Monday, February 02, 2009

Open Letters, Vol. 8

Dear Modernity,

Oh, Modernity, you bitter mistress, you taught me so much over the weekend.

Actually, you didn't teach me anything concrete, nothing I could say for sure--which, in itself is its own kind of modernity--you just brought up a whole new set of questions. Socrates would say that is teaching, but you know, whatevs.

First, on my Twitter feed, I watched as Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore began complaining about their neighbors. Then I watched as very slowly, the story got picked up by various "news" outlets and broadcast all abouts the interweb. It was the first time I was able to see one of those celebrity stories from beginning to end. What started as something rather vacant and light suddenly became a news story, and people were quoting the Tweets and talking about how Ash and Demi were feeling. Who really knows how they were feeling? The machine took something and chewed it into bits.

And second, me and some other gay boys (plus a real live lady) sat around on Saturday night drinking beer and watching dumb videos on YouTube. We watched the one where the guy pukes on the morning news show, the one where the Swedish lady pukes on that morning show, the one where the lady falls and really hurts herself while trying to stomp grapes, the one where the lady falls on the Segway, the farting aerobics instructor, the farting newscaster, Sue Simmons and her important question, the gay/blind hiker, the weather man with diarrhea, and many, many others. How did we miss this typo?

Kip suggested that this was the current version of sitting around the campfire telling stories. It was pretty remarkable, in a way, all of us sitting in a circle, passing around the laptop, calling up one crazy narrative from YouTube, and turning the computer around so everyone could watch together. It didn't feel vacant, which you might presume.

I'm not the kind of person who bemoans how technology and modernity are keeping us apart from one another, but I'm not foolish enough to believe that things like YouTube and social networking websites are actually bringing people closer together--perhaps in an organizing sense, in a mobilizing sense, but never making quality interaction among people, surely. Right? Maybe? Instead, I think it's some unknown mixture of the two. Our language is becoming these videos, truncated for cultural ease--like that joke about the prisoners telling jokes in prison*. Our consciousness is becoming the translation of Twitter feeds.

Help us, I want to scream. But, to whom? And from what?


*Let me know if you want to hear that joke.

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