Fiction by Paolo Bacigalupi

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Posted on Feb 18, 2007 in Blog, misc, Writing | 2 comments

I hate the Internet

So, the reason I hate the internet (specifically email lists, blog posting areas, discussion boards, etc) is that it’s an incredibly clumsy medium for discussing anything with any level of nuance.

The amount of time it takes to craft a post, only have it re-interpreted or mis-interpreted or simply ignored is horrific. Over and over, I tangle myself in discussions that could probably be productive and interesting if only they were occurring in person rather than online, but instead, the result is either a train wreck, or a massive time sink, or both.

This comes to mind as I just dropped a couple hours ranting on Daniel Abraham’s blog about GMO’s. Not a waste of time, but jeez, why didn’t I just pick up the phone and chat with Daniel instead? I would have been happier, the discussion would have been richer, and it wouldn’t have taken any more time than doing all that typing. Probably less. When did we become so satisfied with this inadequate medium? How did it become so ubiquitous when it is so clearly inadequate?

It’s a compulsion to communicate. But the communication that the internet fosters seems to mostly be an illusion.


  1. The conversation you’re having with Daniel is something that other people would probably benefit from reading, and because you’ve posted it, they have that opportunity. The internet provides a way to communicate with lots of people at the same time, and to participate in a community.

    Sure, there’s a risk of being misunderstood, but we run that risk all the time (even when we write fiction, despite all the effort that goes into that). I usually find that if I’m conversing online with people I’ve met in real life, the frequency of misinterpretation falls to an acceptable level.

  2. Hi Ted,

    Nifty to hear from you. You make good points, particularly the helpfulness of already knowing the person you’re conversing online with. It seems to add a measure of goodwill to the conversation that goes a long way toward making the interaction productive.

    Community. Okay. Yes. I suppose community benefits and the mass communication value of the net could be seen to offset the incredible inefficiency of trying to have a conversation via typewriter. In the general case, I accept this as true. I certainly benefit a great deal from other people’s labors and arguments on the Internet(all that sweat and effort!).

    But for myself, I don’t really aim to communicate with masses of people when I’m writing on an email list or responding to someone’s post. I’m trying to communicate with a single individual, and make my point to that one person. The people who watch ringside may be deriving benefits from the labor, but they’re not actually the reason I’m banging away at the keyboard.

    In contrast, when I write fiction, it is precisely because I’m aiming to broadcast, to communicate and interact with a large group of people, and so that massive amount of work that I put into crafting a story seems more worthwhile and rewarding, even if there is a risk of being misunderstood.

    It’s apparently the way I view the tool that’s the problem. With one, the labor of writing, rewriting and second-guessing my writing feels efficient and worthwhile. With the other, it feels more like a time sink, probably because what I’m really hunting for is human company and connection. I’d just rather be tipping a beer with you or Daniel, and the internet is a poor proxy. Better than nothing, but still…

    On top of that, I have a feeling sometimes that we’re discussing fairly trivial things. Or, if the things aren’t trivial, the reality of our opinions is that they are trivial. Which is fine in the context of a conversation had over beers, but more frustrating when it’s swallowed a couple hours of obsessive typing and editing. Offline, a conversation about GMO’s or the communication quality of the Internet is worth about an hour of chat time before we digress onto other interesting puzzles, and yet with the effort of typing and rewriting online, it can suddenly become many many hours of furrowed thought. Hence my sense of inefficiency.

    Eh. I’m about to try to rewrite this post again (3rd time). I’m going to stop. Must… stop… editing…