Internet fatigue?

I am beginning to wonder if many of us are beginning to suffer from Internet fatigue. Over the past few months, I have observed the activity and discussion on most of the mailing lists I am on dwindle to near zero. Some of the Web sites and blogs I visit seem to have fewer and fewer comments and discussion.

This is in contrast to the late nineties and even a couple of years ago, when most of the mailing lists I was on were active, and I felt like it was difficult to keep up with the often rich and interesting discussions.

I think there are several things going on.

  • First, the novelty of the Internet has worn off. The Internet as a community, work, and civic phenomenon is now a decade old, and if you measure the real start of online community with the BBSes and FreeNets of the eighties, it is twenty years old. For most of us, it's now just a part of life. We don't feel the need to discuss it, anymore than we discuss other routine technologies that we use (e.g. the telephone, the microwave). We have successfully integrated the Internet and its communications services into what we do.
  • Second, we're busier than ever, and we have less time for activities that are not directly related to whatever it is we have to do today, tomorrow, or by the end of the week. The Internet has contributed, for better or for worse, to this common feeling of life being uncomfortably speeded up. By dropping out of peripheral activities like online discussions and mailing lists, we are taking back some control over a bit of our time.
  • Finally, we are worn out from spam, viruses, upgrades, bugs, glitches, printer jams, blue screens of death, reboots, and all the other timestealers that technology has brought to us over the past two decades. We want our lives back.

In a way, I see this as a good thing. We are putting technology into proper perspective. We are making more time for face to face relationships and spending a little less time chatting with, well, strangers.

What I do worry about is that we are finally just getting to the point where a lot of this technology is becoming truly useful, and we don't want to stop making the effort to learn and use this stuff just as opportunities and tools begin to emerge that actually help us work better and less.

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I just closed my MySpace account. I am a poet and had about 150 poet friends. Everyday, it seemed at least one person would do/say something to annoy me or I him. Certain people had political causes they would not quit posting bulletins or blogging about. Others would accept my comments/feedback on their poetry and never reciprocate. I found myself less and less interested in reading the work of others and even in posting my own work. It felt like a job, one which was incredibly and consistently irritating and time-consuming. I observed how many of my 'friends' seemed to be on MySpace day and night. I wondered about their mental health. We called ourselves friends but really were not. After closing my account, I went into a state of 'withdrawal,' for lack of a better word. I am just starting to emerge back into life.