A Year Without the Internet  

Posted by Big Gav in

Grist's David Roberts, who has shown remarkable endurance blogging and tweeting non-stop for around a decade now, has finally burnt out and decided to take a sabbatical away from the internet. Someone should make him a case study - it will be interesting to see how he handles going cold turkey - Goodbye for now.

I began by writing daily news summaries and crafting funny headlines. Then, in late 2004, I started our blog, Gristmill. (Here’s my first post. I was complaining about presidential candidates ignoring climate change. Good thing I never had to write that one again!) Over time I transitioned into 100 percent writing, where I’ve been since.

As long as I’ve been here, Grist has extended me an extraordinary amount of trust and freedom. I have been able to wander from thing to thing, exploring interests in religious environmentalism, great places, social psychology, electric utilities, chilling out, and even the filibuster. I’ve never been told not to write about something, or that any subject is too complicated or wonky, or that I needed to get more clicks.

It has been a dream job. I’ve loved it. I still love it.

But I am burnt the fuck out.

I spend each day responding to an incoming torrent of tweets and emails. I file, I bookmark, I link, I forward, I snark and snark and snark. All day long. Then, at night, after my family’s gone to bed and the torrent has finally slowed to a trickle and I can think for more than 30 seconds at a stretch, I try to write longer, more considered pieces.

I enjoy every part of this: I enjoy sharing zingers with Twitter all day; I enjoy writing long, wonky posts at night. But the lifestyle has its drawbacks. I don’t get enough sleep, ever. I don’t have any hobbies. I’m always at work. Other than hanging out with my family, it’s pretty much all I do — stand at a computer, immersing myself in the news cycle, taking the occasional hour out to read long PDFs. I’m never disconnected.

It’s doing things to my brain.

I think in tweets now. My hands start twitching if I’m away from my phone for more than 30 seconds. I can’t even take a pee now without getting “bored.” I know I’m not the only one tweeting in the bathroom. I’m online so much that I’ve started caring about “memes.” I feel the need to comment on everything, to have a “take,” preferably a “smart take.” The online world, which I struggle to remember represents only a tiny, unrepresentative slice of the American public, has become my world. I spend more time there than in the real world, have more friends there than in meatspace.

And then there’s the grind, the pressure to interpret each day’s development through the lens of which team it will benefit. I spend a lot of my time being angry: angry at Republicans for being crazy assholes, angry at enviros for being so hapless, angry at the media, angry at random people on Twitter. It’s not just that U.S. politics involves daily offenses against decency and good sense, it’s that it just keeps offering the same offenses, over and over — same gridlock, same cranks and ideologues, same arguments, same grind.

I feel like I’ve had every discussion related to climate change or energy at least a million times. The “how to talk about it” discussion, the “is Obama a climate hero or the worst thing since Hitler” discussion, the “should climate scientists be advocates” discussion, the “carbon tax vs. cap-and-whatever vs. innovation” discussion, the “clean energy is intermittent” discussion, on and on and on. I’ve had them all so many times I’ve gotten to the point where I’m irritated and impatient with pretty much everything everybody says about anything.

And I feel bad about that. There are waves of new people coming into the climate and clean energy world, full of verve and ideas. They are going through the same process of discovery I went through. I have tried to provide them with perspective and context, insofar as I’m able, but lately I just feel like yelling at them to get off my lawn. That is unfair to them and unflattering to me. I don’t want to become a bitter person.

I need some time away from all of it: from climate change, the media, blogs, commenters, Twitter, the news cycle, the endless battle for a livable future. I need to clear my head.

So I’m going to. As of Labor Day, I’m uninstalling Twitter and shutting off my email account. No more news or climate doom or memes for me for a while.

2 comments

Hey Gav, I read your excellent article at theoildrum. We (SilverDoctors.com) just launched a new website a month ago, TheNewsDoctors.com. Any interest in contributing some of your articles to our energy category or occasionally our Exclusive category?

If your not familiar with SilverDoctors.com. We are a gold and silver news website ranked in the top 4,000 US websites and 20,000 worldwide with over 2.5 million pageviews per month.

Thank you Gav!

Sure - just let me know what the process is.

My email is biggav at gmail dot com

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