It's funny, the stuff you remember about your life. Your childhood was a lot different than you'd like to think. You still remember the way you'd look up to our mother, still slim and slender the way your brain recalls her standing in front of the mustard-yellow rotary phone*, calling your aunt or uncle while you -- still infantile -- jammed your foot into your mouth. The actual, capital-F Funny thing, about this is that you believe you're a lot older than you actually are. You belong to a generation of inbetweeners. You're old enough to remember VHS and Cassette tapes and rotary phones but you're young enough to understand technology and the culture of the Internet. You're not an early-adopter the way your nephews and nieces -- and the way your son or daughter will probably be -- but you can still grasp and have a good command of the mechanics when it comes to swiping right or left. Or clicking to "see more". That's where the funny thing becomes the Funny thing. You, like many others your age, are constantly clicking to see more. And you, like many others your age, haven't seen enough**.
Last weekend, you watched The End of the Tour. And there was a moment -- very early on in the film -- where Jason Segel (as David Foster Wallace, so ostensibly, Wallace is saying this to you) says something about his fear with the Internet:
"... the technology is just going to get better and better and it's going to get easier and easier and more and more convenient and more and more pleasurable to sit alone, with images on a screen given to us by people who do not love us but want our money. And that's fine in low doses but if it's the basic main-staple of your diet you're going to die. In a very meaningful way, you're going to die."
And you hear those words echo and reverberate across your skull back and forth and back and forth and again, it's capital-F Funny and capital-T True that right now, you are sitting in front of a screen, getting something -- maybe not necessarily an image but something -- pleasurable. Maybe you're hoping to find some meaningful tidbit of advice on how to deal with meeting an ex-girlfriend, or how to deal with an internal identity crisis, or maybe you're just looking for a laugh but the capital-T Truth, the awful Truth is that you are alone.
And it's loneliness and listlessness and longing that makes the Funny thing turn into the True thing and it's the True thing that keeps you up at night. You really do believe that the Internet was conceived and created in order to help people connect but you still feel constantly, perpetually disconnected. Yes, it's true, some people find solace in finding others through the screen but you, somehow, still lack that skill. The way it has been hard for you, your whole life is the way it will be for a long time so you try and try and try to make yourself feel better by ingesting and digesting anything visual. Your hands, built for a guitar or a hammer or a paintbrush tangle themselves over a Sony Playstation 4 controller for hours on end to the point where you forget to do your laundry in the same way drunks forget to pay their tabs or take their credit cards home once 4 AM rolls around. Your eyes, made to read or criticize or analyze constantly stare at a 17-inch screen filled with windows and tabs that all contain different dancing cats. Cats that are trying -- and failing -- to drink from a faucet, cats that are cartoons with bug-eyes, and cats that are pouting at you because you had taken away their food in a silly game a teenager made in their free-time.
It is true that you are alone and you have a kind of dread only applies to you as a child. The dread that you could not, for the life of you, get your own foot out of your own mouth. You don't really remember the taste but you remember not being able to breathe and you remember your slim and slender mother slamming the phone back into the wall to tell you not to do that. And it is that same dread, that same feeling of not being able to breathe that drives you to do everything that you do. You're looking for something, anything, that makes you feel a little less alone and you don't know if you'll ever find it. Until then, you'll pretend with your co-workers and friends but every night you'll go home and wonder where your life has went because you spent your day staring at a screen. You spent your day. Staring. At a screen. And you say, you convince, and you plead with yourself that, yes I am doing something that will connect people but really what you're doing is forcing more and more people to spend their time alone. In their beds, on their smart phones, reading and experiencing things that someone else has. Out of boredom and sadness you are engaging. And you, still, are alone. The same you were when you were trying to stick your foot into your mouth.
*This phone hung on your wall for the most of your life and when your family finally got a cordless phone, all your friends already had cell phones. When you finally got a cell phone, they all had smart phone. And when you finally got a smart phone, all your friends said finally. And there's something about that that really bothers you. That smart phones are called Smart phones. And you don't really know what's so smart about them. They're drawing your attention and the attention of your friends and loved ones away from your face and into their respective palms. And sometimes you wonder if you really are that interesting, or if you really should have left your house that day because it's starting to feel like you were asked to hang out only to be there to make someone else feel less alone in their own weird selfish way. And here you are, feeling alone in a crowded restaurant fighting the need to stare at your palm because you remember a time when you couldn't do that and most people don't. Most of your friends can not grasp a world without a distraction. And you wonder if you're boring. And you think you are. So you go home. And look at your phone and wish you weren't so bored/boring.
**You want to say that there's something problematic about Internet culture. How every article you click on is pleading and begging you to read and look at them. And you know, deep down, that you are nothing but another number to the person who had written this poorly written article about Iron Man or Fallout or really anything. They are doing this for themselves and hope that their bare bones description of something you could have described yourself is worth something to you. And you're worried, again -- the way you always worry -- because you consider yourself a writer who writes things worth reading. And your real worry comes from the idea that you are now, right this second, throwing your name into a hat filled with names of people who don't care. You just want people to know you care, so you leave all the images out of it and put your words in front of you and hope one person will know and understand who you are and why you care. But even then, it isn't enough because you are always looking for more, you're always striving for another number, or pat on the back/head. It will never be enough. You will always want more. See. More. See. More. See. More. After the jump. See more. But really. There isn't. Anything. But yourself.