Internet Journals, Open Source Life, and Reality TV

“Taking something off the internet is like trying to remove pee from a public pool.”
Joe on Newsradio

“…our selves are merely the masks we wear in response to the social situations in which we find ourselves.”
Michael Lewis, Next

“In the future, everybody will be famous for 15 minutes.”
Andy Warhol

This whole phenomenon of internet publishing is astonishing. Don’t I sound like an old, old man?! But really, take a step back and just look at where we are. Camille Paglia, former staff writer with Salon magazine, calls blogs “endless reams of bad prose.” She went on to say:

“Blog reading for me is like going down to the cellar amid shelves and shelves of musty books that you’re condemned to turn the pages of… There’s a lack of discipline, a feeling that anything that crosses one’s mind is important or interesting to others. People say that the best part about writing a blog is that there’s no editing — it’s free speech without institutional control. Well, sure, but writing isn’t masturbation — you’ve got to self-edit.”

Not much has changed really. Sure, now we can zip our crappy writing all the way around the globe at rapid bitrate, but its transmission speed doesn’t better its quality.

I’m a very late bloomer in this whole “blog” thing. It still gives me pause to think about the ramifications of such an odd cultural phenomenon. Not that long ago, journals were the keepsakes of private moments stolen by solitary individuals. Diaries addressed familiarly like an old confidante, personified by the writer, were the guardians of cherished private thoughts and desires. None would dare allow anyone in the family — let alone bona fide strangers from different countries — read entries from within.

And yet now, all these personal slices of one’s psyche are dissected and hung out to dry in the winds of public scrutiny. And the occasional random onlooker doesn’t seem to satisfy either. Now we’re begging for attention from passersby. We publish our blogs with the deliberate intent of mass readership.

What in the world changed in the last few years?

Reality TV happened.

Although there were “golden era” reality television shows that equally preyed on the public’s gullibility (Gong Show and The Dating Game come to mind), the recent fetish with public displays of humiliation is alarming. This exponential increase in the popularity of “Reality TV” equals the rise of the internet. A society completely bored off its collective butt with mundane mind-numbing entertainment has chosen to put itself on display, both on the boob tube and on the internet.

Both blogs and reality TV are like clunky forms of exhibitionism, after all. No one would dare strip in public, at least not the average ugly Joe. Put a camera in Ugly Joe’s and Jane’s faces, and they become different people.

These dehumanizing mediums afford us a perverted form of anonymity, the likes of which traditional private journals never dreamed. They give us a false sense of empowerment. In this Brave New World of open-source everything, we feel that our lives are somehow now worth fifteen minutes of embarrassing fame at all costs. Even if it means familial or social ostracism, even bodily harm!

Of course you can see the ludicrous irony here, right? Here I am writing this, about a dozen and a half clicks away from publicly broadcasting these thoughts onto that wasteland of information known as the internet. And there you are, reading these jumbled nonsensical thoughts raining down into your little internet portal somewhere off the coast of some generic land, far away from me. I don’t know who you are, and I don’t know that I want to know. I’m not sure I like the idea of you reading my diary. Now, if I call this post an “essay,” that will exempt me from all the ails of our society I’ve bemoaned… Right?

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