Every Sunday morning I receive the little grey and purple notification that ruins my day. If I feel the little vibration just after 9 a.m., I know that Apple’s algorithm is once again judging me for the dozens of hours I’ve spent scrolling at the crack of dawn. Every week I am reminded that my screen time has somehow gone up a shocking 83 per cent and still I cannot turn away from the endless supply of content.
I would argue that my phone’s intrusive screen time statistics are skewed but I’m starting to see the side effects of my so-called “internet dependency.” Is it possible I spend too much time online?
I’ve been having trouble expressing myself without niche media references or song lyrics. Everyone keeps telling me I seem well-adjusted but can’t they tell I’m in my ‘Amy Dunne-Midsommar-Fiona Apple-Ottessa Moshfegh-Fleabag’ era? In other words, my mental state is like a mix between "This Is Me Trying" by Taylor Swift and "Iris" by The Goo Goo Dolls, but in a totally underground and ironically hipster kind of way.
My lack of emotional depth became concerning after my lab partner told me she was going through too much to attend class this week and I said “Oof, it be like that sometimes.” Panicked, I texted the group chat to ask if anyone else was having a hard time communicating without using slang or outdated Vine references. The first response was a three-second clip from Kim Kardashian’s Saturday Night Live skit where she says, “Ew this is so cringe, guilty,” mocking my awkward interaction.
A second friend was outraged that I was so misinformed about interacting with others and sent me an Instagram infographic explaining the social nuances behind our conversation. After reading the post titled, “Popular phrases that dismiss lived experiences and why they’re problematic,” I felt much more educated and reposted the Canva infographic, checking who viewed it every half hour. I want to make sure everyone knows I’m doing some self-reflection.
My next instinct was to check TikTok. I went through two hours of content and was shown three videos from the app asking me to take a break before I realized I forgot to search for online-induced apathy. Fortunately, my “For You” page is so well curated that I actually came across a handful of related videos. I love it when the algorithm anticipates my needs before I do. Tragically, all of the TikToks surpassed my 15-second attention span so I didn’t watch any of them.
The scrolling session reminded me of any question I’ll ever ask has probably already been asked by a Redditor. After looking through a few threads, it was pretty clear I wouldn’t be able to focus on another “Ask me anything” without something playing in the background. I installed a text-to-speech program and watched Minecraft parkour while listening to strangers weigh in on each other's problems. Still, I felt nothing.
In the meantime, I’ve been trying to improve my social skills through small talk. Not in a social outcast way but in a Y2K high school movie kind of way—think Cady first meeting the Plastics in Mean Girls. Last week I asked the student next to me how their semester was going and they told me it’s got total Gilmore Girls Season 1 vibes, but if Sally Rooney wrote the script and Phoebe Bridgers composed the soundtrack. I understood perfectly, of course.
Maybe the internet isn’t diluting my ability to feel things. After all, it’s not like I use emojis unironically. It seems like the more I keep up with the trends, the easier it is to relate to my peers. If our culture centres around pop culture references and 15-second reels, then I am perfectly fluent in whatever language we’ve accidentally created. Feelings in the digital age are bite-sized—easily consumed and conveyed in a reactionary image or two. As long as everyone my age keeps their screen time ridiculously high, I’ll be emotionally expressive for the rest of my life.
Is the internet taking away my feelings?
I’m worried I can’t express myself without relying on memes and emojis