8.19.2014

I'm Better At Internetting Than You Are

When I was in high school, I had a xanga. For those of you who remember what a xanga is, congratulations, you're old. For the rest of you, a xanga is what we would today call a blog, except it lacked all of the positive facets of a blog. The aesthetics and layouts were atrocious. Worse, you could customize the colors to your liking. Of course, that meant that mine was an ungodly combination of red and black. As far as content, mine mostly included some drivel about my high school girlfriend and rants about how great the band Tool is, along with some cryptic quotes that I thought were deep. I'm pretty sure no one read it. I've tried to find it, but it's nearly impossible - not that that's a bad thing.

Remember AIM? That stuff was a big deal to high-school-me as well. I had my main username (toolfanatik121) and of course, my novelty username (bladedrifter121). I would use this account when I wanted to slip into the persona of a wandering swordsman whose life was pledged to the blade. It even had some crappy ASCII picture of a sword in the profile. I was 14.

It felt awesome to have a bunch of people on my AIM buddy list. I remember seeing other people's buddy lists and they would be twice as big as mine. I would think "dang, they know a lot of people!" But really, how many of us would actually talk to every person on that list? I for sure didn't. And what about away messages? You know, those cool messages you could leave on your AIM window to let people know that you were too busy to sit at a computer and talk a screen full of pop-up boxes? I had this one friend who always had the coolest away messages. It got to the point where he was "away" more than he was actually on the computer. I came to the conclusion that away messages were more for looking cool than for actually being away the computer.

Myspace, anyone? Forget it. I can actually remember my Myspace information. It's all black and white photos from bad angles complete with awful captions. No joke, I can actually recall a few times where I'd hear a line or a lyric somewhere and I actually interrupted my thought process to think, "No way, I'm gonna use that as a caption for my next Myspace photo!" Who even thinks of things like that? 

It just got worse and worse, this whole internet thing. Before I knew it, I was a member of multiple forums and websites, submitting content, trolling users, and commenting on whatever I could. I was publishing poems on poetry.com. I was dissecting lyrics of songs by my favorite band on the aptly named toolshed.down.net. I'd talk about football on bengals.com, discuss the mana-to-creature ratio of a recent deck I was working on on mtgsalvation.com, and post queries about bands with similar lyrical and musical structures to The Contortionist on gotdjent.com. Those are all real websites, people.

I have at least three music sites and earlier blogs that are still festering in the underbelly of the internet somewhere. My first blog was called "The Arbiter Cometh," because who wouldn't want to read something with a title that awesome? For my next blog, I took on a thematic direction: I'd compose alternating posts of two things - original poetry and lists of things! The lists were about anything in general - music, language, whatever. So here I'd write a pretty little poem one week, and then next week I'd post a list of all my favorite songs. Isn't that a terrible idea? Eventually, I stopped. It was right around the time that I made a list of reasons why Texas sucked and emailed it to a bunch of people, thinking it was funny. I was going to school in Texas and they were all Texans. I am not a smart man.

Even at the high school age, I was trying to get attention on the internet. At first, it was only from very close friends. Eventually, it grew to pretty much anyone I could offend or get to listen to me. I wanted people to think my interests were similar to theirs. I wanted to flaunt my knowledge for other people to see. I wanted to prove that I too could contribute some philosophical and meaningful thoughts and publish them online for strangers to peruse. Read my poem, listen to my song, comment on my blog, agree with my thoughts. I wasn't doing anything for anyone but myself and my ego.

Fast forward to today, and it's more or less the same.

Today, I've got a Facebook, a Google Plus, an Instagram, and this silly blog. That's scarce by internet standards. As demonstrated by the gap between my last two posts, I can barely keep up with that much. Not only that, but I'm consistently breaking what is considered to be the Golden Rule of blogging - don't blog about yourself. What else is there? I want people to know what I'm into and what I know. That's what these platforms are all about, right?

Nowadays, everything seems to be about self-endorsement. A cool concert is coming to your town? Better click this box so all of Facebook can see that I'm going to it! Who cares if it's 18 months from now? You're standing next to the world's biggest ball of yarn? Better check in and give all of the world the exact coordinates to my location! You won something? You read a news article the minute it came out? You recorded a grainy video of some spontaneous sidewalk performance? You were first in line for the newest product by whatever? 

And I say all of these things because I am guilty of them. I have been for a long time. I want you to know that I read this interview or announcement before you did. There's nothing better than someone bringing something up about the latest tour announcement or music video to you, only for you to say those two golden words:

"I know!"

We've all felt it. 

Tell me how cool I am for taking that picture, going to that place, shaking that celebrity's hand, climbing that mountain, or having that opinion. Have I posted a status only to delete it within an hour because it didn't get enough likes? Yes. Have I shared an article/picture/video/announcement online just to show people that I'm on top of my internet game when it comes to knowing stuff, even if I'm not particularly invested in the subject of the post itself? You bet. Have I posted very public things to friend's walls just for the sake of showing everyone else something that I could have very easily have sent in a private text? Yep. Heck, my first Instagram picture was of a river. A RIVER. I didn't know what I was doing at the time. But did you see that river? It was full of water, man. You should have seen it. And then my fiance posts a picture of the same river and gets twice as many likes on it. Did I care then? YES. But not anymore.

There are concerts I've been to that I cannot recall all that well because I was too busy filming a low-quality video of it on my phone to post later. There was a time when I had 1500 friends on Facebook. I CAN'T EVEN NAME 1500 PEOPLE, real or imagined. And then there's the bizarre opposite philosophy: parity is cool. Oh, I only have 15 Facebook friends now. Only 30 views on my blog in a month? That's ok, the content is so esoteric and erudite that the everyday pleb wouldn't comprehend it anyways. We all know of at least one person who has thousands of followers because they take amazing pictures, or because they're really good at doing their own makeup. A mountain with snow on the top of it? You can bet that this person will photograph it, apply a superficial filter, and get a combination of 17 million likes/comments. That's their mountain now. They're legally allowed to name it after themselves.

Here's my main point. There are plenty of people who do these things because it's their job, or because they're legitimately passionate about it. Some people are really into photography, and they're good at it - they don't post for the sake of vanity or imaginary internet points. Some people like to keep track of the concerts or places they've attended. They love music, they love traveling - and that's a way for them to remember those events. Some people have terrible memories and are unable to recall experiences unless they have pictures of said experiences. I do all of these things, but more often than not, they stem from a selfish place. And at the end of the day, there's really no satisfaction in any of it - at least for me. I would rather spend an entire day exploring a beautiful forest, without any access to the internet or a camera - than sit at home witnessing a hundred comments on a picture I took, a hundred new followers/friends, and a hundred views on my blog. It's a momentary stroking of my ego that will fade within a day.

Maybe that's selfish, and I sure as heck don't demonstrate that belief the majority of the time. But deep down, that's the truth of it. I'm not calling for a crusade against social media or a culling of your friends list (even though that feels like an accomplishment). I'm calling myself out, and apologizing to anyone who may have been victimized by this stupid behavior. I don't want to try and make people jealous about what I know, where I've been, and what I've done. I want to look back on these silly pictures and comments I've made and think that they were enjoyable footnotes in a long and fulfilling life, rather than the start to my campaign of becoming an internet celebrity or insta-famous or whatever it's called these days. 

The point of this blog always has been and forever will be about the fact that I don't know what I'm doing, in one way or another. I'm no longer a wide-eyed kid in a brand new city, but I'm also not a guy who knows everything. I'm a person with problems that hopefully others can relate to, and it's to those that I forever want to relate to. Sometimes I look at the amount of views my blog has had, and I think, "How??" But if it's just one lonely scientist in Antarctica and a depressed kid in Denmark who are reading this blog and getting something out of it, then I'll trade every single low quality picture/video and every nameless follower for the sake of that continued enjoyment. 

So, I'm sorry. For demonstrating the worst of internet culture. You know what's scary? I used to be worse. Oh, so much worse. I was a TROLL and an attention seeker on Facebook. Nowadays, there's a very noticeable difference in activity between the Facebook users that are my age and those that are merely five years younger than me. Neither of us are quiet.

I'm working on myself first. The rest of you, have fun with your internet endeavors and pouring ice water over your heads. There's a way to do it right, and then there's my way, which stems from a place of pride and selfishness. One day I'll get it down. And then I'll publish a lengthy blog post on just how I did it so you can all know how smart I am.

Just kidding.

Oh, did you guys see the new Taylor Swift video???

Just kidding again. 

JDS

PS I will give your 10 million internet points if you can manage to find my old xanga or either of my old blogs. You'll be a true hero.




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