Originally published at Mary Victoria. Please leave any comments there.
I think it was Kafka who said a writer without a novel is a monstrous thing. I am, therefore, indisputably monstrous. Novels – both the writing and the reading of them – require giving one’s undivided attention to the written word for a brief span of time, and undivided attention, however brief, is not what I am able to give at the moment.
It has to be worthy of a Darwin prize of some stripe to be moving house for the third summer in a row.
So instead of a novel (to be written or read,) there will be this from me, from time to time: digital blips. Even if they are handwritten to begin with they will eventually be transposed into digital form, as everything is these days. Digital is the new tyranny. My computer requires absolute allegiance from me, my soul offered up in bits and bytes. It wasn’t always thus. I remember a time when the damned thing was supposed to help me write.
Let me tell you about my computer, that insidious purveyor of technological addiction masquerading as progress. There it sits, the sleek silver bastard. I didn’t write this on it. No, no. I wrote this piece of nonsense in a notebook, then typed it up on the computer. Why didn’t I just write on the computer to begin with? Because the computer, my dears, is connected. The demon Internet has taken over possession of the machine I once took for an ally in creation. Instead of allowing me to write, it thrusts me onto Twitter, Skype, email. It threatens me with instant and complete communication. I turn programs off, then find messages flooding in: “Where WERE you? I couldn’t reach you. Why don’t you sign this special important urgent petition to help the endangered peanut-eating sloth of south Peanutland?”
We are instantly and incessantly connected to each other, and so require instant and incessant communication from each other. And to say what? “I had bananas in my cereal this morning. Isn’t the war in Nowhereistan terrible. Look at this picture of a mutilated baby. Look at this picture of my lunch.”
The computer screams my connectivity to the world, and my obligation to be receptive to that connectivity. It broadcasts my location. It chastises me for my lack of intellectual curiosity. For someone, somewhere, inevitably has something vastly important to say on a subject which I ought to be following; a person of great intelligence is just waiting for me out there, and I’m missing the opportunity to hear them speak. Besides this, there are friendly civilized bonds to maintain, professional commitments I cannot shirk. Don’t forget the professional commitments. Even if you have no profession at all, you ought to be looking for one, on the net, and the computer sits there and says, “you should be job-hunting.” It doesn’t say, “you should be writing.” It calls you a coward and a drain on society and dammit, why don’t you sign that petition about the peanut-eating sloth. You lazy parasite.
So no, I didn’t write this on the computer. I copied it onto the computer. In a rare moment of tranquility.
I do believe too much connectivity will kill us: the time we don’t spend signing the peanut sloth petitions we will spend on the complaints of people who object to peanut sloth petitions, and meanwhile our hearts will die and our bodies waste away and the plants in the garden will all shrivel up.