I just finished reading "How to Do Nothing" by Jenny O'dell. I thought it was gonna teach me how to relax, but it really didn't. It did the opposite, it gave me a bit of extra anxiety. There's a subtitle that says "Resisting the Attention Economy," but I didn't quite read that part when I bought it. The book is actually about social media and how we are have transformed into pretty passive beings while we use it. This lack of consciousness is worrisome because, in reality, many social media platforms are actually capitalist advertising machines and not necessarily please to authentically connect.
So I'm really jaded by it social media right now. Although I see the permanence and need for it – as a part of modern culture – I still wish we thought about how we use it in our daily lives. I really like how Jenny O'dell, who is a digital artist and professor, isn't anti-technology, but just pushes you to question how you consume content on social media. I, for one, frequently find myself just swiping away countless times throughout the day sort of like a Pavlovian dog with no real treat besides "newness" awaiting me. Unfortunately, I feel that the majority of social media users are this way as well. We need to be better. We need to stop consuming, consuming, consuming, and take a minute to observe why and what we are consuming in the first place. What are we truly getting out of it and what are we contributing? I'm sorry, I'm the downer presentation.
Towards the end of the book, O'dell takes us back to an example of an OG version of social media called Community Memory. Community Memory is a sort of collective, digitized bulletin board started in the 1970's in Berkeley, CA. The manifesto for Community Memory was as follows:
"COMMUNITY MEMORY is the name we give to this experimental information service. It is an attempt to harness the power of the computer in the service of the community. We hope to do this by providing a sort of super bulletin board where people can post notices of all sorts and can find the notices posted by others rapidly."
So, it's basically like our modern-day Craiglist, but much more community-based and truly poetic. The first location was at a record store and there was always someone standing next to it to help you use it because this was the first time a lot of people were interacting with a computer. They sent messages about apartments, music lessons, and where the best bagel was. But this was all geographically located so messages weren't transmitted to other Community Memory computers, so it really was just your immediate community. You had to physically travel to this thing in order to see what people were posting.
There is something important about remembering that we as humans are physical beings. We don't live in an artificial reality, at least not yet, and hopefully not ever. We need to preserve this physical humanity, the necessity of having real, face-to-face conversation. How we do this in a way that equitably and thoughtfully integrates technology is TBD IMO.
I'm going to a wedding in San Diego next weekend at which I'm reading a poem. It's this one if anyone is curious:
GENESIS by Billy Collins
It was late, of course,
just the two of us still at the table
working on a second bottle of wine
when you speculated that maybe Eve came first
and Adam began as a rib
that leaped out of her side one paradisal afternoon.
Maybe, I remember saying,
because much was possible back then,
and I mentioned the talking snake
and the giraffes sticking their necks out of the ark,
their noses up in the pouring Old Testament rain.
I like a man with a flexible mind, you said then,
lifting your candlelit glass to me
and I raised mine to you and began to wonder
what life would be like as one of your ribs–
to be with you all the time,
riding under your blouse and skin
caged under the soft weight of your breasts,
your favorite rib, I am assuming,
if you ever bothered to stop and count them
which is just what I did later that night
after you had fallen asleep
and we were fitted tightly back to front,
your long legs against the length of mine,
my fingers doing the crazy numbering game that comes of love.