Saturday, February 03, 2018

technology and witchery

I was thinking tonight about technology and generations and my rather novel position of being part of one whose existence is split right down the center--the before and after-- by the internet and all of it's possibilities--streaming music, movies, smartphones.  All the sort of things had you time traveled back 22 odd years and told me would everyday facts of life, I'd never believed you.  I spent the first 20 or so years of my life living sometimes in the real world , though more preferably, alone and in my own mind, or at the very least in the world of books.

When I was a teen, you'd most likely find me in my room sprawled on my bed reading trashy books or sitting on the floor near my stereo popping cassette tape after cassette tape into the deck.  On the rare occasion my parent's didn't have domain of the main t.v. you might find me watching 90210 or sitcoms there, though more likely I was in my room, trying to watch them fuzzily on a teeny b&w set given to my mother by a friend.  In books, I had a penchant for horror, or secondhand Harlequins passed on from a cousin.  In music, pop hits or hair metal.  I had friends, but we mostly would have occasional slumber parties and sleepovers, which I spent a lot of time trying to get everyone to watch MTV (which I didn't have access to at home.) Or we'd go to the movies at the mall and wonder the stores where we coveted things we could rarely afford. 

If you told my teen self that over 20 years later, she'd be able to order anything off the internet and have it delivered to her door, that she could stream any music video on youtube, any movie on Netflix or Amazon. What's more could do it on an object the size of her palm, she'd most likely accuse you of some strange witchery. And yet we're here, the world so much bigger and somehow so much smaller.  I spend most days half in the virtual world and half in the real, sometimes one more than the other depending on the day. Due to work and the press, I spend the majority of my day in front of a computer and toggling between the internet and other programs.  Even when I'm home, I am perusing pinterest or instagram and listening to music on my laptop or tablet or streaming movies/tv on my Roku.

But sometimes I think about the things in my life that I am not sure would have been possible had those technological shifts not happened.  As someone with, at times, acute social anxiety, there is probably a lot of things I would have shied away from or avoided were it not for the communications possible in the virtual world. (especially if they involved phone calls, which, unless it's someone I'm close to still send me into blind panic.)  My poetry world in the late 90's was so small, and while I had started to submit, it was much more difficult--the typewriter/word processor, the SASE's, the waiting.  And only a few ways to learn about publishers and journals, much less connect with other writers.  There was P& W magazine of course, but I think that was about it.  I remember when I first had some sustained time on the internet in the labs at DePaul while getiing my MA and grew addicted to their discussion boards.  I could go in for a few minutes on my way to library and get sucked in for hours.

When I finished my degree I wound up back in Rockford for a year with no real access to the web outside of occasional surfing on my desk computer at the elementary school library (which there wasn't much time for.)  This was probably the last time I was living more in the real world than the virtual.   I remember I was sleeping a lot, but probably also reading and watching bad late night tv after my parents went to bed on the big TV in the living room,  By the time I moved back to the city, I was sitting in front of a computer all day and just beginning to read and submit to online journals on the regular, to build my own website, to found my own litzine.

Slowly, my hours in the virtual world probably surpassed my hours in the real world.  Or maybe they existed side by side.  The self that interacts on the web and also with their actual surroundings.  The self that goes out and does readings and interacts with other writers. The self that makes things with my hands, that paints or collages or writes things out longhand. The self that reads books you can hold in your hands. The self that cleans the apartment, that eats breakfast, that has sex.  But those hours seem to be substantially less than the hours I spend right here, my hands on the keys.  But somehow, I am okay with this, this virtual life just as real I suppose as the life I loved sprawled across the bed reading, or on the floor by the stereo.

But then, sometimes too much immersion, too much time in the virtual world seems sad.  A few weeks ago the waves on the lake were crazy, magnificently high and angry and I looked around at my fellow bus travelers and all of them were staring at their phones, not one looking out the churning lake almost sloshing onto the drive.  I spend a lot of time in front of a screen or a tablet and home and at work, but I do try to be in the world when I venture into it as much as I can, my phone staying pretty much out of sight unless i have to send a quick text (and limited to wi-fi only where it's available). Somehow I feel like I am missing too much out there in the world as it is, so need to pay attention. As writers, this is probably even more important.

As writer, we naturally live more in our heads than in our bodies, I suppose,  And the virtual world maybe is really just another way of living in our heads, only communally in someway with other people living inside their heads. 

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