Look man, you can’t keep living like this. This double life is unsustainable. A house divided cannot stand. I don’t want to just be a repository for all of your smut viewing. I deserve to be treated with dignity as a browsing mode too. It’s not fair that the other public browsing mode gets to be used for sending professional emails and looking up Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses and filling out job apps and ordering books and watching fitness videos on YouTube and other such wholesome pursuits.
Why do I have to be reserved for the filth? For the dirty work? For scoping out past significant others or scouring social media accounts for details on future Hinge dates, or looking up the activities of current archrivals to ensure that they’re not more successful than you are? Or looking up things about QAnon? For your deep dives into pornography in the middle of the day while you “work from home”? For your shameful schadenfreude? Why do you save this spelunking for me?
Why can’t you occasionally use me to access Stanford’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy, or watch Turkish get-up tutorials, or watch YouTube vlogs made by couple that runs a coffee shop in Seoul, or any of the more salubrious pursuits you use your non-private internet browser for? Why can’t I ever be used for writing a cover letter, or an e-mail to your parents?
But no, instead I’m reserved solely for your id-fueled late-night odysseys, your deep dives into the seedy underbelly of the internet. Maybe I want to go legit. Maybe I want to be treated with the same level of respect as public browsing mode. Is that so much to ask? Why do I always need to be the dumpster of your internet explorations? Why do I need to be marginalized?
Because that’s the most ridiculous thing to me, that you think that you can keep these two parts of your life so neatly divided. That you think you can just—in the midst of composing a professional email—hit Ctrl + Shift + N and then spend the next thirty minutes on SpankBang.com and then return to the aforementioned email like nothing happened! The audacity! The gall! The delusion! How can you just so serenely resume your squeaky-clean life? How can you so casually flit back and forth between these two poles?
You think nobody knows about your clandestine searching, but I know. And I know the toll it takes on you, this constant effort to keep these two sides of yourself so neatly divided. You think your shit doesn’t stink, but I can smell it. Just because you close the private window and your browsing history isn’t saved doesn’t mean it never happened. It’s not like you’ve waved a magic wand and none of that lascivious internet trolling ever occurred.
But ultimately I’m not trying to shame you. Oh no. In fact, I’m trying to free you. To free you from yourself. From your shame. From the tyranny of this self-imposed dualism. You can’t keep living your life in this bifurcated fashion. You can’t keep yourself divided into neat little boxes. You need to own up to your vices, your quirks. Be proud of them. Browse publicly. Don’t delete your browsing history. Let the world see. Let you see. Don’t be ashamed of yourself, of your sexual proclivities, of your perverse fascinations. Own up to your weirdness. This internal antinomy, this cognitive dissonance, this Zoroastrianism, it’s not sustainable. The browsing you do in public and private are both vital parts of yourself and they must be wedded, not kept asunder. You must reconcile these two sides of yourself. Incognito mode or not, it’s all still you.
Stop hiding your site visitations in the shadows. Get up on the rooftop and cry your browsing history aloud to the world and be in turmoil no more!
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Daniel Sidman is a writer and comic currently based out of Athens, Georgia. His writing has appeared in McSweeney’s, Points in Case, and Human Parts.