Virtual Insanityby Rebecca Jackman / 20.10.2010
I’m procrastinating 21st Century style via Facebook, Twitter and Gmail. While reading an online magazine, a newspaper and three different popular blogs, in real time, BookSA posts a ‘tweet’ – “the thing all writers do best is find ways to avoid writing” (Alan Dean Foster). Busted.
According to Facebook I have 601 friends. How many of these people I know and how many of them could tell you anything about me – well, you could halve that number. More importantly, how many of them I’d go out for a beer with or a pan galactic gargle blaster, well, you could halve and halve that number again.
Face to face interaction in ‘real life’ has given way to posting, tweeting, commenting, liking, throwing sheep at each other (fucking Farmville) and watching porn. These are the default pastimes of online life for the blinking multitude from Norway to Calcutta.
The online world expertly provides multiple mediums of distraction. Inundates us with opportunities for ‘time suckage’. It’s downright insidious. Come bedtime you might find yourself wondering: ‘What did I actually DO today?’ Instead of being out in the real world, with its chance meetings and regular stress, we feed on information, binary vampires hiding from the sun. We are all geeky Japanese game boys now. Transfixed by our glowing screens. Hours pass and we’ve done little more than stare and click. It’s creepy and weird. Not even 25 years ago a day spent cooped up mainlining data would’ve seemed insane. We really bought the myth of the ‘information revolution’ big time!
Apparently couples don’t liaise in person anymore. You are only in an ‘official’ relationship if your Facebook relationship status says you are. The new age version of ‘going steady’. Dating 2.0. And do you really think we want to see your coochy coo messages about how much you love each other and all your hearts, kisses and virtual hugs. Get a chat room.
Which leads me to spilling your private life all over our walls. This may sound harsh but most people don’t want to know that your dog/budgie/Great Aunt Sookie died. Especially if we only met you once at a party three years ago – where you drunkenly pledged to be friends for life then vomited on the patio.
My very first experience of online life was in a chat room and I lied about my age to new ‘friends’. My dad lost it when I told him (yeah I used to tell him stuff) I was masquerading as a 23 year old medical student from Spain. I was 13 at the time and wanted to be a doctor or a matador! Was everyone else in the chat room trying on different personas too? Was it just a hall of fun house mirrors? Distorted and weird. And totally compelling. I was hooked right away.
Remember old school computer games like Pac Man and Worms? Retro games used to keep us wildly entertained. My first and only console was a Sega Mega-Drive with a 16 bit cartridge – and I was obsessed with Sonic the Hedgehog and Mortal Kombat. There was a blocky home-made quality to them. A kind of folksy charm. Now consoles like PS3, X-box 360 and the Nintendo Wii can simulate virtually anything. Intricate worlds. Forensic level clarity. Jaw dropping graphic fluency. It’s a bit intimidating. You can’t jump to mastery as you could with Sonic. The Sims lets you create a virtual existence with neighbours, friends and family. Virtual pets even and kids. I can practice for doing these things in reality. Will it make me a better adult?
Check out this video on the social media revolution!
Is any of it helping us to more meaningful lives? Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in, You Tube or My Space? Pick your virtual poison. That buffalo-hat wearing douche, Jay Kay, aka Jamiroquai, got it right way back in the godforsaken Nineties: ‘Virtual Insanity is what we’re living in!’