My Online Existential Crisis

To engage, or not to engage? That is the question.

Ria Tagulinao

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From the author’s Instagram stories archive | 2020 lockdown

“Resenting a new technology will not halt its progress.” — Marshall McLuhan

Please don’t go looking for these, but at one point in my life, I ran three very decorated, very cringey personal blogger sites. All at the same time. Why I needed three is something that, unfortunately, only my deranged teenage self can fathom.

Like any other millennial, I grew up with the internet. Blogger, MySpace, Friendster, Tumblr — name it, I had it. In those good ol’ days, most of us rode only one major virtual bandwagon, flattering each other with tastefully-made Friendster testimonials composed of half alphabet letters and half symbols.

And I loved it. This modest, harmless online life. I happily maintained my blogs, sharing my musings and the events of my life with shameless detail, uncaring of who sees it or if anyone sees it at all.

Today, most of us find ourselves switching between no less than a handful of platforms. Personally, I’m on every mainstream social site: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and TikTok.

The more the merrier? Err.

It’s exhausting. And it’s not even being in so many places that mainly overwhelms me, but the question of why the hell I’m still even in these places at all.

The rude awakening began in the most blessed of all years — when I quit my job only to be greeted days later by the news of a nationwide lockdown. Unemployed and stuck indoors, I did 10,000 things, one of which was to read.

The first book I read was 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Noah Yuval Harari. (If you ever feel like you want a total mindfuck and to question everything you’ve known about the world, look no further than this book.) If you pay nothing for your news and your content, Harari warned, “you get a low-quality product. Even worse, you yourself unwittingly become the product. Your attention is first captured by sensational headlines, and then sold to advertisers or politicians.”

In today’s world, Harari argues, “information and attention are critical assets” — a sentiment perfectly complemented by another book…

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Ria Tagulinao

Fun-sized Filipina Writer | To stay up-to-date with my work, here's my Sunday newsletter: http://riatagulinao.substack.com