Livin’ on the net

Robin Doyscher

Being ‘terminally online’ is a very recent phrase that is used to describe a certain subsect of internet users. Within the spheres of internet activism lie a unique type of interaction when it comes to social justice content. 

Tone policing has long been an ad hominem aimed at the perceived tone of an argument rather than its actual contents. If you’ve ever said something insulting about who or what you believe created a serious problem, and the person you’re talking to expressed more interest in pointing out the rudeness of your statement that’s tone policing. I bring this up because the type of internet users that are labeled as ‘terminally online,’ are often people who go a step further than tone policing. 

The terminally online instead attempt to find very pedantic faults in arguments or ideas that aren’t made any more nuanced by its inclusion. Say you posted something on Twitter about how landlords are gross and someone responded with, “um, my uncle lived in a trash can and ate rats for a living and calling someone gross is really discriminatory to dumpster-dwelling grouches.” 

Now that is terminally online. It’s an extreme example, but I feel that every single week there is at least one serious display of behavior from someone who could stand to get some more fresh air every now and then.

Even the famous phrase “touch grass” one often lobbed at those expressing terminally online behavior as a half-suggestion, half-insult towards their perceived internet overuse has arguments used against the phrase for not accounting for the fact that some people cannot physically touch grass, most often due to disability or physical capabilities. 

I’m about to reveal a hard truth to you all and trust me, I don’t like it either. The truth is we are all terminally online. We live and breathe the internet. Those 80’s cyberpunk authors who wrote about how we’d be downloading Grandmas and hyperlinking edibles in the future were honestly kinda spitting. We are truly all online a staggering amount nowadays. 

Our virtual identities are often seen as nigh indistinguishable from our real selves. If you’ve ever been 15 and had a ‘finsta’ then you know what it’s like to attempt to be authentically yourself on a platform designed for smarmy podcasters and delusional influencers trying to sell you unregulated supplements that are supposed to make your farts psychic or something.

I can hardly even blame those that are terminally online despite the sense of frustration that they invoke on their peers, because I’m sure at one point I defended something online that was not worth the time or effort of a written-out argument.
Let’s just be honest with ourselves and admit we all spend way too much time mindlessly scrolling hoping to fill the spiritual void left in humanity that first opened up back at our inception as a species and only got wider with each concurrent economic recession. I honestly think this is why upbeat pop music gets more prevalent every few years because things are so dour and depressing the thought of escaping to anywhere is more appealing than just sitting and wallowing. And maybe that’s what we as internet users are best at doing. Escaping.