Quick-Fix Vanity Machine

Ego is the new rock star

Understanding Me(dia)

So, I was recently sans internet for about four days. I wasn’t overly traumatized by not being “connected”, at the time. It was only after getting hooked back up that I started to have a mini flip-out.
After my connection was re-established, the first thing I did was check my emails. First, my personal email. Nothing big there. A quick hello from a college friend. A meeting notice from a writing group I haven’t been a part of for six months now and an alarming amount of porno-spam. After cleaning up that mess I moved on to my professional email. Apparently the grad school I attended last semester won’t send my transcript to the grad school I want to attend next semester because they never received my transcript from my undergrad alma mater. Also, a no-name insurance company wants to hire me as an “independent field representative’. This means that they want me to hawk their coverage policies to strangers. It’s cold calling canvasing for commissions and I get that damn email twice a week. Still, none of it was a big deal.
After my emailing was out of the way I proceeded to www.rateyourmusic.com where I posted a few new music reviews and checked to see if there were any interesting discussions going on across the boards. There weren’t.
Next up was www.answerbag.com to post a new question and see if there were any I could answer (there weren’t, but that didn’t stop me).
Onward, always onward, to www.amazon.com to check on an order I had placed before temporarily losing access to the world wide web.
Finally, I made a stop by http://www.writing.com to see if I wanted to set-up an account with them. I did, but since at the moment my desktop computer’s on the fritz and quite possibly electronically shredding, dismantling and otherwise devouring my fiction, I’ve decided to hold off until I can actually upload some stuff.
All in all, I spent over an hour just getting caught up on my own life. I occurred to me that I use each of the site’s I visited to express a different aspect of me. My personal email is to be social. My professional email is to network. Rateyourmusic.com allows me to appreciate music communally (no one around me, physically, likes the kind of music I do) while Answerbag.com allows me to alternately show off or prostrate myself (apparently to me knowledge is a bit of an S/M thing – also I don’t have the stamina to post to Wikipedia). Amazon.com is where I express myself in the marketplace; let my wallet do the talking. And now there’s Writing.com where I’ll seek approval and criticism on the merits of my writing. (And then there’s WordPress.com. Which is apparently the site that gets whatever’s left of me after the others are done picking strips of my personality off like vultures snacking on a corpse. Or something like that.)
My next thought was, ‘Wow, wouldn’t it be so much easier if there was just one website where I could do all this?’ Of course, there used to be. They were called homepages and everyone had one (or so it seemed in 1997).
It was that thought, the one about homepages that made me spazz a little. See, homepages are entirely a square notion. They’re something only people of the last tech generation “get”. Just like only hippies “get” Vanilla Fudge. Homepages are relics and the future is decentralization. I know this, mentally, but deep down, in my gut where it counts, I’m a fossile. This was quite an arresting thought for me. After all, I’m the jackass who feels like a sell-out becuase I didn’t kill myself on my 24th birthday like I swore I would when I was still in high school.
Okay, here’s where I think it gets interesting. No matter how many web sites I become a member of. No matter how many different and varried forums I post to, I will always think of myself as a single, unified whole. I contain many contradictions and hypocrisies, but I’m okay with that. In fact, I am (as well as, I’m guessing, everyone my age) probably more aware and more accepting of my idiosyncrasies than older generations. For this I thank television. Sure, older generations had television, but they didn’t grow up with 300 hundred channels, specialty cable stations and people of color in prominent roles (well, more so anyway). Marshall McLuhan (from whom I’ve bitten the title of this post) posited that television would remove the concept of cause and effect from the minds of children who grow up with it, just as books impose a sequential, orderly thought pattern. Likewise, I argue that with ever increasing and constantly fracturing choices (new channels hit the airwaves while old, or slightly less new, shows disapear) on our sets, people my age grew up with a better understanding, or at least acceptance, of conflicting personality traits being housed within a single body.
So what about people younger than me? People who grew up with the internet the same way I grew up with cable? After all, my family didn’t get connected to the internet until I was 13, old enough to have a fixed idea of what personality was, even if my definition of my own personality was still in flux. I was probably the last privileged white male to come up with a screen name, so I just sort of assume that anyone five or more years younger than me was shaped by the internet in ways that I wasn’t. How will these people, who’s idea of concept will be, at least partly, formed by the internet and it’s million of sites, each one promising to help you express you. Or, at least, a very narrowly defined, ridgedly enforced aspect of you.
If this line of though doesn’t interest you, please feel free to blame me. I assure you that it is interesting, I’m just doing a poor job explaining the underlying concepts that make this idea so fascinating. Part of the problem is that I’m not quite smart enough to understand it myself and the other part is that I’m not visionary enough to see beyond myself and my cultural constructs. If I could, then I probably would have been able to come up with different handles for each of the websites I visit, rather than sticking with the tired, but surprisingly likable ‘Xclamation’ moniker.

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January 29, 2007 Posted by | Cyberspace | 1 Comment

Me and My Quarter-Life Crisis

My first job ever was as a clerk at a small, independent book store. One day, while going through a new shippment I ran across a book about people in their 20’s and the attendent quarter-life crisis.
I remember scoffing at the book. After all, who had ever heard of anything as indulgent? To my naive and sheltered mind a “crisis” was something that plauged politicians and rapidly aging boomers with too much money. What, I thought, was a 20-something with their whole life ahead of them and a world of possibilities in front of them doing with something like that?
I knew that Generation X was pampered and self-absorbed, but come on! A quarter-life crisis? I was beginning to agree with Bart Simpson when he said, “What we need is another Vietnam to thin their ranks out.” (Full disclosure: depending on who’s writing the thesis paper, I may qualify as the last of the Gen X cohort… I disagree on the grounds that I’m too young to remember a pop culture without Nirvana and I don’t get the appeal of either loving Starbucks or protesting it. Also, I can’t think of any Generation X characteristics that don’t involve Seattle, proving that everything I know about them I got from Singles and Reality Bites – two movies I’ve never actually seen.) The whole idea of a quarter-life crisis just proved that all those angry, bitter apples didn’t fall far from their neurotic, gimme-gimme-gimme trees.
A few years later I got out of college and into the “real world” (and yes, I’m one of those people who overuse quoatation marks and parentheses). I worked at a pizza joint, sold windows door-to-door, clerked at a courthouse and then got a layout job at a small specialized newspaper. I’ve joined and dropped out of two different writing groups, lived with five different roommates and spent a semester in grad school at a college best known for it’s varried veneral diseases. Along the way I got engaged, married 19 days later and moved twice.
I’m now nearly 25 and that whole quarter-life crisis thing doesn’t seem so far fetched any more.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think people who whine about having no direction are full of shit. But on the other hand that strange, certain ennui does lurk in the corners of my (landlord’s) house and suns itself on the grassy median of the freeway I take to work.
I’ve named his Goes To becuase I hate Ernest.

January 21, 2007 Posted by | Personal | 1 Comment