Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Saddest Thing On The Internet

Photo cred: Mario Calvo
I'm not sure when it started, when Facebook became my feed for strange news stories, most of which boil down to lists of curated local events or news stories completely unfit to print. Facebook used to be a place where I kept in touch with my family and with my friends who have scattered all over the world. But somewhere in between my reckless use of the "Like" button and my laziness, my Facebook feed became the stuff Tabloid magazine racks are made of. At any point in the day, I can see a small puppy doing something cute, read about a horrific fatal car crash, learn about the latest suicide in the subway system of New York,  or find the best burgers, tacos, or happy hours in LA and all at the same time if I so desire. What this constant stream of lunacy and convenience has done has aided in the re-wiring of my brain and contributed to a type of ADD for me that for sure has not yet been diagnosed and for sure is caused by the internet and our obsessive, addictive-fueled culture. In other words: I have a hard time focusing sifting through all this shit. But beyond focusing, I also now have a hard time caring. I don't care about cute puppies or clever cats.  I do, weirdly, have a "bad accident"kind of fascination, however. When I see the tragic stories, I usually have to look. But I read the first paragraph or two and then I close the page. Rarely do I read an entire article on these weird traumatic events which leaves me saying this a lot, "Oh, yeah, I saw that headline...no, no, I didn't actually read the story." 

It's a plague, I know. A plague I have given myself. I am actually making myself stupider (and yes, I think I can use that made up word there, because this is the internet and anything goes!) I am contributing to the deterioration of my own mental health and most definitely my IQ. I am hardening myself with all the horror I consume in just a ten-minute casual sitting at my laptop while I eat a bowl of cereal. There used to be a time when it wasn't normal to check your emails and news blogs (because lets be honest, they are not online newspapers) before you brushed your teeth. There used to be a time when I scoffed at people on Facebook because I was sure it was just a fad and felt myself "above it" for some reason. I mean, I joined in 2008. Little did I know that six years later it would become my source for information for everything from political discourse in this country, to natural disasters in other countries, to where to buy tickets to Tacolandia to the thing Facebook is really meant for - a revolving slideshow of seeing all of my friends have adorable babies at what feels like the exact same time, or say, posting pictures from your around the world honeymoon (wink wink.)  And while we are on that note, I recently confided in a friend that I was ready to punch my Facebook feed right in its computer face when every single fucking time I scrolled down, there was some advertisement or "news article" about infertility or the risks of having children once you hit 35, which - NEWSFLASH, INTERNET - we all know! Every woman over 30 knows it, many fear it, and only a few I know are okay with it. For the love of God, cool it! But my brilliant friend responded, "Of course you're getting all that shit! Facebook reads 'Woman. Married. Over 30.' and then they think Let's get her!" 
A couple days later, that story hit about Facebook messing with people's feeds as a psychological experiment. The entire internet is a psychological experiment, as far as I am concerned. But Facebook, had did you manage to become such a focal point in my life? So influencing in my life that at 10pm on a Monday, while scrolling through my feed, which is for pure entertainment at this point, I find myself suddenly struck by what I have come to experience as the saddest thing on the internet I think I have ever seen. (And let me clarify, it is definitely not.) But, I felt almost moved to tears when I read Huffington Post's article on Raju the Elephant, who had been abused and enslaved with spiky chains that dug into his ankles for 50 years and how a group of wildlife rescuers freed him, and the elephant actually cried. That's right, a 50 year old elephant crying in India is what stuck. It so deeply moved me that I actually put my hands to my face. Something about this story, the idea of an animal crying after being freed made me feel something that the internet destroyed long ago. This idea of consciousness in a living thing that for 50 years nobody has noticed. Raju made me feel compassion not just for him and his fate, but for all of us. And maybe I am reading into it all too much. But it suddenly struck me that every story on the internet (minus the best cheeseburgers lists) is Raju's story. Every story is about someone trying to communicate something, sometimes for 50 years, that nobody understands. Every story is about getting free from that shackle. Every story is about trusting and distrusting, getting away from our pasts, and trying to find just that little sliver of hope. That's why we write blogs, and we read memoirs, and we create YouTube channels. We all just want to be heard and we are all so terrified of being forgotten. Could it be that the saddest thing on the internet is actually everything?

When I was in India, I saw an elephant tied up in the middle of a jungle. It was tied up, waiting for any tourists who may want a ride. I felt sad when I saw that elephant. Sad and amazed. Its size, alone, was breathtaking. But all I did was take its picture. 

I am rethinking this whole social media, Facebook, news blog, strange other world called the Internet. I don't know if it is the epitome of what makes us uniquely human - connection, nostalgia, hope -or the pinnacle of humanity at its worst - detached, voyeuristic, broken. Whatever it is, I think it best I resolve my own intention of what I want it to be for me and also what I want to contribute to it. I wonder if anyone reading this has any intentions of their own they could offer, maybe one I could borrow in the meantime.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think the saddest thing on the internet is a blog with no comments. So that's how I found this article by searching for "blog with no comments is saddest thing". Have a nice day. :) Cheer up. Life is great!