A Crisis of Faith in the Digital Age (+ Lego Stilettos)
“Technology… is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other.” ~C.P. Snow, New York Times, 15 March 1971
I’ve been having some strong feelings lately – and unlike many of the “strong feelings” I have (you know, about such important things as “what I’m doing tomorrow night” and, more importantly “what I’m wearing tomorrow night”), these feelings feel… important. And they’re niggling, too.
Maybe I’m having a quarter-life crisis, or tripping over the fact that I’m coming up on the one year anniversary of my graduation from university. Whatever the case, I’ve been stressing hard lately about where my life is heading and what I’m contributing to the human race in terms of ideas and intellect.
I’m going to be straight up for a minute here – No LOLcats or photos of my own big blonde ego:
We are currently living through one of the most important technological revolutions in the history of (our) civilization – the digital revolution – and I believe by the simple virtue of my age, educational background, passion for the subject, geographical location and propensity for words, that I am uniquely poised to observe and document this change for future generations. Many of you are in the exact same boat.
Born in 1985, I came into a world that didn’t have Internet connections in every home. A world without cell phones in every palm, without iPods, or even home computers in most places, really.
By the year 2000, I’d gone through no less than a dozen gaming consoles and had registered more screen handles than I could keep track of. I ran home after school to chat with my friends on ICQ and was more fluent in CSS than French (to be fair, code isn’t gendered). I owned a profitable web-based business before I knew how to do my own laundry – and I am not alone.
We millenial females made up the rules as we went along, no parents or books or teachers to guide us through the Wild Wild Web. It shaped our intellectual, social and emotional development profoundly. Some of us, more than others. Canadians, more than most.
The number of things I learned growing up alongside these burgeoning new mediums could fill a book – and that’s exactly what I would love to do someday.
I’ve read freaky-smart things penned by scholars who died decades upon decades ago that still ring true today, and can’t help wonder what Thorstein Veblen or Marshall McLuhan would say if they were alive to see what’s happening now.
One thing’s for certain – they wouldn’t be blogging about Flavor Flav’s fried chicken, or hanging around with Public Enemy backstage at Wakeboarding festival for that matter… could you imagine?
Quite a funny pair they’d make, I recon. I wonder what Flav wold think about Veblen’s theory of conspicuous consumption? Hahahaha.
Come to think of it, if Veblen were alive today he could very well have been writing about Captain Planet and Justin Bieber too because his attention span would be so damn fragmented that he’d have trouble concentrating on anything of substance for more than 10 minutes.
Or maybe not.
The point of this rant is that I don’t think I’m getting enough intellectual stimulation lately and dag nabbit, I miss feeling smart (if all of the unecessarily big words didn’t already tip you off to that. Sorry Mr. Orwell.)
I used to blog about light, funny things to take my mind off of the deep material I was digging into at school. A cat pining for cheezburgers was welcome in my psyche after marathon days spent at the library with my old dead homies from the Frankfurt School.
When I did the MA in Journalism, I begrudged professors for encouraging me to write about serious things as opposed to web culture because, after all, web culture is what I loved. It’s what I love still… but now I spend my days blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking and producing Internet videos for a living. I couldn’t love my job any more (unless somebody hired a 24/7 personal masseuse for me or something), but I find that I’m getting hungry for something serious again, and I worry that the mark I’m making on the world right now is minimal, if I’m even making one at all.
Running around town, going to events, taking photos, making videos, writing about what’s going on in my life – that’s all fun, but it’s really rather hollow in the end.
Humans get old, get ugly, get weak, lose our minds, die… It’s happened to every cute face in existence and it will happen to me too. Nobody remembers the funny blonde flapper-chick who told saucy jokes and Charleston’d on tables in dope old-timey threads, do they? She may have been the life of the party back then, but what of her legacy? What did she contribute to the future of her species?
I don’t want to be Suzy Q. Funtimes… I want to be Karl Marx. I want to be Harper Lee. An Academic rockstar like Ursula Franklin. I want my first-hand account of what it was like to live through the dawn of the World Wide Web to be read by students who will never know a world where Nintendo existed outside of T-Shirts at Urban Outfitters.
I want to document the present so that humans of the future can understand the past.
Do I want my legacy to be an endless stream of funny ReTweets and photos of myself making duck faces in the mirror? A book’s worth of blog posts about 8bit art and nerd-merch?
Of course not. But for now, it is what it is. I can’t very well write about living through the “social media bubble” if I don’t live through it hard. Besides, I really am having a blast My only fear is that I’ll begin to forget the things I need to document before it’s in ink.
The Livejournal archives, the ICQ history, the emo poems on the hard drive of my Blueberry iMac – that stuff is ancient history, and I’ll need to recall a lot of my experiences from memory. If I weren’t so busy pumping out junk-content, I might actually have some time to focus on writing them out.
It’s easy to say I’ll scale back on this blog and focus on writing other things again, but the truth is that I’m very much attached to it. To all of it.
My very thoughts seem to be formed in 140 characters or less these days. When I get good news, I don’t call a friend. I Tweet it. It’s gratifying to see my follower count go up, even if it means nothing in real life. It may be false popularity, but it’s quantifiable popularity. I don’t know what to make of my attraction to that, but I do predict that I will have 100,000 followers before I have a legit maid of honour.
These paragraphs were particularly relevant in the context of this post:
It is now possible to always feel loved and cared for, thanks to the efficiency of our “comment walls” on Facebook and seamless connection with everyone we’ve ever known. Your confidence and self-esteem can quickly be reassured by checking your number of “followers” on Twitter or the number of “likes” garnered by your photographs and blog posts.
The traction you are getting in your projects, or with your business, can now be measured and reported in real time. Our insatiable need to tune into information – at the expense of savoring our downtime – is a form of “work” (something I call “insecurity work”) that we do to reassure ourselves.??”
Nice. I’d love to explore this topic more if I ever return to school for that PhD.
Maybe I’ll take a creative writing course at U of T for now, or hire a book-writing coach to get some motivation. Perhaps I could start freelancing for some more intellectual publications on the side! Nothing like a deadline to kick your butt into gear.
Think the Walrus would commission a piece about how people need to STOP USING THE WORD “EPIC” so loosely?
Probably not. Fortunately, I can write about that right here on my own blog. And I shall – but not today, because it’s Wednesday and some Butter Face recently wore a dress made out of Lego so….
WOULD YOU ROCK…
A Lego dress?
Hecks the fluck yes I would… like, in a photo. I can’t imagine that would be very fun to dance in.
These Lego stilettos on the other hand, I’d totally rock at an event or something. Heels aren’t really supposed to be comfortable anyway.
What a weird effing blog post. I love you Ceiling Cat, and I always will. I’ll never stop Internetting, despite the occasional crisis of faith.
“The real danger is not that computers will begin to think like men, but that men will begin to think like computers.” ~Sydney J. Harris