This post was kind of embarrassing to write and makes me sound like a total loser, so you can’t judge me, okay? Who are we kidding, you’ll judge me. IT’S WHAT WE HUMANS DO.
Every time I go online, I am overwhelmed with a constant, low-grade social anxiety. This anxiety stays with me for a while, even after I shut off my computer. I don’t like it. It’s not fun to feel that way. And the fact that this anxiety is so internet-specific, guaranteed to hit me the minute I open Facebook, worries me.
It worries me because I wouldn’t normally describe myself as a nervous, insecure person, but the internet turns me into a serious basket case. In real life, I am oft compared to Fabio (flowing locks, inexplicable allure, bronzed muscular thighs), but hunched over a computer, I turn into Edward Scissorhands-meets-Igor (stay with me here). I don’t understand why. I think there’s something deeply troublesome about the internet. It stresses me out, it ruins my mood, it makes me feel irrationally worried, it gives me this pervasive nameless fear. And I don’t get it, because there are pictures of baby animals on the internet and everyone is constantly uploading more within seconds of their birth. Why, then, do I feel sad and worried, instead of overwhelmed with a motherly mammalian love?
Email: The thought of checking my email upsets me. For whatever irrational reason, I always expect to find something terrible in my inbox. Someone will be angry with me. Someone will have an irritating assignment that they want me to complete TODAY. Someone will tell me No. Someone will send a passive-aggressive response. WHY DO I FEEL THIS WAY?! I’m not a divorce lawyer or the CEO of BP. Who am I so afraid of? And yet I dread the sight of Gmail.
McSweeney’s: Apparently hates me. #whatever #overu2
Facebook: holy shit. I think we’ve all experienced just how unutterably disturbing Facebook can be, and yet none of us can pinpoint why it’s so creepy. I’ve read articles that say Facebook ruins our moods because we see how happy and perfect everyone’s (falsified) lives look, and so we feel jealous. I don’t think that’s it, at least not for me. Unless you just had lunch with Marquez, I don’t usually look at your baby shower pix and think DEAR LORD WHEN WILL IT BE MY TURN?! Facebook makes me feel something much more pitiful and embarrassing—I feel insecure. I feel left out. I feel like Facebook is this buzzing world of people who are—what?! Actively ignoring me? Talking to everyone else but me? Reading NYT articles that I haven’t read yet?!? Please understand what I’m saying here: these feelings are DEEPLY IRRATIONAL. I’ll be the first to admit that. But they are also DEEPLY REAL. I feel them, I feel them vividly, every time I go online I feel them. I feel them physically. Something about the internet upsets something in my psyche, and I want to get away from it.
But what is it? I don’t know! Is the sense that the internet is one massive hive mind and we’re the only ones who are left out? Is it the glossy pictures? Does the strange back-lighting of the screen trigger something weirdly neurological? Is it information overload? Is it a general sense of instability—knowing that all your photos and emails and documents could be deleted and/or hacked? Is the internet a terrifying country with a million little rulers and we people, accustomed to monarchy and dividing lines, can’t deal with its fluid boundaries? Can a scientist please chime in? Maybe it’s a vague combination of everything. All I know is that it makes me anxious—and working under a vague, purposeless anxiety is not a good way to live. (Though to be fair, I do love looking up gruesome drug-related complications on Wikipedia, and without the internet, I’d have to actually melt heroin in a spoon to know what it smells like.)
The only reason I’m saying this here (ON THE INTERNET, hey all-knowing Internet) is that maybe you feel that way, too, and haven’t been able to put a name to the feeling, and I just wanted to go first, so I can look like the awkward social loser, and not you. Yr welcome my friend. I know I’m sort of acting like a grandpa/conspiracy theorist. But it creeps me out, this cryptic worry, this low-grade fear. Maybe THIS is the mystery at the center of 2666, the nameless dread that Bolaño will never share with us. The internet. That’s the evil. That’s what’s killing the girls in Santa Teresa. Okay, sorry, this entire post was just an excuse to remind you all that I’ve read 2666. REMEMBER HOW I READ 2666!!!??!!! And guess what, friends? The internet didn’t teach me how to read. The internet didn’t give me impeccable literary taste. The internet only gave me directions to the bookstore. And once I got to the bookstore, I had to find the book myself. It wasn’t hard to find because it’s so big. I turned right at the Iliad and left at Infinite Jest and there it was. AND I READ THE WHOLE THING, MOM!!!!