I don’t watch Portlandia all that often but this sketch is so real to me I feel like I’m praying when I watch it. Do you ever fantasize about a clean slate? As someone whose entire life — and career — has been played out on the internet for people to see and dissect, I think about the ghosts of my past selves all the time. It’s so easy to just click through your abandoned LJ archives or dead blogspot and instantaneously become paralyzed with shame and embarrassment for your past self. It’s particularly horrifying when you try to be a kind of social activist — because others will, with one thousand percent likelihood, be keeping check on you and keeping receipts of crap you said seven years ago on the Internet and they won’t hesitate to use it against you. It’s a thing — anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of the Blog. Nothing is forgotten on the internet, not when you have Archive.org and screenshot capability. It’s horrifying, for the most part. Would you pull the same stunts you did six years ago? God, I hope not. I hope it’s so obvious that you’ve grown that it seems ridiculous now. But if you’re not willing to take the risk? You can always turn down. All the way down.
Internet culture is cool because we learn constantly about all things, but time is essentially obliterated on the WWW. Things you wrote years ago could still be linked to today and twenty years from now and it’s not hidden away in a library. And while this fosters an undying appetite for the New Now, for more knowledge, all the time, about everything (shoutout to the k-hole of obscure youtube surfing and hours of Ted Talks) it has obvious flaws as well. Your growth is in public, and therefore up for discussion. I think maybe it would be cool to intentionally slow down the black hole of content consumption. But perhaps that is bourgeois of me to hope for — but it could also be me being just dead tired from all the requirements of being a “visible” content creator. I am often tired of the expectations of constantly connecting.
I hate the idea of privatization of cyberspace, but I’m also really exhausted by the content treadmill most of those in my generation find ourselves on. Even our heroes with our dream jobs admit the content treadmill is faster than ever. I would even say that’s the overwhelming sentiment. The Onion is capitalizing upon that public feeling with their response to Listicles — Clickholes. Where Buzzfeed and other newcomers have made serious bank in both the literal sense and the capital one, where there is massive success there is also massive backlash. We love to love and share, but we love to share and hate just as much. I’ve no doubt that Clickholes is going to kill the game. Satire is as strong as the authentic, after all. In this day and age? Where we are still making normcore jokes even after the revelation it all stemmed from a “post-ironic” movement? You can’t tell me satire isn’t as real as real. Sometimes, it’s even realer. I mean — raise your hands if you’ve ever gotten into or witnessed Instagram relationship drama. “She liked my post even though we broke up last week. What does this mean?!”
It means we all probably need to log off. (Says the girl writing a blog post on social capital suicide, while checking her Instagram for likes….)