A reader writes:
Sad to see you succumbing to the powers of the internet. I’m 34, which is on the cusp of the information age, but perhaps more aligned with the younger generation since my undergrad was at MIT and grad school in academia before the internet meant that I’ve been actively using email since age 17. You’re experiencing the joys of the instant communication, but not seeing the loss. A not-very-shy guy asked me out via the web, once, while actually emailing me from another terminal in the same room. Maybe he thought it was cute, but it highlights the fact that our on-line personality matters more than our in-person personality now. When I hated grad school, I went and complained to my friends from college, far away. Good to have as a resource in a way, but a crutch in terms of forcing me to bond with the people I was in grad school with, forcing me to deal with the present.
I see that all the time. I remember one of the earliest times I saw a cell phone user – a mother, eating with her kids (in the college dining hall! must be visitors), talking to someone else about something inane. My brother, the techno-geek, couldn’t understand my issues with that scene. You see it everywhere – kids using the library terminals to play games; bored people using it to look at porn sites. Back in the day, it seemed like we used our spare time better. I spend far too much time, myself, on reading blogs – responding like this one, to someone who won’t remember me tomorrow. I’m not a new friend, or acquaintance, I’m a face in a crowd. I should be studying, reading – and I just decided NOT to go to a concert tonight because I haven’t done the work I should have done today. I’m sure there are similar losses – people who don’t write novels or compose poems because that spare time gets spent browsing the net.
But, more obviously, if blogging with me and other far-away-arts-lovers means you DON’T connect with that person next to you – on the bus, in the restaurant, on the plane – there’s a real loss. You gain a community, but lose a more important, living breathing community with more diversity. Ya know?
Technology is an absolute good, you say. Maybe. It seems an irreversible good, meaning that if you aren’t on the internet, then the community changes without you. I’m without cell-phone or notebook or palm, but the people around me are less open to chatting with strangers because they have them, so I may as well get them….
That’s my advice – get out, get out, get out. Life is out there, live it. My advice to myself as well, but I’ve been hooked for longer than you have. Okay, back to work, or else I have to cancel tomorrow’s concert as well.
I’m not quite sure I’m the most logical recipient of this advice. After all, I usually attend at least four performances (and often more) each week, and I almost always bring a friend or two with me. What’s more, I find e-mail an unmixed blessing, not least because it allows me to maintain face-to-face friendships more efficiently. Nor do I think I communicate with strangers at the expense of friends. If anything, I’ve made new face-to-face friends through blogging, including several of the people whose blogs can be found in the “Sites to See” module of the right-hand column. As for the matter of diversity, what could be more diverse than the worldwide “community” of people who read “About Last Night?
Sure, we’ve all seen the way some folks use postmodern information technology to avoid direct human contact, sometimes deliberately and sometimes thoughtlessly, as in the case of the Inconsiderate Cell-Phone Man caricatured in those movie-theater ads. (I almost sang that jingle the other day to a noisy idiot seated immediately in front of me on an airplane.) Everything under the sun–including great art–can be used in life-denying ways.
Still, I can’t go along with the notion that blogs are by definition a waste of everybody’s valuable spare time, which is more or less what my correspondent is implying. Jennicam, maybe, but she’s out of business, while Maud and Sarah and Chicha and all the smart, thoughtful art bloggers whom I read daily are thriving. And well they should be, for what they do, aside from being valuable in its own right, also has the potential to increase the number of people reading good books and going to concerts (and, presumably, chatting with one another at intermission).
Which returns us to the mission of “About Last Night”: Our Girl and I write this blog in order to stimulate and diversify the art-related interests of our readers. To put it another way, “About Last Night” is a means, not an end–and I know from our e-mailbox that it is constantly leading people to try new things.
On which optimistic note I’m headed for bed. My cold is marginally better, but I’ve got to rent a car and drive to Massachusetts tomorrow afternoon to see a performance of No