Saturday, March 07, 2015

A convoluted multi-national justification of nothingness.

When I first experienced social media, it was the Nine Inch Nails website forum. This is maybe 1999.

It was a very ugly aesthetic experience (thanks Obama), and I can't remember anyone using their own picture as an avatar. Everybody had dark and gothy-sounding names. I was 'pragmatik'. To be honest I can't even remember what we all talked about, but an apparent appreciation of my writing style, I gained an admirer, who sent me flowers when I was on tour. 

So I guess that's a nice experience.

I eventually evaporated off that forum and instead made occasional appearances on the dicussion boards for the fan club of a band I was touring with pretty heavily. They had a lot of fans, a lot of media attention, so there was always a new dreamy picture of the bass player to talk about. Lovely guy, by the way. Hi Andrew.

And because I was on the exciting side of the velvet rope, fans really enthusiastically engaged with me on there, which translated into real life meetings too. After shows in strange cities I'd usually show a few fans around backstage and introduce them to the band members, and after I'd go party with them in their town, sometimes even at their houses.

It was so easy to make new friends and share experiences, because to them I was an exciting person. So again, that's a nice experience.

Then along came this thing called Friendster. It was basically a site where your friends would write testimonials about you, and you for them. And that's it. Like LinkedIn for friends. It was a really odd concept, but for a time, it existed. And I was surprised because people I barely knew came along and wrote some very touching things about me that I never saw coming.

So once again, there's something nice about that.

I think I've written about this before, but after Friendster came MySpace, and everything changed. I remember I was moving out of my first flat here in Australia, I was going to a place I didn't want to go, but there was nothing better. Everything was gone, except for a sleeping bag and a laptop. So I enjoyed my last night in this house all alone, setting up a MySpace account.

The next day when I woke up, I had a message from a girl in her early 20's, who lived in The USA. She wrote me a message that basically proposed marriage to me right then and there, and so I had my very first internet romance. She was too far away for it to actually work in any meaningful sense, but I'll never forget her, and how she welcomed me to MySpace.

At the time, I thought it was the best thing ever.

We all know MySpace died, and Facebook rose in its place. I jumped ship just like everyone, and in retrospect I regret that, because MySpace encouraged a culture of making friends all over the world, even people you had never met. New communities sprung up, strangers became friends, and I think that's great. There was a lot of straight-up advertising on there, but I made a point of being genuine in my contacts, and through doing that, I got laid a lot made many wonderful friends.

But Facebook never had any warmth to it. Facebook was a soulless robot in a basement miles underground, silently recording interactions and calculating analytics. It was forbidden to add anyone you didn't know personally, because Facebook needed to know about your relationships with real people in the real world, so it could scan your faces and sell you consumer goods and apps.

I gave up on Facebook about 3 years ago at a guess. I left because it restricted who could see my posts, and whose posts I could see. It decided these things without my input, and in doing so it totally undermined the sole reason I used it. 

When it tried to charge me to let all of my followers see my latest post, I laughed and hit delete. In a lot of ways, Facebook ruined social media. It was antisocial media. Facebook hates you. It thinks it knows better than you. It's arrogant and soulless.

So that wasn't nice.

I found Instagram. I loved it. I went through an embarrassing phase of overlaying sparkly stardust on my pics like a 6 year-old girl, but otherwise I came through it okay. 

I loved it because I come from a time when amateur photography was a massive chore, as well as being expensive, so having a device that took/previewed/edited/published pictures all within a 30 second timeframe is like witchcraft to me. I took to it like crazy, for the simple reason that I wanted to record a visual diary of what my life was like in 2013. So I could go back and look at the things that made me happy. So I could see my first selfies, not for vanity, but to say "I exist" at this point in time, and so I could see what I used to look like, before I looked like this.

The occasional MEME started to creep in. I got more followers. I started making friends in other countries- people who I genuinely cared about. I went through their divorces with them, they took me on their holidays. Instagram was amazing.

Fast forward to 2015 in a hyperspeed blur.

And now when I look at Instagram I get so angry. Every time.

I see MEMEs posted of the most inane and illogical bullshit. 'Wisdom' from fucking 12 year-olds. 

I see all of these things like vaping that people with money are using Instagram's clueless attention-whore community to sell to Instagram's pathetic fan community.   

I see fashionistas still trying to convince everyone that smoking is cool. 

Or that pot is harmless (kill me now, honestly, people think this).  Mindless celebrity worship of Chris Brown, Miley Cyrus, and Rihanna (all of whom regularly post pictures smoking pot) only helps to glamorise it.

Girls who smear so much lipstick on their face that they go past their natural lipline as if the rest of us somehow aren't going to notice.

I see accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers that only exist to sell you products, where the person in the pictures has never and will never write a word of what you see in there.

Or feeds where a person is so obsessed and enamoured with themself, that every single photo on their feed is of them. They're so transparent and vacuous that they can't find another thing on the entire surface of this planet called Terra that they could possibly find more interesting than their own face.

Or even worse. Seriously, that's her contribution to world culture. And the saddest part is if you heard her sing, your heart would break. She's that good.

Girls who buy some fake tits, and suddenly think they're amazing and better than you.  

Guys who buy some tattoos, and suddenly think they're amazing and better than you.  

Girls who get lipo, and suddenly think they're amazing and better than you.

Guys who buy steroids, and suddenly think they're amazing and better than you.  

I see feeds from girls who complain constantly that no one gives them the attention they deserve. Where they post 'forever alone' MEMEs, and pictures of what movie they're watching alone in bed on the laptop tonight. They have hundreds of comments under every photo from thirsty guys, desperate to be noticed by these gatekeepers of sex. Ranging from "Hi, I'd love to get to know you." through to "I'm want fak u." And every comment remains unanswered. And I don't know who to hate more, these utter attention-whores, or the stupid boys who enable them (and in doing so, humiliate themselves).

We have Instagram celebrities now.

Endless posts of people so fucking delighted with themselves that they post picture after picture of their own self-congratulatory face; people who think the best way to make something out there in the world look better, is to stand in front of it. 

People who worship the Kardashians but who never stop to think about the fact that without plastic surgery, stylists, and hundreds of thousands of dollars; they'd just be regular looking Armenian girls that no one would give a crap about. 

What the fuck happened? When did we decide as a culture to celebrate everything that's fake, and turn our collective backs on reality?

When did money suddenly trump experience?

Obviously I'm just an old idiot walking around in a daze like every generation before me, I can accept that. But this isn't a question of style or taste. I don't care about trap music, but if the kids like it, I think that's great. When I'm 80 I'll still be singing Def Leppard's 'Photograph' to myself, and when some Millennial is 80 they'll hum some Flosstradamus. I endorse that.

But there seems to be a massive rennaissance of not-thinking, peaking right now. Blind celebrity worship, absolute narcisism, classist arrogance, celebrating fakery... 

I feel like when I'm logged in to Instagram, I'm utterly surrounded by never ending waves of idiocy. The worst kind of stupidity- the kind that has no idea it's stupid. The kind that struts around proud of itself, dribbling, and crapping itself.

And I realised, much to my horror, that being on Insta had changed me. When I was in Los Angeles, instead of enjoying the experience like I would have if it was the 90's, I felt this massive self-imposed pressure to record and document everything for my followers. To gather content. Like I'm some fucking magazine instead of a human person.

And it made me look at these people I felt I needed to serve. I looked at the messages they were sending out into our collective culture, what they were saying, what they think. And I realised i don't give a flying fuck about them.

Why should I gather and present content for these people's approval? The things they like are fucking ludicrous! I know who my real friends are, and they're the people who don't really care about Instagram, or who talk to me in emails from the other side of the world.

Why should I enter into competition with a bunch of brainless 20-somethings? Why submit my life for them? Why try and earn likes from people who like things you absolutely despise? Who do I want to notice me exactly? Who am I trying to impress? And why?

And when will I realise that at my age, trying to competitively Instagram is a humourless joke?

(A little over a week ago.)

It's not a long time, but like with any addiction, it feels like forever to me. Every time I feel like I want to post something, I ask myself:

Who is this for?

What are you trying to say?

Do you think it's positive?

Do you think it's healthy for you?

And after analysing my answers for a second, I realise I don't have anything I really need to say. Will I post on social media again? Maybe, I don't know.

But if I do, it will be because I want to record that moment for me, not to submit a frame from my life for the approval of all the people I actively avoid in my real life.

I know I'm not the only person who has or will go through this. I know social media is a relatively unstudied organism. I know it destroys some people.

I never thought I'd stand at this point, consciously avoiding Instagram and Twitter. I never thought this journey I've traveled along social media; from fun and innocent message boards to soul-crushing apps for people in love with their own reflections, would ever end.

And yet here we are.

Having said all of this, I know there are huge numbers of people who use Instagram to share things they like with people they dig, and that's awesome. There is a lot of innocent fun happening on there, some real networking through common interests, all the good stuff you'd hope for. I guess I'm ranting about the pollution that seems to be spreading further every day.

I want to swim in clear water.

That's all.