Lives Lived Online

I’ve always considered blogging to be performance art.  When I’m here, I’m “Severian.”*  Some of the things I write about myself are true, in the way actors use their own personal experiences to shape their performances.  Others are true-ish, others are false, but they’re all part of the role.  This isn’t “the real me,” any more than I’m “the real me” when giving a lecture, on a date, on the phone with a client, or in any other public place.  I thought all adults understood this — that “the real me” (if it exists at all outside of teenagers’ imaginations) is something that only pops up intermittently, among close friends.

Alas, it seems like mine was the last generation to get it.  There are legal adults now who have grown up entirely online.  They’ve made their peace with social media’s “context collapse,” the merging of all your social groups — and therefore all your personae — into one.  Kids these days, by which I mean legal adults of drinking age, have no problem posting photos of themselves puking in a gutter on Facebook, even if their parents, their professors, and their potential employers can all see it.  It never crosses their minds that the behaviors appropriate among drinking buddies are inappropriate among professional colleagues.

This is why I have some sympathy for the “iCrap has permanently proletarianized us” school of black pill sociology.  Humans are hardwired for sociability; even we very very badthinkers are compelled to share our badthoughts.  But conspirators need privacy to conspire, and that’s the most terrifying characteristic of the New New Soviet Man — while we oldsters recognize that the Internet compromises our privacy, the new generation doesn’t grok the basic concept of privacy.  You might as well just report yourself directly to the Thought Police, since anything you say to anyone born after 1984 is going to end up on Twitter anyway.

There are historical parallels for this.  Communist Romania didn’t have the Internet, but they did have the most comprehensive social surveillance net in the Soviet bloc.  Something like 1 in 30 Romanians was a Securitate informant; even other Commie secret police goons felt their agents were nasty pieces of work.  If every phone in Romania wasn’t bugged, it wasn’t for lack of trying.  They wore a distinctive “uniform” — the now-standard Eurotrash track suit — and made a big show of following people randomly in public as an intimidation tactic.  Anything pre-Facebook surveillance could achieve, in other words, was achieved by the Securitate.

I don’t know any Romanians, but I’ve met people who grew up behind the Iron Curtain.  Even after 30 years in the West, they’re still off, in ways that are hard to describe but easy to recognize.  Theodore Dalrymple said a Romanian dissident told him it’d take five full generations for the national psyche to recover from Communism, and I believe it.**  And here’s the truly terrifying part:  A person who grows up knowing his every word is potentially being recorded by the enemy is one thing.  A person who grows up knowing his every word is potentially being recorded and loves it, because he’s been trained to chase likes and upvotes and retweets like a lab rat on crack, is something very different.

We know what happened to Nicolae Ceausescu.  We also know why: Life in Romania truly sucked, even by Soviet bloc standards.  But: It took 44 years before the Romanian people finally rebelled.  That’s 44 years of suffering, in the shittiest police state this side of North Korea.  And America’s not Romania.  Life doesn’t suck here, and despite our ruling class’s best efforts, we’ve got a long slide to get even halfway to Bucharest.  Our police state has Hulu, and Amazon Prime, and Starbucks, free wifi hotspots at every highway rest stop.  We love our Securitate.

And yet, the Romanians did rebel.  We will too, I believe…. but I can understand where you’re coming from, blackpillers.

 

 

 

 

*I really hate that stupid moniker.  Back in the early days, I needed a handle to post a comment somewhere.  I looked around the room, saw the bookshelf, saw Shadow of the Torturer hanging slightly out, and boom.  I guess it works — I, too, am an unreliable narrator who probably isn’t 100% sane — but it’s not what I’d choose if I thought I’d be using it more than once.
** whether they’ll get five generations is another question entirely.
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3 thoughts on “Lives Lived Online

  1. Rod1963

    My mother grew up under Stalin’s occupation of Poland and then as a slave to the Nazis until 1945. It made her quite different from your typical American. She was always careful about what she said and to whom. As she told me, saying the wrong word where she grew up meant a bullet in the back of the head or a trip to Dachau. She was that way until she passed on.

    It rubbed off me. The whole notion of spilling ones most private thoughts on the internet is bizarre. Hell even to my generation that came of age in the early 80’s. The behavior of today’s Icrap kiddies is just insane. These kids are destroying themselves on-line in order to be like by total strangers they will never meet in person. Everyone is selling each other lies about themselves and censoring themselves at the same time on certain topics.

    Will they rebel? I don’t see it – short of someone wrecking the electrical grid and forcing them to go cold turkey. Social Media was designed from the get go to be very addictive, coupled with iCrap variants that can be found everywhere means you never have to be disconnected from Facebook or any other digital watering hole. Worse, many grew up with this digital overseer, they know no other life.

    They have no idea how to use a library to research topics or even think or memorize things anymore since they have Google, Alexa, Siri to think for them. It’s crippling not empowering them since they’ve become addicted to constant stimulation.

    Reply
  2. Nate Winchester

    I once heard from a jewish guy that in Israel they have a saying: “everything story I tell is true – or should be true.”

    Feel free to use that. 😉

    Reply
  3. Jay Carter

    Will there be a rebellion? Of course there will.

    Example: My girlfriend, (who’s very hot) occasionally rides the New York City subway.

    One day, while standing in a crowded car, one of the many “pervert-pressers” that ride the subways looking for their “cheap thrills”, managed to get close to her. (Too close in fact)

    One time . . . a second time . . . and then a third.

    Are you ready folks?

    Here comes the “rebellion”.

    When the doors opened at the next stop, my girlfriend hit the guy like a Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker, knocking him out of the train onto the platform, where he proceeded to fall “ass over teakettle”.

    Followed by a “Keep ya fucking hands to yourself.”

    With that, an 80 year old lady who was standing next to my girlfriend added: “And that goes for me too!”

    Seems that she too was ready to join in the rebellion.

    Moral of the story. Ya can only push people so far.

    Reply

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