Aaron R. Davis
Websites keep updating, content appears daily and the turnover rate in amateur nudes is still astoundingly high, so why does it feel lately like the Internet resembles the early scenes of The Omega Man? The streets are empty, the cars are still, the hum of activity is long-silenced and the only thing to worry about are the trolls coming out at night to harrumph and misspell and correct and pretend they’re sticking it to society by refusing to use capital letters.
Where did everyone go?
I started noticing this a couple of weeks ago. More and more of my longtime blogging friends have been shutting down or taking indefinite hiatuses. Their biggest complaint? No one says anything to them anymore. No comments, not even those trolls doing drive-by’s. You know things are getting serious when even the trolls aren’t bothering anymore. Bloggers know deep down that we’re just howling our opinions into an uncaring void—I’ve been saying it in this very space for years now—but we still crave some kind of interaction. There’s hardly any these days.
It’s taking a toll on a lot of social networks now, too. Tumblr kids are deleting their blogs more and more these days, and Twitter … jeez, isn’t Twitter done yet? The fun of that platform wears out in a few weeks; I just don’t understand the point of being on it these days. Most of it is just people trying to be funny — which, today, really just means that people are trying to be as cynically snarky as possible with only 140 characters at their disposal, something everyone in the world seems to think is incredibly easy. Those people are wrong.
Seriously, where is everyone online?
Is there some new hot game that everyone’s playing that no one told me about because I’m not cool enough?
Is everyone hypnotized by that .gif of David Hasselhoff’s crotch and just caught in an endless, recursive loop of staring at it?
Did Tron happen to everyone?
Are they on Facebook?
If they are, they sure aren’t playing FarmVille these days … seriously, where are all of my neighbors? They certainly aren’t helping me with any of the neighbor stuff these days. I have a friend who told me last week that the real problem with FarmVille is that it’s not a game for people who want to get online to escape from the presence of others … Boy, is he ever right. It’s like I’m getting punished now for reaching out to people for totally self-serving purposes in the first place. Curse you, social game, for making me partner up with people who get bored easily! I’m just trying to master my Carnation Perfume!
Or maybe by turning interactivity into a virtual, easily-ignored, troll-blocking, small talk chat fest — basically the equivalent of one of those extended-family birthday parties that you stand around and get bored during — we’ve cheapened the value of interaction even further. Has Facebook really just given us another place in life to avoid talking to our parents?
Maybe people are deciding to read a book. Or go fishing. Or eat some fruit and enjoy the fresh air while it lasts. Or just get a life.
Maybe, in a depressed economy, the real escape isn’t into a virtual world, but into reality.
Maybe we’ve even made our online lives so important — replaced so much of our real lives with the virtual life experience — that things have turned around completely and now instead of getting online to share drunken photos and lame theories about the President’s religious background, we’re getting offline to stretch our legs and order overpriced, cheaply made Pajama Jeans from the constant commercials on Hallmark Channel.
(Sorry, my wife was watching a Matlock marathon yesterday, and if I see one more commercial for Pajama Jeans — suggested tagline: “For people who aren’t ready to publicly own the fact that they’re too lazy to put on pants!” — I’m going to pull a Frankenstein and resurrect Billy Mays to do my bidding and crush these things out of existence … except he’d probably just end up pitching them on TV …)
Or, I don’t know, everyone’s graduating and studying for finals, maybe everyone’s just too busy to start planting the damn sunflowers I need to get my Carnation Perfume to level 20 in time to master it. What the hell do I know?
I’m not good at the “What is reality?” sophistry that so irritatingly fascinates my generation. Maybe Christopher Nolan can write a poorly-structured, overlong screenplay about it and turn it into an overrated movie that ignores its own interior logic and, even though it features more characters than Hamlet, has surprisingly little to say about the subject of anything that anyone anywhere can relate to. What’s that movie he made about that? Oh, yeah, all of them.
Hmm … yeah, my heart wasn’t really in that slam against an overrated, popular filmmaker. Even I don’t feel like arguing opinions about pop culture online these days.
It’s so weird, wondering what else to do besides join in the distracting cacophony of time-wasting and virtual chatter online. It’s almost scary. This is how we’ve lived our lives for the last 10 years, and it really does feel like there’s a shift in the landscape.
Our shiny new toy is less shiny these days. Time to find something else to play with.
Time to find out if we even exist offline anymore.
I wonder … will I dream?
Will I —
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.