Last week my telephone said, “CNN BREAKING: White House has pix of #Osama bin Laden with open head wound, his burial at sea, scenes from raid.” The face of mass murder, now hashtagged and hyperlinked next to the word “pix.” Also: “12 Pop Stars Tweet About the Death of Osama bin Laden.” I can’t get this phrase out of my head. It sounds like a modern koan, a signpost of upcoming chaos.
I often think that everybody else has a thicker skin than I do.
Other headlines that I recently clicked: Man attacked by alien-hand syndrome. Woman wakes up from surgery speaking in a foreign accent. Your pets might smother you while you sleep.
The internet is wearing me out. Every minute in front of the screen is a knotty act of monitoring, filtering, and self-chastising. Stay on task. I live with the knowledge that I shouldn’t read about the latest political kerfuffle or click on streaming images of a celebrity getting arrested, yet I do it anyway as if I’m on autopilot, controlled by some dark and terribly bored lizard-brain that demands constant proof of the End of Days. Yet scanning headlines and subscribing to a zillion news feeds is a conscious choice. A deliberate act.
Facebook keeps telling me to “like” Duracell batteries.
Right now several grown men are writing earnest articles about how to get retweeted and innovate your click-through rate, and it’s my fault that I’m aware of this. I worry about the good minds that we’ve lost to personal brand-building. Every morning I receive emailed newsletters from highly-paid professionals who recently began referring to themselves as “thought leaders” and “veterans of the web,” as if these are perfectly normal things for an adult to say. I don’t remember subscribing to their newsletters, yet I don’t bother unsubscribing, either. Their messages about innovation strategies seem inevitable and if they don’t come in through my screen, they’ll seep through the floorboards.
The trivial sits next to the catastrophic like never before.
Five ways to liven up your life stream. Troops open fire on protesters. Ten things you’re doing wrong at restaurants. Asia opens higher on data. Did Ralph Macchio survive the dancing contest? Second serial killer suspected. I am not blameless. I can switch this machine off at any time. Teacher busted for strolling naked in the hallway. Why shampoo is a waste of money. Five things you should know about catnip. The beat goes on.