Paul Miller "left" the Internet for a year, learned nothing

I am archiving older pieces I have written on other sites, making this the definitive home for all my work. Enjoy!

I’m still here: back online after a year without the internet

I don’t know Paul Miller. I remember reading his post a year ago when he announced he was “leaving” the Internet for a year, thinking it was stupid and moving on. He’s back now, and he’s learned… that he sucks.

Well, duh. Most of us suck. Externalizing our flaws is always a cop-out, and it’s one that’s as old as man. “It was the woman you sent me,” Genesis tells us Adam protested. “The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in our selves that we are underlings,” Cassius reminded his friend (as he coaxed him into treachery and murder).

The flip side is that there is no singular action that will cleanse us of our failings. Change is difficult, and lasting change is achieved in small increments, sustained at each opportunity to revert. The similarity to weight loss, fad diets and “miracle pills” is obvious.

Paul Miller is young and devoid of responsibility, and thus relatively free to wallow in self-pity. It’s an interesting irony that obligation and duty can free us from wondering who we are and what we’re to do, because we have responsibilities and others counting on us. Miller is also a product of a society that pushes unrealistic, youth-obsessed images and narratives—at one point in the accompanying video he moans that, at 27, it’s “too late” to become truly successful in music, and that being a novelist is “the only thing left” for him. This struck me as, perhaps, the root of his malaise.

American culture is horrendously ageist, and the technology world perhaps its worst offender outside of fashion/beauty industries. Every tech publication gushes over “twenty-something” “innovators” and entrepreneurs, but most of those ideas turn out not to be viable long-term, and many of those young people don’t do their best work until several years later, usually as part of larger, more staid organizations.

I have the curious “benefit” of having been raised in a culture ageist in the other direction; I call it a gerontocracy. The collision of my African and American heritages has left me confident in my abilities and unafraid to challenge authority, but also confident that my best years lie ahead in virtually every regard.

I don’t know Paul Miller. If I could speak to him, though, I’d tell him that his best lies ahead of him, not behind. So cowboy up, put on your Big Boy pants and get to work making you the best you can be. Tomorrow is going to be awesome.