The internet – and the world in general – often leaves me both over and underwhelmed. It’s a struggle to find things special anymore, as everything seems the same. As my son said the other day – in the kind of exasperated tone only a 6 year old can deliver – “Everything is made in CHINA!” The more we see of each other’s lives, the more we want to be ‘like’ each other, even though that sameness dulls our senses down to the point of nullity. We’re becoming greige, losing all that colour and flaw and flavour that makes us, us.
Spending time on the internet – anything more than a check for emails – leaves me frustrated and often nursing a dirty feeling of envy. Someone has had a holiday. Someone has bought a house. Someone has a new baby. Someone has published a book. And it all looks beautiful, other people’s lives. It’s difficult to take stock of your own bounty when so much of your leisure time is spent ogling somebody else’s life. The hardest part is admitting it, because these envious thoughts usually follow with “man, I am an asshole” and yet I know I am not alone in this feeling.
So if I don’t particularly like the internet, why am I here, laying out a new bloggy doormat and potting some marigolds?
I didn’t think I would come back to this blog, as social media represents some of the worst parts of the internet for me. Ironically, it also sports some of the best bits.
A few months ago, I tried disconnecting from Facebook. For about 3 weeks, I deactivated my account. Only a few times during that month did I miss it. And when I say ‘miss’, what I really mean is more like a kind of muscle memory, my fingers reaching for the ‘f’ key on the keyboard, because that what they’re used to doing when I have a spare 5 minutes online. I downloaded my Facebook data, and felt violated at how much of myself I’d put online, given over to the Facebook corporation and their goons. And this for someone who is pretty careful about what they ‘share’. I was ready to close the book entirely, and yet within 4 weeks of deactivating, I had reactivated my account. While I don’t use it as much as I have in the past, I’m still on there, on page 13,890,756.
My girlfriend Laura is a secondary school science teacher. She tells her teenage students Facebook is bad for their soul. Not everything is bad for your soul: tea is good, so is reading, gardening, walks. Walks while drinking tea and looking at other people’s gardens are particularly good for you (think triple word score, only better). She has been known to do this around her own neighbourhood, in her pyjamas. Laura is a good kind of crazy person you want living in your community. And she has a valid point. People taking pictures of themselves and beginning every sentence with an ‘I’ does something to one’s worldview. Like budgies in a cage, we become unable to see beyond our tiny mirror to the world beyond.
So this is the world we live in. And we’re all trying to figure out a way to live on the internet. Where does creative writing fit in? Where does any creative pursuit fit in to our globalised culture, which increasingly undervalues creativity? What of books, magazines, newspapers and writing in general?
I don’t know, but I know that it fits somewhere. It matters. And this blog? Not made in China. Brought to you from an art deco table masquerading as a desk, in my fading wallpapered office, by the sea, about 50 or so kilometres from Melbourne.
- Defriending Facebook (andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com)
- The anti-social network: Life without Facebook (cnn.com)
- 5 reasons why some are dropping Facebook (kshb.com)