidge of a hallucinogen for breakfast, their phones looked boring while people on the bus became fascinating. You don’t need LSD for that! Look up from the monochrome blue light and stare at a branch or rain. Nature is still the best UX out there.
"There’s no more gifted individual to share a perspective on the Internet than Virginia Heffernan."
"Goddamn, Virginia Heffernan is brilliant.”
— Jessica Grose, Lenny Letter