Embarrassed by the Internet

This idea’s been festering for a little over a year now. I’m ready to (hastily, between classes) articulate it I think.

Young people (i.e., people my age or younger, people who grew up using the Internet in at least high school) are embarrassed by the Internet, or by our constant use of it, our continual reliance on it, our generation’s identification with it.

Sure: it’s embarrassing. The internet is as stupid as it is useful.

The way this embarrassment gets expressed is fascinatingly by co-opting the language of people who aren’t good at the Internet.

When my students and some friends talk about the Internet, they—all of them, almost exclusively—talk about “the Interweb” or better: “the Interwebs” (referring to that moment when Bush referred to “the Internets” in the 2004 debates). I observed a student’s class where he made a tumblr for the course and called it “English 200 blawg”. This is the same thing. A blog for a class is an embarrassment. But if you can spell it or refer to it in a way that is consciously wrong or malapropistic, it’s like this signifier to the party of the second part that you are aware of how embarrassing it is to be talking once again about the Internet.

Adults just say “blog” and “the Web” and “the Internet”. They remain only objects, with way less significance. This isn’t about irony so much as it is about utility and self-doubt. It’s either pure humility, or the performance of same.

(I said it’d be hasty.)

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