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The Internet Is Lying To You

Yes, it is. And in honor of National Unfriend Day I'm going to tell you exactly how the internet is lying to you. It is lying because it is promising you endless satisfaction of all your desires - if you feel it, want it, wonder it, want to meet it, want to learn it, say it, opinionate about it, reserach it, buy it, trade it, wallow in it, the internet holds out the endlessly unfulfilled promise of satisfaction.

Here's five ways the internet lies every single day, and to be honest being aware of its cunning has helped me get back to the important stuff over the last six weeks.  I've been applying my mindfulness practice to my online habits, and here's what I've come up with.

1. The internet lies about giving you information.

If the adage "Don't believe everything you read" applied to professional journalism for the last eighty years or so, it sure as hell applies to the amateur, seat-of-the-pants, press-send-and-its-broadcast communication online.  Yeah, you know this. Of COURSE you know this. But when you're caught up in the thoughtstream of words justifying or vilifying your opinion, activating your ego to get excited or angry about what you're reading, it's easy to forget.  The internet is just one big real-time updated pile of opinions.

2. The internet lies about solving your problems.

Whether your problem is learning how to get in shape, becoming more aware of your body, learning how to meditate, keeping track of your goals, keeping you organized, leading a minimal lifestyle, or learning how to write, or whatever else you're trying to figure out, there's no need to spend more than ten to twenty minutes learning how to do it, then just do it. Beyond that you're daydreaming. 

Let me solve that above list for you right now: Eat less, walk more, do yoga a few times a week, sit and notice your breath each morning for ten minutes, get a notebook and write down what you want to accomplish, make a to-do list with as many items as possible reflecting your goals from the accomplishments list, don't buy anything you don't need, donate books and clothes you're done with, sit down every day and write anything - there, that's all you need to know.  Oh and hang out with your friends more and travel and dance as often as possible. And call your parents they miss you.

If you're spending hours online looking for advice or trying to solve a problem, let me know in the comments section and I will solve it for you in five minutes or less.  Maybe I will start a "Jerry Solves It All For You" column full of my own deeply factual opinions.

In the end, you can spend hours and days reading about how to change the thing you want to change, but there's no magic cure or method - in the end, it all comes to taking personal responsibility for making the change.  There's great support to be found online, but make sure you're suppoting your efforts and not your daydreams.

3. The internet lies about saving you time.

Sure, it seems like being able to keep in touch with friends, shop, research, trade photos, meet new people, and keep up on the news all on one machine must be saving time. But it's not.  The average leisure time and social time avaialble to Westerners (that's us) over the last twenty years has not risen, but physical activity during this leisure time is seriously declining.  My theory: more people are hiding out online and feeling rushed when they have to get back to the real world.  Why? Because the internet sucks you in with its promised of time-saving, information-gathering, and problem-solving.

Meanwhile, the chairs were sitting in while we spend all this time online get wider and stronger for our increasingly wide and heavy bodies.  Being mindful of the connection between mind and body means that the more time you can spend moving - preferably outdoors - the stronger your mind.  Instead of "Sit Down Rise Up", "Shut Down Stand Up!"

4. The internet lies about building community.

Everyone is always talking about social media, community building, and the internets role in these. With rare exception - i.e. organizations like DailyKos, MoveOn, and (shout out) The IDP, most community is built in real-life.  The internet is not real-life.  The way to know if you are in a b.s. community building paradigm is easy: if you have not either actually met people from your online community in the last six months, or cannot point to a real world change in your life or community as a result of the online community, you're just futzing around.  I've used the internet to help me connect with people in the areas of spirituality, yoga, healthy cooking, and marathon training to great personal effect.  I've also jumped ship on a dozen other "onine communities" that were merely echo chambers, or worse, self-congratulation chambers.  And it's okay to futz aroud, but just be mindful that that is what you are doing.

Now, if you're a band, artist, or whatever and are building community around your art or product, I get it, and the Internet has created unprecendented opportunity to do be able to reach fans directly. But that's just a "container shift", and like anything else, you'll need to be good at both using the container as well as making your art.

5. The internet lies about changing the world

Participating in world changing in a digital domain gives you the false impression that you've done something meaningful.  The internet creates so much noise that it has become the great equalizer.  Look at the history of the world and USA for the last fifteen years (approximately since the internet was "invented") and think about whether we've moved to a more compassionate society, or whether the fact that everyone is busy creating their own self-centered news and media feeds online has allowed some seriously bad shit to go down.  Does the internet create apathy, or does apathy create an internet culture? I'm not sure, but I do know that ultimately the internet is just a massive online town square, not inherently a good or bad or social or anti-social force.  

Is moveon.org superior to MLK Jr's March on Washington? Is the occasional Twitter report about social uprising superior to Cronkite's game-ending commentary on Vietnam?  Changing the constitution to allow for civil rights, and ending an unjust, unncessary, horrible war happened because people had to leave their homes, make an effort, do more than just click "yes" or submit their email address, risk arrest, beating, and in some cases death - and in the case of Cronkite, an unprecedented editorial comment that could have cost him his career. 

It meant something, because it took effort, and involved personal risk.  The internet equalizes all effort, because all effort is equally easy.  World changing doesn't happen from your keyboard, at least not yet.

In Epic Conclusion....

So, over the last six weeks I've tried to follow my own advice. Though today is National Unfriend Day, I already did that a month ago - culling about 200 "friends" from my Facebook page, and I'm still wondering why it is that I kept in better touch with my closest, most important friends BEFORE Facebook existed - I still have 340 "friends" and I am actually friends with many of them but how many would I keep in touch with them without FB? Maybe half that....or less.

Remember, Facebook is just a giant advertising scheme, designed to keep your attention as long as possible (just like TV) then sell targeted shit to you.  The social media aspect is just a convenient way to get you to stick around for longer than you should.

Then I went spastic and started Twittering, but I stopped that too.  I shut down my blog, killed my online presence as much as possible. Why the hell do I need a blog? I'm not "building a brand of me" or any b.s. like that. I cut down on the blogs I read daily, "unsubscribed" to all but a few email newsletters. I'm not answering email unless it's urgent or unless you really need my opinion - the world managed to keep spinning for a few billion years without me responding to everything, and will continue to do so without me throwing my two cents on every conversation. And I'm answering many emails with a phone call - boy that really freaks people out.

Of course, this whole article is just a pile of opinion subject to the "don't believe everything you read" filter, which puts us right into the Liar Paradox.  Google it.  And call me, we can meet me for coffee.

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Ouch, that's pretty harsh

Ouch, that's pretty harsh there Jerry. But a harsh reality it is. The internet is supposed to save us time, but all it did is create more unproductive activities for us to participate on. Now the mobile phones and tablets are entering the same picture. More mediums for us to do "busy-work." We can't help it though. We are too hooked on our gadgets. I just got iphone 4 unlocked and I can't let it go since. This article is painful, but true.

it's a performance

facebook and most forms of social media online is a performance of self that engages aspects of our personalities that we either want to exhibit or exploit or distort for a public audience. i see no harm in that if one understands this media, like video games, is mostly for entertainment purposes.

One place the Internet ISN'T Lying to You.

Came up at morning coffee with Josh Adler and Stillman Brown: 


David Nichtern don't lie. The man speaks truth.

His Twitter doesn't lie either. http://twitter.com/DavidNichtern

That's some internet-as-tool-for-truth throwdown right there.

it's a tool

I especially like your list for problem solving! i'm posting it on the fridge as a reminder.

definitely the internet can be a total drug, sucking up your time and making you feel productive when you're just sitting there.

But like any tool, it is what we make of it. I like what ellen said about it being a mirror.

There is actually some amazing stuff happening with the internet... When the earthquake hit Haiti, a group of international media researchers, working with the State Dept., Tufts University and the US military, managed to almost instantaneously set up a rescue system (helping rescue workers find victims) by connecting cell phones & computers on the ground in Haiti to banks of computers manned by college students and other volunteers in Boston, other US cities, using a system called "ushahidi" - started in Kenya to address election violence and taken up as a model of crisis response using social media. it's been incredibly effective, and was put in place in Chili as soon as the quake hit there, too. beautiful video clip about the project gives a sense of how the internet really can reinforce our potential for interdependence in an immediate and huge way:

As long as we never forget the internet is only a tool. What we make of it depends on how skillfully we use it, and keeping a healthy understanding of its limitations.
I love what Patrick said: The real internet is inside your heart. <3

fridge reminders

love that your posting my ten second problem solving on the fridge.

let me know if there's any other pressing issues you need me to help with. :)


Hi Jerry,

just in case you thought i was kidding :)

i stuck em next to the refrigerator buddha.



totally useful

in those cases the internet is beyond useful and amazing.  thanks for the clip. ;)


We can surely do with some more critical cynicism! Well done.

thank you!

appreciate the postiive feedback.

who's lying?

"The Diamond Sutra says, 'Wherever there is a sign, there is deception, illusion.' Perceptions often tell us as much about the perceived as the object of perception."

-Thich Nhat Hanh

The Internet doesn't lie. It just is. People don't know how to see the truth.

That Darn Internets

Last year, a webzine analyzed Australian newspapers, and concluded most of their articles were spin. Could it be the same in here in the U.S.? Say it isn't so, Jerry !

- 2203 separate stories were analysed across 10 newspapers between September 7 and 11, 2009 to see whether they were initiated by public relations or promotions.

- The study found that nearly 55% of stories analysed were driven by some form of public relations — a media release, a public relations professional or some other form of promotion.


I dont know statistics

But I do know that a lot of news here is also just rewrite (or in some cases reprints) of press releases.  With such a voracious public "demand" for info (Created by media companies, who make money from advertisements by satisfying demand), it's impossible to truly research all "news" without enormously expensive staffs.

Um and Ethan - thanks for the catch

see, that's how rumors get started.   MLK Jr and his fine legacy are now  corrected.


MLK Jr. had been dead for nearly thirty years when the Million Man March happened. The event I presume you're referring to was called The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Other than that, a fine post, but as you pointed out there's plenty of misinformation floating about on the Internet. Please don't add to it with such a facepalmingly wrong statement.

very good point

somehow i missed that paragraph. Jerry, that's probably a good thing to fix, if only not to drown in irony.

the Internet is us

It is. The Internet is a mirror; we built a giant version of what we think our mind is. 

And to add to that

The Real Internet is Inside Your Heart - and it's boundless and doesn't cost anything.

The Real Internet is Inside Your Heart

Future failed Microsoft campaign.

Terry-ho does it again!

Lovely article. I agree wholeheartedly!

haha Rihanna

Really Ethan? You're responding to my profoundly life changing article with a Rihanna quote? I LOVE that :) but would have preferred you quote Barbara Streisand.

Thanks Jon - had fun writing it - hope I make the cut on Facebook.

In the words of Rihanna

This may be true, but I love the way you lie, internet.

Great fucking post Jerry

I am smiling. Really. Today I'm going to unfriend anyone I don't actually know - which I believe is about 200 people on my list. Lots of other great points here. Thank you!!

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