I live in Washington, D.C., where I first came to work as a writer and producer for The Atlantic in 2010 and then covered D.C. transportation for TBD On Foot. These days, I report on state telecom issues for Warren.
How do you manage your own net use?
I’ve become very strategic about my use of technology as life is short and I want to use it wisely. I have bought myself a type of laptop from which it was very easy to remove the Wi-Fi card – so when I go to a coffee shop or the library I have no way to get online. However, at home I have cable connection. So I bought a safe with a timed combination lock. It is basically the most useful artefact in my life. I lock my phone and my router cable in my safe so I’m completely free from any interruption and I can spend the entire day, weekend or week reading and writing.
Does the timer have a workaround?
To circumvent my safe I have to open a panel with a screwdriver, so I have to hide all my screwdrivers in the safe as well. So I would have to leave home to buy a screwdriver – the time and cost of doing this is what stops me. It’s not that I can’t say “no” to myself. I just waste too much energy having the internal conversation. I’d rather delegate the control to my safe and use my remaining willpower to get something done. I find it a very effective system.
“‘Thirty-three Animals Who Are Disappointed in You’ is a work of literature,” Mr. Smith said defiantly, referring to an April Buzzfeed post that has so far received 2.5 million views. “I’m totally not joking.” The author of the piece “spent like 15 hours finding images of animals that would express the particular palette of human emotion he was going for and wrote really witty captions for them,” he added. “And that in some ways is harder and more competitive than, say, political reporting.”
Journalism professors might disagree, but the Web-browsing public seems to approve. In the year since Mr. Smith came aboard, Buzzfeed has nearly doubled its audience, from 24 million visitors in January 2012 to 40 million in December, according to Google Analytics. In August, The New Republic called Buzzfeed “the defining media outlet of 2012.” (Also “a little dumb.”)
Buzzfeed is one fascinating animal of a website. The momentum is unquestionable at this point. And much of the content is sharp in its Buzzfeed way. The money is flowing. I question some of the micro-choices involved though. Native ads? The controversies about crediting, about such frequent reddit rips? But perhaps those controversies go no further than media reporting. Who knows. The site has made the talk of journalism more interesting, at least. I remember reading the proto Buzzfeed around 2007-2008…unrecognizable.
Ten years ago, the web offered the worldview of a disaffected apparatchik and the perils of a Wild West saloon. Brawls broke out frequently; snideness triumphed; perverts, predators, and pettifoggers gathered in dark corners to prey on the lost and naïve. Now, though, the place projects the upbeat vigor of a Zumba session and the fellow-feeling of a neighborhood café. On Facebook, strangers coo at photos of your college roommate’s South American vacation. Op-eds—widely praised—are generously circulated. And warmth flows even where it probably shouldn’t. Today, you find that 27 human beings have “liked” an Instagram photo of your little sister’s breakfast muffin. You learn your best and smartest friend in high school—a girl you swapped big dreams with before falling out of touch—just married some guy with enormous bags under his eyes and the wild, deranged grin of Charlie Sheen. You are vaguely concerned, but the web is not. “Congratulations!!!” someone has written underneath the face of Crazy Rictus Man. “luv you guys!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” enthuses someone else. You count the exclamation points. There are sixteen. You wonder whether there is any Advil close at hand.
Beware the Nice Internet, New York warns. Humorous enough piece and spot on in many cases…although articles like this always run into some difficulty. It’s profoundly tough to ever make a broad generalizing case about something like the temperature of the Internet, about its mood.
The same week this piece came out, after all, Alex Pareene bemoaned online snarky politicos over at The New Republic. Both are making quite accurate observations but you can’t forget they’re all happening simultaneously and would initially seem to cancel one another out.