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What Does it Mean to be ‘Extremely Online’?

Let this article be your sign to log off for a while.

Credit: TippaPatt / Shutterstock

If you’ve been on the internet for some time now, you may have come across the term “extremely online” or “chronically online”.

We’ll bypass the irony this time and say the opposite is true also. Maybe you haven’t heard about this phenomenon if you don’t spend that much time on the internet. Let this article be your go-to guide to find out what it means and how to recognize if you are extremely online.

What is “Extremely Online”?

Extremely online, also referenced to as chronically online or terminally online, refers to someone who “spends so much time online [that] it skews their sense of reality and hinders their ability to effectively communicate about topics like politics or social justice because they lack real-world experience,” as defined by an article from CNET. The second part of this statement is the important part. Being extremely online is more than just spending a lot of time online. It is also different than just being addicted to social media. It changes the way in which you see the world. Suddenly, everything is seen through the lens of social media discourse.

A good elaboration comes from Know Your Meme which states it can be used in a self-deprecatory and ironic way.

” [It is also used] mockingly to refer to someone who has become deeply immersed in niche fandoms, online drama, news and debates and cancel culture and puts precedence on online interactions over real-life interactions, believing things that have an effect on online culture have a comparable effect on offline culture even when they don’t.”

Meme librarian (yes, meme librarian) Amanda Brennan calls this the “internet culture hivemind who sees things in a certain way”. In many ways, the internet has its own language now, its own inside jokes. Each day some new meme or discourse takes over the internet that would be difficult to explain to someone who is not online. If you find yourself relying on social media jargon in the real world or seeing the world through the critical lens of online discourse, you may be extremely online.

What Being Extremely Online Looks Like

Being extremely online can present itself in a few ways. The tweets below best showcase how the internet has skewed people’s sense of language.

In these tweets, people express simple ideas such as friendship or empathy. Their language, however, implies the clear influence of the internet. Twitter user @disxpix highlights this by tweeting: “‘normalize not vibing to someone’s toxic behavioral gaslighting [sic], so you can manifest mental energy”. Tweets like these mock the type of language that has grown widespread on the internet.

Extremely Online & Social Justice

In addition to language, being extremely online often comes in the form of social justice. In a series of stitches to @sorrel.hartley on TikTok, people have been sharing the most “chronically online take” they have heard of. This user described when someone compared her disdain for the interbreeding of dogs to the racist argument against interracial marriages.

@poodlepeeps #stitch with @sorrel.hartley ♬ original sound – Kassie

Another user described hearing an argument against breastfeeding in public. Why? Because nobody knows who has a lactation kink, and for the safety of everybody, it would be better if nobody breastfeeds publicly.

In one video, someone claims that they received backlash for being ableist after saying blind people can not drive.

Though it seems valid to criticize these opinions as “extremely online”, it may be prudent to differentiate these from other opinions on the internet. Many people on the internet use the platform to (validly) speak about issues of discrimination or bigotry. Being “extremely online” is different to being vocal about social issues.

Moral Superiority

As the above TikToks show, being extremely online sometimes comes from a place of moral superiority. This relates specifically to relatively easy mistakes rather than overt discrimination or actual crimes. YouTuber Shanspeare talks about this at length in her video “We’re Chained To Our Phones and It’s Scarier Than We Think”. Dogpiling or ‘cancelling’ on social media allows the persecutors to feel a sense of moral superiority. These people criticize from the place of being more alert to social injustices. However, as Shanspeare points out, they often lack any room for nuance or construction in their criticism.

William Hawes, the author of “The Rise of the Terminally Online: Digital Subjectivity and Simulation of the Social“, notes that often these stances depend on “hot takes rather than real change”.

“in this ennvironment, political commentary in the West resembles sports news, or movie reviews, or fashion advertising; a running conversation on trendy, stupefying, salacious current events where no serious response to the power structure or the money system is offered”

The Rise of the Terminally Online: Digital Subjectivity and Simulation of the Social, William Hawes

This allows people to feel morally superior by standing up for discriminatory issues in the wrong places. Rather than criticize real racism, transphobia, sexism, etc., or better yet, enact change in the real world, this particular manifestation of extremely online serves no purpose other than allowing someone to feel falsely morally superior.

Go Touch Grass

The common response given to people who are extremely online is straightforward: Go outside. Go touch grass. Go experience nature. Discover the world outside of the internet. Condescending? Maybe. Effective? Quite possibly. Though not possible for everybody, it serves as a reminder that getting caught up in the hivemind of the internet can skew our sense of justice and morality.

To read more about the effects of social media, check out this article from Maya Sargent.

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We might all be online a lot, but some people really do need to touch grass