What Are You Looking For On the Internet?
I miss physics exams.
Back then, all the information I needed fit on a couple of pages. A few equations and laws, and once you knew them, it was all about technique. You used them in a variety of calculations, learning subtle nuances and learned to recognize trick questions.
The facts were few and you applied them until they sunk in so deep you couldn’t tell they were there.
There were often case studies or special examples that were worth learning separately, but if you forgot them, you could derive them again yourself. I’d often try to save myself trouble memorizing equations because I thought it would be more interesting to re-derive them live during the exams. (And it was, if by ‘interesting,’ I meant ‘bad test strategy.’)
Not so with other subjects. There are no first principles from which to work out the dates of the French Revolution live during the exam, unfortunately. You have to just know it.
I say ‘unfortunately,’ but I don’t mean it. A world where you could work out historical dates from first principles would be bizarre and bleak, where nothing unexpected could happen.
So I’ve made my peace with the idea that all the color, interest, and texture in the world come from unpredictable details and zany events, and to enjoy them, I need to read about them in all their odd specifics.
There is so much to read and be entertained by.
News events, stories, video essays about obscure internet culture phenomena, explainers and how-tos. Unlike in school, we don’t need to remember all or any of it. But even so, it must have some uses, or we wouldn’t seek it out.
I’ve caught myself inhaling information compulsively, and recently, I’ve begun asking myself what I’m looking for. What exactly am I hoping to find in the newsletters folder of my inbox or on the digital newspaper’s homepage?
By most standards, my digital media diet could be called ‘nutritious’. It’s nearly all long-form writing/video on subjects I’m interested in and want to pursue.