September 19, 2016

"I Used to Be a Human Being."

Great essay title... by Andrew Sullivan. Subtitle: "An endless bombardment of news and gossip and images has rendered us manic information addicts. It broke me. It might break you, too." I'm so pleased to see that there is no mention of Trump in this thing, which I haven't fully read. I was just wondering why we haven't seen much of Andrew Sullivan lately, as I would have expected him to be opining mightily on the horrors of Donald Trump (and Hillary Clinton). But was he off being "broken"? Is he reorienting himself to the real world and therefore not to us, who await opinions on the internet?

Sample text:
The ubiquitous temptations of virtual living create a mental climate that is still maddeningly hard to manage. In the days, then weeks, then months after my retreat, my daily meditation sessions began to falter a little. There was an election campaign of such brooding menace it demanded attention, headlined by a walking human Snapchat app of incoherence. For a while, I had limited my news exposure to the New York Times’ daily briefings; then, slowly, I found myself scanning the click-bait headlines from countless sources that crowded the screen; after a while, I was back in my old rut, absorbing every nugget of campaign news, even as I understood each to be as ephemeral as the last, and even though I no longer needed to absorb them all for work.

Then there were the other snares: the allure of online porn....
ADDED: By "no mention of Trump," I only meant that the name does not appear. But that sample text alone shows Sullivan's don't-say-the-name approach: "a walking human Snapchat app of incoherence."

65 comments:

Laslo Spatula said...

"Then there were the other snares: the allure of online porn...."

Dammit Althouse, I've been trying to stay away for awhile and then you leave a line like that, wriggling like a worm on a hook...

I am Laslo.

Henry said...

"I used to be a human being..."

...but now I am a dog.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

You think there is no mention of Trump in this thing?

J. Farmer said...

Nice too see Sullivan's break from blogging hasn't tempered his histrionic tendencies.

bagoh20 said...

Life is so hard - so very very hard.

rhhardin said...

Too adjectival.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Is he reorienting himself...

Rather heteronormative of you to suggest there was something wrong with his orientation...

Sebastian said...

Snares, rut, brooding menace, maddeningly hard to manage, no longer a human being: exactly why does this post-person deserve attention?

John said...

This is who Andrew Sullivan was in 2009. At least who he wanted people to think he was. Is he still?

Probably NSFW

http://web.archive.org/web/20010606105110/milkyloads.tripod.com/bareback/index.html

John Henry

rhhardin said...

I used to be a newspaper. - NYT

William said...

"A walking human Snapchat of incoherence" seems to be an allusion to Donald Trump. I didn't read the article though. Maybe he was being reflective and introspective.

M Jordan said...

Not a huge Sullivan fan though I used to read him. It is true what's he's writing about here - the Internet is fracturing the human soul and it worries me of my own devolution. I now make time purposely to be away from it. My biggest problem is the election. There is nothing like the Internet to feed this addiction as I peck over any tiny thing on barnyard floor looking for a tasty seed.

I'm working on it.

Titus said...

John, how do you locate that stuff? As Sullivan wrote in his excellent article, that type of ad is so 2009.

I use my phone for Grindr and it can be addictive. I was off for over 2 weeks and then I got back on Friday night-big mistake. Sullivan is right in the article, you swipe people on grindr like looking through a clothes rack.

I want to get off Grindr.

Fabi said...

There's porn on the Internet?

rhhardin said...

How soul fracturing your online presence is probably depends on the quality of your writing.

tim in vermont said...

For a while, I had limited my news exposure to the New York Times’ daily briefings;

Surely then, he had all the facts!

tim in vermont said...

"A walking human Snapchat of incoherence" seems to be an allusion to Donald Trump.

If he got all his news from the New York Times, and believed every word he read, then it probably is an allusion to the Trump they have created in his mind.

hombre said...

Sullivan is not addicted to information. He is addicted to confirmation.

Wilbur said...

Fabi wins the internets today.

Comanche Voter said...

I think that a guy who posted an online sex advertisement, referring to himself as "Power Glutes" may have more than a fractured soul--and a significantly unhealthy taste for porn. Go back in your cave Andrew.

Stephen said...

Meanwhile over at bloggingheads Robert Wright ponders "Becoming conscious of consciousness" and ruminates "Do people matter?"

tim in vermont said...

If somebody seems "incoherent" based on the news reports you are getting, but still a huge number of people are supporting him, then there are two possibilities, half of America is deluded and deplorable, or you are not getting all of the facts. The easy answer, the answer that makes you feel good about yourself, that raises your self regard, infuses you with a warm frisson of superiority, is that half or America is made up of complete idiots who are irredeemable. (Probably true, but at least half of those are voting for Hillary) So of course that is the answer that you are going to choose, however improbable.

An argument I have heard for Hillary is that we don't like her because we distrust her, and distrust her because we don't like her. As if there is not a lifetime of evidence that she can't be trusted that has nothing to do with her likability. Guess what? If a person tunes out all of the facts about Hillary they don't want to hear, all that has to be overcome to get that person to vote for her is to get them to feel guilty about disliking her!

rhhardin said...

Consciousness of consciousness is a guys' philosophy 101 question.

Actually you don't have it. It's a language trick.

Part of an account is a noun so it's supposed it must have a referent.

The actual uses of the philosophical phrase mean the opposite in practice, as when after you recover from a fall you tell the EMT guy "I am conscious now."

That's not introspection.

The philosopher says that means he must be conscious of his consciousness, which is pretty far from what's happening.

Ordinary words go on vacation in philosophy.

zipity said...


Andrew was obviously on another spelunking expedtion in Sarah Palin's uterus, still attempting to get to the bottom of who is REALLY the mother of Trigg Palin...

Clayton Hennesey said...

Is it fair to ask how much of human experience Sullivan views as online porn, some of it explicitly sexual, some of it cultural and political? I mean, it may not be the objects of Sullivan's perception that are the problems but rather the nature of the perceiver and his perception instead.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

"walking Snapchat of incoherence" is almost certainly a Trump reference.

The important question is: Did anyone miss Andrew Sullivan while he was gone? Did anyone think "gee, I wonder what ol' Andy Sullivan would say about this?"

Birkel said...

Did Sullivan's investigation of Sarah Palin's uterus ever conclude?

Ipso Fatso said...

Sullivan is one of the most odious human beings on-line. I was thinking not so long ago how wonderful it was that no one had linked or quoted him in quite some time. My wonder has ended. I hope he isn't back.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Maybe it's just the blog, but doesn't this relate a bit to the whole "hard work" discussions we've had recently? If you take a bunch of time off and no one misses you...

Unknown said...

I do not know why the snark is so strong. This is a pretty serious baring of the soul. We all seek redemption and deserve to try and find it.

Michael Brand said...

Ah, my love/hate relationship with Andrew continues. I'll put this in the book with some of his greatest essays (the case for gay marriage and his tribute to Ronald Reagan come to mind). For all his batsh!t insane stuff about Trig and Obama, the guy has a talent for getting some things brilliantly right

" And the engagement never ends. Not long ago, surfing the web, however addictive, was a stationary activity. At your desk at work, or at home on your laptop, you disappeared down a rabbit hole of links and resurfaced minutes (or hours) later to reencounter the world. But the smartphone then went and made the rabbit hole portable, inviting us to get lost in it anywhere, at any time, whatever else we might be doing. Information soon penetrated every waking moment of our lives.

The portable rabbit hole

tim in vermont said...

I do not know why the snark is so strong. This is a pretty serious baring of the soul. We all seek redemption and deserve to try and find it.

Where? In Sarah Palin's uterus?

ALP said...

This is a good place to urge everyone to watch a BBC series called "Black Mirror". Season one is on Netflix. Its an anthology type series with "science fiction" (for lack of a better term) stories that take their inspiration from the impact of YouTube, gaming, social media.

Never, ever have I been so disturbed by science fiction. Every 20 minutes or so, either my partner or I would turn to the other one to say: "We are maybe 10 years away from this scenario..."

robother said...

Coming hard on the week in which we discovered that "Anthony Weiner" was merely the creation of some Alt-Right peeps (or Pepes?), I'm not sure how to process this admission that the once-human Sullivan has been rendered un-human by this insidious Web thing.

Perhaps its understandable that Sullivan, lost in the Snapchat of his own incoherence would resort to porn, seeking something hard to cling to in the click storm.

Sam L. said...

I haven't seen anything of him because I don't think him worth my time. Anyone that interested in Sarah Palin's uterus...

Birkel said...

Unknown said...
I do not know why the snark is so strong. This is a pretty serious baring of the soul. We all seek redemption and deserve to try and find it.


I do not believe you mean to be taken seriously in this comment. Apply it more broadly, to people with whom you disagree, and get back to me.

Big Mike said...

"I Used to Be a Human Being."

Not really. Like most of the rest of Sullivan's scribblings, I don't believe this statement at all.

Char Char Binks said...

I used to be a little boy.

Titus said...

I don't know anyone who doesn't read the times.

Sigivald said...

I was just wondering why we haven't seen much of Andrew Sullivan lately, as I would have expected him to be opining mightily on the horrors of Donald Trump (and Hillary Clinton)

I assumed he was, and that everyone decent was just ignoring his inane ramblings.

He went nuts, what, over a decade ago now?

Roger Sweeny said...

Information soon penetrated every waking moment of our lives.

Only if you let it. Strangely enough, some people don't have smart phones (some people don't even have cell phones).

Even before smart phones, there were people who filled every hour they could with newspapers, magazines, and tv feeding their information addiction. Which of course got worse near presidential elections.

tim in vermont said...

I don't know anyone who doesn't read the times. - Titus

Well, it is important to stay informed as to what you are supposed to be thinking about the issues! Wouldn't want to run afoul of the thought police and banished to the basket of irredeemables. It is great for that purpose. As a window onto what is actually happening in the world so that you can decide for yourself what to think? Well, who has the time to decide for themselves what to think anyways?

William said...

There's a lot of animus against Andrew Sullian, and I share most of it. That said, the article that Althouse links to is quite thoughtful and worth reading.

Jupiter said...

"Do not flatter yourself in thinking that you have much control over which temptations you click on. Silicon Valley’s technologists and their ever-perfecting algorithms have discovered the form of bait that will have you jumping like a witless minnow."

They are still trying to sell me a tent. It's a good tent, too. I know, because I bought one recently. In about ten years, I might want another. Want it like a witless minnow.

Freeman Hunt said...

"They are still trying to sell me a tent. It's a good tent, too. I know, because I bought one recently. In about ten years, I might want another."

Heh. I also usually get ads for things I recently bought, things that because I just bought them I am definitely not going to buy.

Checked the current ads that Facebook is serving me on the sidebar. One ad is for an HP auto-ship inkjet printer ink service. I use a laser printer. The other is for Halloween candy at Amazon, an ad that is obviously not at all specific to me.

Freeman Hunt said...

The ads changed now. One is now an ad for Mommy and Me clothes (Is that a thing?) from Vogue and H&M Studios. I would never buy whatever that is. The other ad is for perfume. I haven't worn perfume in 15 years because my husband hates it.

Big data does not know you.

Scott M said...

Is this the same Andrew Sullivan of Wombgate?

rehajm said...

I assumed he was another formerly employed journalist with a perception of his ability to attract a paying crowd that differed from the reality.

Roughcoat said...

Sullivan is a drama queen.

John Tuffnell said...

So the Impulsive guy has trouble controlling his impulses.

And technology makes it easier to indulge in the things that he craves.

It's fair warning to others, but ultimately I don't think it's the technology that "broke him", it was his poor impulse control.

Bill Peschel said...

Impulse control is difficult to control with the Internet. When I hear notable authors saying they have to use Freedom to block the Internet on their computer, or remove the modem, or get away for a week, you have to take them seriously.

As for Andrew, well, I can resist reading him. He wasn't that interesting to me before, and there's this viral video of Bowie and Jagger's "Dancing in the Streets" with the lyrics removed that I want to show my wife. That's more important.

(Now if it was P.J. O'Rourke writing ...)

HoodlumDoodlum said...

ALP said...
This is a good place to urge everyone to watch a BBC series called "Black Mirror". Season one is on Netflix. Its an anthology type series with "science fiction" (for lack of a better term) stories that take their inspiration from the impact of YouTube, gaming, social media.


Netflix Announces Black Mirror Season 3 Premier Date

Fred Rawlings said...

I want my pre-internet brain back

Clayton Hennesey said...

The conservative blogger Rod Dreher, who does almost nothing offline, finds Sullivan's essay prophetic and moving.

And, of course, just one more thing to blog online about.

This is hilariously like the judge who, back in the day, would incessantly review the XXX reel in order to determine its obscenity with unassailable precision.

ALP said...

HoodlumDoodlum @ 2:44pm:

THANKS! Frackin Netflix - I love them but I always find out what's new from everyplace BUT Netflix.

You made my day!

narciso said...

I saw Peaky Blinders up to episode 2, of Season 3, and Marseilles, the House of Cards on the Med,

Sullivan long since proved himself a nazgul,

HT said...

I've seen him. He's around. I remember when he first went to NYC he complained of his inability to get online in a reliable way. I thought at the time, ha, move to NYC and all you wanna do is surf the net?

Bay Area Guy said...

It's a good essay. We all have felt at times entrapped by a burgeoning addiction to the blogosphere, RCP, our iphone, Althouse, Drudge, etc, etc.

It's good to pick 2 or 3 days a week to stay away from electronics, although it's pretty darn hard in the modern era.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Clayton Hennesey said...This is hilariously like the judge who, back in the day, would incessantly review the XXX reel in order to determine its obscenity with unassailable precision.

Let the record show that Mr. Hank Hill really knows his pornography.

Bill said...

I like Andrew, but he can be a tad operatic.

richardsson said...

Yes, I wondered what happened when he seemed to drop out of sight. I also thought it was quite bizarre of him to seek an advanced degree (PhD I think I remember) when he was already something of a national media figure. Taking classes beyond a point perpetuates the idea that you need someone else to tell you what to read. Too boring for me.

rcocean said...

"A walking human Snapchat of incoherence"

Sounds more like Sullivan than Trump. Sully's been on the both sides of so many issues, I've lost count. And no matter what side he was on, people on the other side were always stupid or evil.

But its good that Sully has taken time from bare-back riding and pot smoking to examine his navel in public again.

rcocean said...

"Did anyone think "gee, I wonder what ol' Andy Sullivan would say about this?"

Exactly. When I saw the post, it struck me that I hadn't thought of Sullivan in years - except as a punchline to a uterus joke.

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