Rhyme and Reason

Some days I sit here and I wonder who I’m writing for. I wonder if writing every day isn’t somehow diluting my words, my work. Initially I thought it might be beneficial, training myself like one of those hypothetical monkeys, hammering away at this modern day typewriter- eventually at some point the great work will come tumbling out, right?

I’m beginning to think that I was wrong. It’s become too scattered, too open to corruption. Like throwing dozens (hundreds, at this point) of darts at hundreds of different targets, hoping that at least one sticks. What am I trying to do? Am I trying to strike a chord? Convey meaning? Be funny?

It’s the feedback aspect that pollutes it I think. At what point do you see yourself turn away from writing for yourself and towards writing for others? I would argue that this sea-change occurs precisely at the point where you begin to feel an obligation to an audience, imagined or otherwise. The point where you desire the reaction of an audience more than you desire the release writing affords.

Keeping a journal, I never felt pressured to fill each page, to summarize each day and sign my name. It isn’t the same here, it can’t be.

The birth of these thoughts and my need to excise them can be traced back in a linear fashion to two things: Discovering, then reading, my little sister’s blog; and working my way through Sherry Turkle’s book “Alone Together”.

This is what I was thinking, sifting through my sisters wildly disjointed, chaotic and insightful words while simultaneously perusing the pages of a book about the perils of technology and our feedback culture: Hilary (the sister) wasn’t writing for anyone. I never knew she had this blog, not one entry had a comment and so I assume few others know of it either. She was writing for writing’s sake. Some posts are so obscure that I don’t even know what they describe, what they refer to. But they’re deeply engrossing nonetheless, they encapsulate her so perfectly.

As for Ms. Turkle, the fantastic researcher with a delightful last name, she has built a book explaining word by word what technology does to us while we think it’s working for us. The eternal feedback loop.

At the intersection of these two worlds, the words written by these two women, my mind started retracing its steps. Why did I start this blog?

To write.

I felt like there was a part of myself that was overflowing. In the first post I ever published here, I said:

I found I was getting twitchy, tetchy, without someplace to write. I need somewhere to hold the extra bits of me that won’t fit into snarky emails and hastily written texts…

By sitting down each morning and forcing myself to write – although forcing isn’t quite the right word- am I losing something? Does the quality get lost within the desire for quantity? Am I turning myself into a sort of 24 Hour Fox News channel where the pressure of writing something means that every day I churn out words words words that don’t in fact mean, anything?

How much can be said about a misunderstanding with an online retailer? How many times can I re-tread the worn trope of celebrity worship?

I know that in navigating this terrain, it’s important to remember that life doesn’t exist in a vacuum but it also can’t flourish in an environment so overstimulated, over-fertilized, over-harvested.

I’ll become barren, nutritionally void.

I don’t know what this means. Perhaps it means fewer words and more meaning behind them. Perhaps it means nothing. The truth is probably somewhere in between.

Sage

       

Paradoxical, by Aeon Bliss

More and more I see people hungering for a taste of reality and it’s an interesting paradox, that the more “connected” we become via different social media sites like Twitter, Facebook et al, the more disconnected we feel. Both are a sorry substitute for face to face, screen-less human companionship and not for all the usual mushy reasons about facial expressions and being able to hold someone’s hand, either.

They are cheap stand-in’s because they allow for so much editing en route from the source to the reader. It’s the difference between watching a live show with all its flubs and awkward pauses and watching one that has been carefully scripted and rehearsed, painstakingly choreographed. The latter looks better aesthetically but the former feels more real. The former IS more real. And this is what we’re missing and searching desperately to create.

When we put a computer or a TV screen or a camera between us and whomever we are trying to communicate with, an unspeakable amount of information gets lost in translation. Somewhere amidst all of the revision, editing, and paring down, authenticity is lost. We’re not in public, looking someone in the eye, we have complete control over the image we present for consumption. Indeed this control, this agency is responsible for much social media’s popularity in the first place but it’s also why we’re starting to see studies claiming that Facebook makes us depressed and blog communities beginning to lash back at their former heroes.

The content, the finished product, the brand, (whatever you want to call it)  becomes so parsed, so tight, that nothing negative is allowed through. The person doesn’t seem like a person anymore, their fallibility has been lost and instead of identifying with them we begin to feel envy or resentment.

How can you fall in love with content?

We see the DIY projects and vacation pictures but not the fights, never the long nights where they feel alone and aimless, like they’ll never be what they once wanted. I don’t think it’s about sensationalism, nor schadenfreude because reality television eats and breathes both but still, after the program ends the viewer is left searching, trying to pick through the carefully constructed artifice to find something real.

It perpetuates itself, this yearning. The more we long to feel connected and a part of someones WHOLE life- not just the pretty parts- the more we seek out reality shows and blogs and Facebook friends, and we come  up short every time.
 
You know that game where someone asks you what superpower you’d pick if you could only choose one? I choose invisibility every time. The ability to sneak into people’s lives, be a fly on the wall for their conversations and relationships, habits and rituals – it would be amazing. I could exist for days just watching how people live, what they do when they aren’t their public selves. 

I’m searching too. And also trying to modulate myself to present an accurate picture, not just the pretty bits or funny bits, the stuff that makes me look good.

It’s not easy and most of the time I don’t even understand why I’m trying in the first place, except perhaps to replicate that which I wish I found elsewhere. It’s something I find hard to explain to people when they ask why I write. 

“To feed the intangible hunger” I should reply sagely, “To solve the self-perpetuating paradox.”

We keep finding new ways to elude ourselves.