Becoming a ‘Digital Flâneur’

Embarking on a seemingly leisurely adventure may seem like a simple task. However becoming a ‘digital flâneur’ proved to be more difficult than expected. Aimlessly browsing the internet with no virtual destination in mind was, challenging. I decided to see all what I might stumble across on the internet for thirty minutes without the use of three major platforms. Here is what happened when I attempted to surf the web without the use of Instagram, Facebook or Tik-Tok.

I began my journey at the Google homepage. I was immediately tempted to check my email kept in my bookmarked websites, but I was reminded of my mission. Nothing related to work, school or platforms I frequent. I want to see what I infinite things I could find on the internet for purpose of simply seeing them.

From Google’s homepage, a graphic of animals snowboarding and skiing caught my attention, so I clicked.

It brought me to a plethora of information relating to the Winter Olympics for this year. Featured events, photos, recaps from previous events and related tweets were displayed for me to peruse. I clicked on a tweet from the official Beijing 2022 account revealing upcoming events. That lead me to the Olympic daily schedule on the Olympics website.

Bombarded with ads and popups attempting to send me Olympics news and updates to email, I narrowly avoided signing up for something I had no interest in.

I browsed the category of sports ad video highlights, but I was constantly distracted by the popups. Annoyed, I went back to Twitter.

Honestly, I’m not on Twitter much. I find it overwhelming but I decided to look around my feed to see where it would lead me.

The first thing I see as I go to my feed is tweet featuring Zendaya posted by billboard.

The tweet lead me to the billboard website where a short article was posted describing Zendaya as “giving off Little Mermaid vibes” wearing a green/blue dress in a Super Bowl ad. I wasn’t very interested in this but seeing her reminded me of this past week’s episode of Euphoria.

I quickly jumped from tweet, to YouTube video, to article, to Buzzfeed article related to season 2 episode 4 of Euphoria. Suddenly I found myself consuming a Hollywood Mask article discussing if Angus Cloud is related to Mac Miller. And then my thirty minutes were up.

Browsing the internet without looking to find anything in particular proved to be troublesome. Finding something new and interesting without explicitly searching for it was near impossible. I thought at the beginning of this experiment I would encounter new virtual experiences or unique sites, but without pointedly searching for them, I didn’t find much at all. In fact, my ‘findings’ were quite limited.

Much like the observations of Evgeny Morozov in his article The Death of the CyberFlâneur, I couldn’t enjoy the wanders of the internet and leisurely stroll through its inner workings. Everything I came across was there for a distinct purpose and I couldn’t be present in where I was. We are less inclined to wander when our virtual presence is used for an economical purpose, which I saw clearly based on the overwhelming amount of ads I was forced to look at for the small number of sites I was on. The fear of ambiguity destroys our ability to simply surf the web when every task we could possibly complete is within our virtual space. While I wouldn’t say I fully become a ‘digital flâneur’, I learned just how hard it is to exist on the internet without letting our delusions of what it should be consume us.

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Savannah Arnold

Savannah Arnold

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