Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Our skin and bones make noise

First of all, I'd like to say that the photo above does not necessarily have anything to do with the content of this post. It's just a picture of a contender at the Westminster Dog Show that I got off of Jezebel, in which it looks a lot as though the dog is floating in mid-air. Upon a second glance, it looks more like the dog is being lightly abused. No matter.

The picture is, in its own way, relevant to this post precisely because of where I first ran across it, on the excellent and addictive pop-culture live-action amalgamation that is Jezebel. Like many people, I work at a desk, with a computer, a mouse, and a lot of time on my hands to deal with. Inevitably, I turn to the internet to while away the hours, furtively flipping between Firefox tabs the way, perhaps, a secretary might have hidden a novel on her lap some fifty or sixty years ago (or now, if one's office blocks all the good websites).

My problem is this: as much as I love it, I hate the internet. I've had a hard time articulating why to myself: not all the content is bad - some is great - and it's obviously an invaluable reference tool (I choose not to link to Wikipedia here, because honestly, you can do that for yourself, and there's other stuff out there too, guys).

Nonetheless, I can't help but feel that the internet, as a venue, tends to lower the level of any discourse that encounters it - comment strings are anonymous and vehement, there is often no editing, and daily transcipts of celebutante exploits can travel faster than brushfire via news sites, Jezebel-esque blogs, and sundry social media. You can go to the New York Times looking for information about NAFTA and leave having inadvertently learned that someone in Hollywood doesn't think any woman is as pretty as Julia Roberts.

I'm not pointing fingers at anyone who creates internet content; obviously I blog, and people can't be blamed for doing something they enjoy, can market, and are able to get paid for (not that I am, but someone out there is, I'm sure). Rather, I'm interested in the way that people - again, myself included - ravenously consume the worst and most mindless of information when it's available, how willingly we reduce our (inter?)national conversation to gossip.

Perhaps it's just that the internet is a great equalizer: in Edith Wharton's time, it was only the affluent who were afforded the opportunity to ruin lives with razor wits or cleverly phrased groupthink. But in the age of the internet we are all involved in the lives of socialites - indeed, we all have the opportunity to be socialites; our fifteen minutes of fame have never been more accessible - and anyone can be our Lily Bart. We all scramble to have our say, but what the hell are we talking about?

I'm willing to admit that perhaps this is just my problem; it's my choice to read what I read, write what I write, engage in whatever. For this reason, I'm trying to make a conscious effort to expose myself to different forms of thought and expression - not just writing, but music, art, film. How is it different to talk about fear, anger, or qualities of light in a story or in a song rather than in plain narrative? And how does it affect your thought patterns to encounter such varying conversations?

To that end:


Just a small start.

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Blogger anglechange said...

funny you should post on the sludge that collects at the bottom of the tubes. i was just listening to an interview of with the author of this book the other day on the radio:

11:49 PM  

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