Make like Drake and tab out
Matthew Munhall | Friday, February 27, 2015
One of the interesting recurring themes on Drake’s excellent new mixtape, “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late,” is the Canadian rapper’s complicated feelings towards the Internet. “F*** going online, that ain’t part of my day,” he raps on “Energy.” It’s just one of many lines on the mixtape expressing Drake’s contempt toward social media timelines and reminiscing about a time before hashtags.
In the past few months, I’ve started to feel similarly exhausted by the constant barrage of content online. Streaming services like Netflix and Spotify, as well as pop culture websites like Grantland and Vulture, have resulted in an almost endless stream of both content and criticism for pop culture obsessives. There is no excuse to not have heard a certain band’s discography or seen a certain film when it’s easily accessible online. Sorting through all this content is a different matter completely.
All these essays, albums, music videos, podcasts and videos result in a mess of cluttered Safari windows on my laptop. Tabs end up functioning as a way to save content to consume when I have free time. Music suggested to me by friends, articles by my favorite writers and reviews of films I want to see all get preserved in endless tabs on my browser.
Here’s a sampling of a few of the 30-plus tabs currently open on my web browser: Marc Maron’s conversation with Father John Misty on his “WTF” podcast; a Grantland staff survey on who is the most important rapper right now; a review of Desiree Akhavan’s indie comedy “Appropriate Behavior”; a feature on the Barcelona-based indie rock group Mourn; Cameron Crowe’s 1977 cover story on Fleetwood Mac for Rolling Stone; the New Platz, New York, twee punk group Quarterback’s debut album on Bandcamp; an interview with Wes Anderson about the casting process for “The Grand Budapest Hotel”; the latest episode of “Broad City.”
These countless tabs begin to accumulate, crowding each other out to the point that their titles disappear. Some of these tabs have been floundering near the top of my browser for weeks, just waiting to be dealt with at some undefined point in the future. Along with the constant stream of content that is Twitter, keeping up with pop culture starts to feel more like a chore than an enjoyable pastime.
The past few months, I’ve started to relish walking away from the pop culture conversation. I’ve taken an indefinite hiatus from Twitter, deleting the app from my phone. I’ve also learned to just close all my tabs every few weeks. If I haven’t read this oral history of Laurel Canyon during the month it’s been waiting around in an open tab, I have to admit to myself that I’m probably not getting around to it anytime soon.
One of the most important lessons about being an intelligent cultural consumer in the digital era is learning how to wade through an almost infinite amount of content. The first step is realizing that you don’t have the time to listen to every great band, read every think piece or watch every prestige drama. Unlike Drake, going online is going to be a part of my life at least for the foreseeable future. Tabbing out every once in a while helps keep me from becoming completely overwhelmed and drowning in the deluge of content.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.