How many unfinished blog posts do you have in your list? How many times have you told yourself that you would thematically organize, update and be more deliberate about your rantings on the internet? How many times have you questioned the hubris entailed in throwing yourself at the web, simultaneously hoping it will be lost in the abyss of modern media and/or that someone, anyone, might just read it and find it interesting?
I’m pretty convinced now of our overlapping thoughts and how they move through the world like electrons around atoms. Watching Louis CK confirms this for me, because he will bring to the stage our unspoken thoughts. He calls out those things we think through privilege and suppress in words, repress in thought maybe, but nonetheless occupy our conscious. Returning to the anthropology department at IU has been enlightening in that way. In the way that you can, under the influence of this atmosphere, start perceiving the world differently, while you are able to try out these realities in a small and safe institutional playpen. You want to try to live in a post-gendered society, get your mind into thinking that way, here you might actually find someone with whom to converse. You want to find white men who are in constant recognition of their own privilege, working at rediscovering it and understanding it more with each passing day? They exist. In fact, it has made apparent to me how lazy I had become in my own journey towards understanding the everyday and its politics. In your little liberal niche you forget to realize that this takes constant work; the cognitive behavioral therapy of altering the mundane. It’s as hard as keeping on a diet or remembering not to bite your nails. And not doing it usually isn’t a big deal. Until…
Over the last several weeks I have poured hours of information into the minds of young people. Sitting there, staring at me as I teach something I should have become familiar with years ago. I struggle to translate the knowledge to a generation that grew up with cell phones and Facebook. Staying relevant becomes an impossibility because their brains have learned to move at the speed of new media, a skill I don’t have. I asked my parents what the single most important thing is that happened during their lifetime and without hesitation they say, “the Internet.” With something so amorphous yet so integral to our daily processes of communication, where does one start?
I went off Facebook and Instagram this week. Except for a month in 2010, I’ve been on Facebook since 2004, when it opened to Boston University ahead of most others across the nation. We had been waiting for it, and now, over a decade later, it is not so much addiction as it is life. Deuze talks about this, about how we cannot try to divorce ourselves from our media lives, for they are one and the same, they are extensions of ourselves, our minds and bodies. Rather than work to define your identity as separate from, we should more deliberately attune ourselves to the fact of our identity and its many representations. But there are so many? It feels like trying to regulate the myriad systems that track us,the algorithms that know us better than we know ourselves. The social world demands we let go, and we are, after all, the most social of all animals. Take away our internet, take away our humanity.
And so, one week in I have already been made aware, via word of mouth conversations, of several if not tens of events and announcements that I missed as a result of being absent from Facebook. All involve “real world” (i.e. analog) activities that I would have enjoyed. A bike ride, a persimmon harvest, a baby being born, my parents’ adventures traveling the Danube, and who knows how many birthdays. Integrating technology snuck up on us like language does as a child, gaining acceleration with every passing day that we use it. Disintegrating technology is the opposite. My soapbox, counsel, megaphone, entertainment, news platform, letter board, telephone, calendar, event planner, mailbox…everything, gone with the click of a button.
And yet, I manage to avoid manic obsessions tracking exes and friends and frenemies. I have been unable to compare everyone’s life to my own, wonder why you didn’t “like” my post, spend days thinking in memes and clever sentences with limited characters.
Instead I’m writing this meaningless post to get back into the swing of contemplating my own life, asking myself what form and level of control do I want and expect to have over it? How to swim with the current while gently directing it?
Zora Neale Hurston once said, “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”
What will this year entail?