As much as I hate to admit it, I am a creature of extreme habituality and fear change like the apocalypse. I know that the Internet is a signifier of modernity and synonymous with “the future”; I know that smart-phones are our future, and that they predict that we will all carry some sort of hand-held hard-drive that can make/take calls and translate Dutch to Mandarin within the next fifty years of our lives. But, for some reason, I cannot cope with the concept of cyberspace and I think that it has something to do with the intangibility of it all. My day is an eternal return of routine and the thought of checking forms of Internet communication on top of ritual sounds horrifically distracting yet so tempting all at once. I can’t help but think of all of the fascinating people out there that are interested in the same things I am. Perhaps I am one of those material-modernists that Virginia Woolf complained of in A Sketch of the Past. Yet, today, is that not an oxymoron, as today’s “modern” is so closely aligned with sustainability or finding stability without consumption of materials? Perhaps I am merely a wistful romantic. I still check books out from the library because I like the way they smell, and the thought of all of the people who have had them on their nightstand, travel bag, on the bus/subway, or read them to children or lovers. I love hand-writing letters, cards, or notes to friends in the same city—what is more exciting than to receive something in the mail? I subscribe to the New Yorker and still get the NYTimes Sunday edition in the mail because there is something endearing about combing through five hundred pages of random articles every week. I’m sorry, trees, but I love the smell of newsprint.
This morning I woke up with 27 emails from Twitter on my beloved Blackberry that now feels tainted with commercial spam. All I could think upon opening them was, “Well, that was smart. Pandora’s Box has been unearthed. Might as well get back on that god-for-saken Gilt website that sent you 12 emails a day about sales that nobody can afford. I’ve now given in to the concept of the “blog”. I now have a Twitter account, a Facebook account, and a Google reader. I now have two email accounts am getting an unnerving number of updates because I don’t exactly know how to turn them off and am too lazy to do so, because how often will I really be checking all of these? Who are you @thefashionwitch and @AltsoundsFeed1? Why are you following me? I’ve only “Tweeted” five times… about nothing at that. Are you a spy? Are you going to come to my house? Oh my god my phone line is probably tapped right now, can you see me right now?”
I always avoided digital communication because verbal discourse has always held a place in my heart. I’ve always preferred calling friends over texting, and detested email communication. For some reason it just didn’t feel real. I had a Facebook in high school but had deactivated it up until the first of this year, as friends wanted photos from the adventures of the year passed. Upon deleting it I instantly remembered why I didn’t have it in the first place–that unspoken competition and ability to make anyone feel insecure in the world of Facebook has an addicting quality, and who REALLY knows all of their 700 friends? I figured why not talk to those most important to you in person?
I guess my main apprehension with Internet communication is that it seems intangible and places a strong threat of extinction upon the old trades of tactile communication. Upon a recent vacation to the tropics, for every ten readers that I encountered, at least a good half of them were reading on either an iPad, iphone, or Kindle. Of the remaining five, two were reading John Grisham novels, two were reading magazines, and only 1/10 of the entire lot was reading classic, mind you, not commercial, fiction. I think I saw one book, out of two weeks amongst strangers, that could be considered pertinent to the literary canon.
Further, my fear rests upon the safety of the disclosure of information online– does such cyberspace involvement mean all of our privacy has been stripped, or is such involvement merely a means to survival in today’s post-modern (or are we post-post-modern?) society of internet lives? Because really, what private information is exposed, when everyone is offering up the same thing and your common web-surfer can’t trace an IP address to save his life.
Though digital communication is relatively intimidating, it has so many advantages of mixing media to create new art forms (ex. Digital poetry), co-branding communication, etc. Large sites like Cyanatrendland or style.com all have the ability to bring together different forms of the fine arts and open doors to combining them to bring ideas together. Pre-internet, the global population was uneducated in terms of cultural trends and political happenings in other countries. For example, the Japanese can learn about Spanish trends, the French about the Argentine, and Indians about Russians. There is so much to explore in this alternative world of communication and once we wade through the muck of getting started, it really is a brilliant way to unite individuals who are thousands of miles apart.