Social Media | Self

The Problem With Being “Extremely Online”

Why your screen subtly warps how you see the world.

Sean Kernan
5 min readOct 29, 2023

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Pexels via Roman Odintsov

“It’s so weird that he has zero social media,” she said with exasperation, “It’s just kind of shady, don’t you think?” My friend was complaining about the new guy she was dating.

She didn’t admit it explicitly, but she seemed convinced his Facebook absence meant he was hiding a girlfriend, or perhaps a wife and kids. Yet he’d already told her he didn’t like social media because it was distracting and fake. It was a perfectly reasonable opinion.

I said, “Well, do you like him?” She said, “Yes! He’s nice and handsome and funny.” I urged her to stop worrying so much about it and stop creating problems that weren’t there.

There are surely examples of men hiding things from social media, but her position struck me as a paranoia emerging from chronic onlineness, also called being “extremely online”. It happens when people believe internet culture, and the stories they see online are of high importance to everyone.

You see symptoms of the extremely online in every waiting room in America. Look around and, usually, 90% of the room is looking down at their phone. I saw a starker example when Pokémon Go exploded eight years ago. Hordes of “Pokémon Zombies” swept through our local parks and, sometimes, into traffic with tragic consequences. The game required people to look at their phone and follow digital paths in the real world to find new Pokémons. You saw dead-faced people with screens held up as they walked in winding and sporadic slow paths through parks, streets, and sidewalks.

The other issue is that fanaticism tends to drive online discourse and cause small groups to overrepresent their views, and disinformation to proliferate with ease. It’s never more evident than with social media tricking the ostensibly best newspapers, including the New York Times, to falsely report a hospital being bombed by Israel, leading to a rare editors note being published. But not before the world caught on fire for 12 hours.

The Depp v Heard trial spilled celebrity evangelists into my social media feed, despite me not caring about either actor or their movies. I saw person after…

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Sean Kernan

Former financial analyst turned writer. Always on the hunt for a good story. That guy from Quora. Writing out of Tampa, Florida.