Chasing the dragon

Why stop at the wolves?

And I’m just thinking out loud, last minute musings, late night rants, cursing the internet- no, not this internet- for changing so fast, so quick, so suddenly; abandoning me, leaving without warning, and for leaving me no choice but to leave too, and because I only write what I feel like writing about, and sometimes I don’t feel like it until the night before. If it gets hard to follow, maybe it doesn’t make sense, too many grammatical errors, and maybe I may be completely wrong, but in any case thank you for indulging me, and apologies in advance. I need to say it.

It’s a popular phrase with a few connotations, chasing the dragon. For the purposes of this article, I use it as the euphemism “chasing the dragon:” trying to catch the high that one got with their very first high with a drug. (In case you didn’t know) And today I thought about the internet, back in the days, back in all its glory, and I missed it dearly. I fondly remembered chasing all the corners of the internet, intoxicated with discovering new ideas, things, people, places; the laughs I shared with the computer, the terror, too- how naughty some things felt, kind of wrong, very wrong, as I quickly exited the page, justifying it to myself as simply an accident, hoping to never stumble upon such a thing again, wondering if anyone was watching me, reasoning with God- surely He can see what I just saw- and promising I’d never allow the internet to make me see what I just saw again. But I still loved it, despite the terror, despite hell threatening me, because it felt good too. It was a new world, for me to discover, all by myself. And I hoped God would forgive me; for my curiosity, wonder, delight. No, I’m not talking about porn. It was Tumblr, women with see-through tops, and other things I cannot mention; what was scandalous, naughty, taboo only 15 years ago is for children to see now. But I digress.

That was back in 2008. In a way, I was late to the game. I didn’t get online, at all, until I was 13 years old. But I was also right on time for my first introduction to the digital dragon, the gateway to everything that would come after it- Facebook. Ugh. “Facebook is for old people,” yeah, yeah, yeah, but not back in 2008. Back then, Facebook was hip, cool, for the youth and for the curious. Your aunt didn’t know about Facebook, perhaps not event about the internet. I barely did too; the internet was just Facebook, YouTube, and Wikipedia for school, in my world at least. And I was hooked.

YouTube was in its infancy then and I mostly watched makeup tutorials in badly lit bedrooms from the girlies that reminded you of a girl a grade or two above you. Real people. Like you, like me. There were no influencers then, and no multimillion dollar houses bought with AdSense money. Real funny people too. Genuinely funny people with a shitty camera, access to YouTube and nothing better to do. LOL meant L.O.L. And boy, was it a fun time. Intoxicating. Fresh. Exciting. Invigorating. Nothing like it; before, after, ever since. A few years or so later, monetization entered the chat, the girlies upgraded their cameras and lights, and corporate America had a field day with access to millions, and in a few more years billions of captive audiences, watching, clicking, buying. It was sudden, how money changed everything, how everything became for sale; your attention, my life, her kids, too; if not for money, for attention itself.

Until one day, I’m online and I felt I was in an abandoned town. I could sense the reminiscent of what was once a good place, and what could have been if things didn’t change so much, so quickly, so rapidly, without much warning- and maybe I simply did not pay enough attention- and it settled something fierce within me, something like dread, hopelessness, desperation; I needed to get out, go on and do something with my life. Still, I stayed and chased. I didn’t want to accept what was happening to my dear internet- that captivating, thrilling, intoxicating place of my youth. I spent hours searching for that feeling of the internet back in 2008, 2015. I scrounged all corners of it; I scrolled until my heart ached with nostalgia, I felt frustrated at how unexciting, uninteresting, and old everything felt. I felt bored, but I hoped I would maybe stumble upon it one more time, maybe the next scroll, and find something that would bring me back to when everything was exciting- all the different people, different lives, different things, different ideas. But the internet remained a ghost town; and I was only here stranded because I was too scared to leave. I didn’t know what else to do without it. I was too used to it.

But by 2017, I have mastered enough courage to leave the ghost town of social media. I quietly mourned the YouTube girls that taught me how to do my makeup with $6 drugstore foundation and $1 eyeliners. I made peace with the fact that I may never laugh until tears streamed down my face, my belly ached, going back for second, third, fourth rewatch- laughing again, and again, and again, at a comedy skit on YouTube made in a cluttered bathroom. Maybe I’m not looking for it hard enough, trying hard enough, for that feeling of the internet, but I’m too tired to scrounge through multimillion dollar deals to find one YouTube video that is real; real funny, relatable.

So now I stay offline and chase a different kind of dragon. I thought about “chasing the dragon” grasping for my breath after a workout. Most Mondays, for over a year now, I show up to a workout class and I’m immediately overcome with distress: Why do I choose to do this to myself? Then the 45-minutes is up, I’m drenched in sweat, and I know exactly why. It’s that feeling. It’s triumph. It’s endorphins. It’s pure ecstasy. Minimum 70% success rate to finish each class with that feeling, so I chase that dragon. It has a better success rate than stumbling upon the old internet, feeling drunken on the newness of it all, while on this internet. I also chase Fridays at a bar with a friend; it’s kind of growing now, with more friends joining. I also chase writing here, sharing with you what I’m learning about my time spent offline. I chase the dragon at the library and the bookstore, stumbling upon random books that say things to me I needed to know, intoxicating me with their words, stories, and ideas. I chase it on walking down the street to; paying attention so I don’t miss the baby in the stroller curiously looking at me, and we smile at each other. Or my favourite moment today: two girls about high school age give each other a big hug as one says to the other, “get home safe, I love you so much,” and I know, and I’m happy, for all the love, connection, joy that exists all around me, if only I choose to pay attention to it, instead of chasing the digital dragon.

The good days of the internet are gone, but better days are to come. I know that, too.

Until next time,

Sign up for my curated weekly newsletter, time spent offline, on spending less time online and (re)discovering the pleasures of the offline world. Five ideas delivered right to your inbox. Every Tuesday.

Published by

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s