The Disconnect is, as its subtitle suggests, a ‘personal journey through the internet’, or a collection of interconnected personal essays about technology and culture. From personal experiences of using and working in social media (most notably as the social media presence for a cheese brand) to a list of vaporwave tracks, and from depression and insomnia to Mark Zuckerberg’s bland outfits, Kiberd takes us on a funny and sad journey about living on the internet.
Being only a few years younger than Kiberd, this very much felt like a book aimed at people like me, who grew up using things like MSN Messenger. The style is one often found in the best online essays, combining disparate references and self-deprecating humour with deep looks at specific things (one of the essays is a very in-depth look at the energy drink Monster) and weird stories of existing in the modern world. I was hooked quite early on with references to Mad Men and Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism and the first section of the book was my favourite, with essays going through a dual personal and big scale history of the internet and looking at the figure of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook’s ethos (though I enjoyed the whole book).
I’m not sure what it says about me that the most insightful part of the book for me was the chapter about vaporwave, a genre of music I spend a lot of time thinking ‘I should find out what that actually is’ and never doing so (now I know!). The Disconnect does sit alongside a lot of the other tech-related reading I’ve done, both in terms of the personal side of books about social media and big tech companies and in terms of internet history and the impact on our lives (I feel it’s a particularly good companion to Gretchen McCulloch’s Because Internet, which looks at internet language and also the ‘phases’ of people on the internet).
Anyone who is fairly well-versed in internet culture and also likes questioning and reflecting on what these technologies are actually doing to our lives is likely to enjoy The Disconnect. It’s tech writing infused with the personal side of the internet, and if that sounds like a selling point to you, you should read it. Anyway, I’m off to listen to Floral Shoppe.