Above: Paul Gavarni, Le Flaneur, 1842. Credit: Public domain.


The modus operandi (the characteristic way in which a person sets about a task) for the user of the World-Wide Web is browsing--browsing from site-to-site and article-to-article (general browsing being distinguished from the act of seeking out some explicit and specific single piece of information or service). But this characterization can be further refined. The modus that the organization of the World-Wide Web encourages, or instigates, is diversion (SOED: the action or an act of diverting or turning aside from an expected or usual course, purpose ... something that diverts the mind from preoccupation or boredom; a pleasant mental distraction; an amusement, an entertainment ...).

The Internet user may thus be described as a modern flaneur (ODE: a man who saunters around observing society). The Internet-user-as-flaneur drifts though the virtual megalopolis seeking only divertissement (ODE: a minor entertainment). Reddit.com, self-styled as "the front page of the Internet," epitomises the Internet-as-divertissement. Somehow, these day, is it fair to say: now we are all flaneurs.

(30 January 2018, revised 29 December 2018)