The old saying goes that if you have a large (infinite?) number of monkeys banging away on keyboards, eventually they’ll produce the complete works of William Shakespeare. I think that’s been decisively disproven, since thanks to the wonders of weblogs we have millions of monkeys but we’re still far from Shakespeare.
Blogging is a fundamentally narcissistic activity – it takes what used to be the purview of carefully hidden paper journals and spews it onto the global internet for everyone to see. Honestly, what else could people want from putting their innermost thoughts and feelings on what amounts to a giant billboard, if not validation and attention from others? Even I suffer from Narcissistic Blogger Syndrome (NBS?) – knowing that I have an audience compels me to write and necessarily alters the way in which I write.
Fact is, everyone thinks he or she is the center of the universe. Everyone wants to believe that his pain or pleasure is unique in human experience, that no one can understand his feelings and so they must be explained to the world, probably on a poorly-designed site hosted by Geocities with a lens flare in the background. In reality, I think that the range of human experience is large but finite, and just because Girl X ripped your guts out or Fluffy the Starry-Eyed Shih-tzu got run over by a garbage truck, doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened a million times before – spare me your poetry.
I first started thinking about people’s individual universes while working as a cashier at Cub Foods. In a given day, I would see dozens or hundreds of people pass through my line, and it was a shocking revelation to me that each of these people wasn’t passing through my line but was swinging by the store to get milk and condoms, and ten minutes later that person could be having sex or eating dinner or getting into a fatal car accident, while I continued beep-beeping away, having intersected with their life only across the credit card terminal.
Similar thoughts occurred to me while flying over Chicago from Cincinatti – we flew lower than usual, maybe twenty thousand feet, and cruised over Lake Michigan. Chicago was just out the window, laid out just like a map, strings of orange marking the streets in the darkness. Each light was on a street corner, or along a road, and perhaps someone was walking beneath the light and heard my jet, and looked up, and for the briefest instant an intersection occurred, transposing universes in a way never to be repeated. Further out from the city, the lights were individual, and sometimes I could even make out cars – where were they going, I wondered? Maybe someone was going to his girlfriend’s house, to break up, or make up; maybe he was drunk; maybe he was visiting mom. In any event, I’d never know, and it’d never matter.
So I wonder, does the vast interconnectedness of the internet actually enable an intensification of this narcissistic and isolating tendency – on some kind of exponential or logarithmic scale (rather than a linear one)? Are we all just yelling into the ether, the proverbial sound of one hand clapping? (I always find that image to be hilarious, then it reminds me of Vampire Hunter D.)
If I knew nobody read this crap, would I still write it? (Probably yes, since I seem to love the sound of my own voice.)
Even all of that preceding long-winded pontification is hopelessly unoriginal and self-important. Per Sturgeon’s Law, ninety percent of weblogs are crap; very few people have a unique or interesting perspective on anything. I’m certainly not arrogant enough to presume myself to be in the other ten percent – though a corollary to Sturgeon’s Law states that ninety percent of people in the crap category think they’re in the other ten percent.