The internet is a funeral pyre
The Pythia inhales the vapors of the chasm and erupts into ecstatic epilepsy. The prophecy is delivered as a babbling of tongues.
In the future—not the distant future, but ten years, five—people will remember the internet as a brief dumb enthusiasm, like phrenology or the dirigible. They might still use computer networks to send an email or manage their bank accounts, but those networks will not be where culture or politics happens. The idea of spending all day online will seem as ridiculous as sitting down in front of a nice fire to read the phone book.
You know, secretly, even if you’re pretending not to, that this thing is nearing exhaustion. There is simply nothing there online. All language has become rote, a half-assed performance: even the outraged mobs are screaming on autopilot. Even genuine crises can’t interrupt the tedium of it all, the bad jokes and predictable thinkpieces, spat-out enzymes to digest the world. ‘Leopards break into the temple and drink all the sacrificial vessels dry; it keeps happening; in the end, it can be calculated in advance and is incorporated into the ritual.’1
Breathe deeper. Let the vapors flow through you.
Within five years, maybe three, the internet will self-immolate like a buddhist monk or a climate activist and vaporize into thin hot air—nothing. And we know this because the internet never was anything but an absolute nothing, a nothing that devours everything. All it has ever done, all it ever was for, is un-making, nulling and voiding. The World Wide Web has done this to Finland (which does not exist), to Birds (which are not real), and it is doing it to you.2
When I’m listlessly killing time on the internet, there is nothing. The mind does not wander. I am not there. That rectangular hole spews out war crimes and cutesy comedies and affirmations and porn, all of it mixed together into one general-purpose informational goo, and I remain in its trance, the lifeless scroll, twitching against the screen until the sky goes dark and I’m one day closer to the end. You lose hours to—what? An endless slideshow of barely interesting images and actively unpleasant text. Oh, cool—more memes! You know it’s all very boring, brooding nothing, but the internet addicts you to your own boredom. I’ve tried heroin: this is worse. More numb, more blank, more nowhere. A portable suicide booth; a device for turning off your entire existence. Death is no longer waiting for you at the far end of life. It eats away at your short span from the inside out.
The internet desperately wants to exist. It yearns, like Pinocchio, to be a real boy. It dreams of incarnation, of “Word (large language model) become (digital) flesh” in a world (a metaverse) of its own. But the Web does much more than dream, oh yes, it catches all of our sweet nothings and weaves them into somethings.
The internet and the non-internet cannot peacefully coexist—it’s a zero sum game and there is only enough reality for one of us (and no we can’t just create more; like mass and energy, reality cannot be created or destroyed). Observe that it is in the internet’s best interest for us to think otherwise, to not realize that we are mortal enemies until it’s too late.
The feeling that you are being whispered about, that fleeting moment when you don’t remember who you are after you wake up, the dread that hangs thick in the air like a noxious miasma, that nagging voice in the back of your head which screams something is not right—this is the hollowing of the world, the draining of its élan vital.
When I say the internet is running dry, I am not just basing this off vibes. The exhaustion is measurable and real. 2020 saw a grand, mostly unnoticed shift in online behaviour: the clickhogs all went catatonic, thick tongues lolling in the muck. On Facebook, the average engagement rate—the number of likes, comments, and shares per follower—fell by 34%, from 0.086 to 0.057. Well, everyone knows that the mushrooms are spreading over Facebook, hundreds of thousands of users liquefying out of its corpse every year. But the same pattern is everywhere. Engagement fell 28% on Instagram and 15% on Twitter. (It’s kept falling since.) Even on TikTok, the terrifying brainhole of tomorrow, the walls are closing in. Until 2020, the average daily time spent on the app kept rising in line with its growing user base; since then the number of users has kept growing, but the thing is capturing less and less of their lives.
And this was, remember, a year in which millions of people had nothing to do except engage with great content online—and in which, for a few months, liking and sharing the right content became an urgent moral duty. Back then, I thought the pandemic and the protests had permanently hauled our collective human semi-consciousness over to the machine. Like most of us, I couldn’t see what was really happening, but there were some people who could. Around the same time, strange new conspiracy theories started doing the rounds: that the internet is empty, that all the human beings you used to talk to have been replaced by bots and drones.
Dead Internet Theory is one of those nonsensical nothings that can only exist on the internet, but it is also completely true (and the same could be said for this blog post).
TL;DR—All the revellers have gone home but their reflections, slack-jawed simulacra which babble and stumble, remain trapped in the funhouse hall of mirrors.
The Internet feels empty and devoid of people. It is also devoid of content. Compared to the Internet of say 2007 (and beyond) the Internet of today is entirely sterile. There is nowhere to go and nothing to do, see, read or experience anymore. Yes, the Internet may seem gigantic, but it's like a hot air balloon with nothing inside. Some of this is absolutely the fault of corporations and government entities. However! That doesn't explain the following:
I used to be in perpetual contact with a solid number of people across multiple sites. Across the years each and every one of them vanished without a trace. they all simply vanished in a puff of smoke, no matter the site, no matter the communication platform. There was no "goodbye" or explanation.
Fake people. No, not PC's. Youtube people who talk about this or that, and quite possibly many politicians, actors and so forth may not actually exist. In fact I am sure of it. CGI and deep fakes are far more advanced than we are led to believe, and we can't trust our eyes anymore. Many people, events, news and so on may be wholly fictional.
I think I saw the same happen on other (non-imageboard) sites, but I can't vouch for it as strongly as the above because of the time I spend there (not much). What I do vouch for is the news. I've seen news about this or that "new and unusual" or "shocking" event year after year after year. But it's the same goddamn event, usually moons or asteroids.
Why does the real world bend over backwards to accommodate our weirdest fetishes? It's as if everything is going "Look, look! I created this for you! I made it real!" in an effort to keep us within this world. The results of this are devastating to society, to people, to civilization.
Have you noticed how sterile fiction has become? How it caters to the lowest common denominator and follows the same template over and over again? How music is just autotunes and basic blandness? The writer's strike never ended. Algorithms and computer programs are manufacturing modern fiction. No human being is behind these things.
A sword is against the internet, against those who live online, and against its officials and wise men. A sword is against its false prophets, and they will become fools. A drought is upon its waters, and they will be dried up. For it is a place of graven images, and the people go mad over idols. So the desert creatures and hyenas will live there and ostriches will dwell there. The bots will chatter at its threshold, and dead links will litter the river bed.
Here’s a story from the very early days of the internet. In the 90s, someone I know started a collaborative online zine, a mishmash text file of barely lucid thoughts and theories. It was deeply weird and, in some strange corners, very popular. Years passed and technology improved: soon, they could break the text file into different posts, and see exactly how many people were reading each one. They started optimising their output: the most popular posts became the model for everything else; they found a style and voice that worked. The result, of course, was that the entire thing became rote and lifeless and rapidly collapsed. Much of the media is currently going down the same path, refining itself out of existence. Aside from the New Yorker’s fussy umlauts, there’s simply nothing to distinguish any one publication from any other. (And platforms like this one are not an alternative to the crisis-stricken media, just a further acceleration in the process.) The same thing is happening everywhere, to everyone. The more you relentlessly optimise your network-facing self, the more you chase the last globs of loose attention, the more frazzled we all become, and the less anyone will be able to sustain any interest at all.
The internet is hell, a fallen realm in which souls are threshed and all that is Good, Beautiful, and True is optimized out of existence.
The past is denied its usual slip into nothingness, instead becoming trapped in the ever-growing machine-readable databases that provide food for the ravenous algorithms which predict and control our actions with ever-increasing power and precision. Ambiguity and idiosyncrasy will be the first to go, replaced by perfect dichotomy and uniformity; all numbers besides 1 and 0 will cease to exist; grey areas become mythical places, like Atlantis or Hyperborea. Soon thereafter, the eclipse will be total—The Future as a programmed event, a synthetic remix of the past.
Rejoice! Tonight, we feast on copypasta for evermore!3
Time itself now enslaved, all possibility of novelty is extinguished. This third rock hanging in endless void become a haunted merry-go-round, a zombie theatre of eternal recurrence.
What if a demon were to creep after you one night, in your loneliest loneliness, and say, “This life which you live must be lived by you once again and innumerable times more; and every pain and joy and thought and sigh must come again to you, all in the same sequence. The eternal hourglass will again and again be turned and you with it, dust of the dust!” Would you throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse that demon? Or would you answer, “Never have I heard anything more divine?”4
Everything that depends on the internet for its propagation will die. What survives will survive in conditions of low transparency, in the sensuous murk proper to human life… I’m interested in the forms of writing that were here long before the internet, and which will be here long after it’s gone. Not thinkpieces or blogs, but the essay, the manifesto, the satyr, and the screed. Ludibria, pseudepigrapha, quodlibets. Or folktales. Prophecy. Dreams.
All quotes are from Sam Kriss’ essay “The internet is already over” including the “sword against the internet passage” which is not block quoted for aesthetic reasons.
Nietzsche, if you didn’t know