Dearest semi-material worldites, forgive me.
I know it’s been unspeakably long since my last post, and in the world of blog-posts, unspeakably long usually corresponds with a blog’s demise. Rest assured, I am alive and present – dealing with residual strep throat, being a mom, riding my bike, baking bread, applying for new jobs, mourning the loss of my best canine-girl, and embracing and breathing in this coy latecomer of a Toronto summer. The actual, material world has been mostly preoccupying my mind and body over the past few months, and I like it. Writing about chairs or decluttering just doesn’t compare.
In fact, interacting with this thing called the internet just doesn’t compare to the glamour and the drama, the banalities and the bullshit that make up real life. Lately, I’ve come to realize that my relationship with the internet – surfing and reading others’ personal blogs about chairs and decluttering, sure, but also meatier stuff – has felt just too much like time wasted watching TV. I haven’t had a TV for years, but the realization that the internet had taken the place of TV-watching in my life upset me.
Now here’s where I get all “I remember the olden days” on you: I’m old enough to remember adult life pre-internet and cellphone (a time, by the way, when I also had no TV). It went a little something like this.
- I went out regularly without a 3G network connection or a cellphone. I would spend my days doing things: meeting friends at pre-planned times, or dropping in at their houses; grocery shopping; going to classes; having my teeth cleaned; working at my job; taking care of other people’s children; etc. When I returned home at the end of the day, I would check my answering machine for messages. Some days there would be several messages; other days, none. I would call my friends and family from home to catch up, if I felt like it. Sometimes they weren’t home, either.
- I did not, and never considered, broadcasting to my friends, acquaintances, and co-workers the following information: a) what I was going to make for dinner, b) what I thought of today’s weather, c) my fervent love of Fellini films, or d) 106 photos of that overexposed, squinty afternoon at the zoo with some friends last weekend. That stuff was for those evening phone-chats – and even then, there was a tacit acknowledgement that some information might not actually be worth sharing.
- I heard about new and interesting places to go through friends. Then I would look up their address and phone number in the phone book (or call Information to get it) and go. In fact, I heard about most things – bands, clubs, stores, good places to camp, political events, etc. – through family, friends, the newspaper, radio, and wandering around.
- I might have a brief snatch of a song stuck in my head for days, and never be able to figure out who wrote or performed it. NEVER.
And on and on. If you’re old enough to have lived through the ’90s as an adult/young adult, you’re old enough to remember the world pre-internet. Somehow, we all got by without it: we filled our senses with information, wrote about the minutiae and heartbreaks of our daily lives in these things called “journals,” sat in parks reading books made of paper, had friendships, breakups, sex, frijoles, political awareness, employment, family, travel adventures and inspiration. We “liked” things without having to tell people we did so. We managed to construct meaningful lives for ourselves from the cobbled-together foundation of small(er) communities, random and planned encounters, and solitary moments.
I miss it, a little.
If someone had told me 20 years ago that I’d be staring at a computer screen for a minimum of 6 hours a day, I would have laughed in their faces. (Yes, because I was 18, and I Knew Better.) So my absence now is purposeful: when I realized that all this TV-watching/Internet surfing/blog-writing was taking me away from I like to think of as my real life, I took a large step away. While I appreciate that any knowledge-itch can be scratched in a millisecond with any one of several useful computing devices, and that the world is much more oystery online, most of the time these days, spending time on the interwebs just amounts to noise for me. (Karol Gajda’s piece on Signal Vs. Noise is right on the money.)
I guess I’m saying if you need me, I’ll at the park.