I've lately found myself deliberately reaching back to the 80s and 90s, whether it's watching old television (especially news) on Youtube, or calling my family up to discuss our experiences, or even listening to music while I work. If I recall a now-defunct business I google it to discover how it fell apart (RIP Waldenbooks), and in my daydreams I'm walking through the mall again, around 1995, when all the stores were full (and none of us knew an opiate addict). I wasn't sure exactly what subconscious urge was motivating it, and then it hit me: I'm desperately trying to reorient and ground my mental narrative in the pre-Internet era. I'm old enough to have grown up without the Internet, and social media to only emerged when I was already in college (I'm talking the web 2.0 stuff, not early attempts like, say, Myspace), so the current internet-focused world has always felt alien and imposed. It all seemed (and still seems) like a fad overstaying its welcome, except that I talk to the younger generations and it's their entire world. (This is not a sign of, so much as the content of, cultural collapse.) They simply don't live in the same world as I do, and I'm not that much older than them.
I've spent years coexisting with it, but lately, because of my own personal growth and life experiences, the observed collapse in literacy and cultural knowledge among the youth, and - perhaps most of all - the transformation of these seemingly-faddish companies into grotesque and privacy-violating multinational corporations arrogating to themselves the duties of the state (cf. Facebook's recent battle with Australia) have made me lose all interest in coexistence. I'm not interested in coexisting with collapse. But where to start? The motivator for my nostalgia, I've concluded, is the desire to destroy the internet's compression of time into a single ever-present moment. Wikipedia has a revision history, but it's noise. All that matters is its current version. I can go through newspaper archives but I either have to pay or dedicate myself to it like someone navigating a microfiche collection. (Truly, thank God for microfiche archives.) If I visit a site that's more than a few years old the links are unlikely to work. (I wonder what the lifespan of a site's version is? How long until external links to it fail, on average?) Even worse, the cultural context in which events are understood has been decimated. If there was a Carrington Event today, and we lost all our technology, how would we conceptualize what happened? Would it be something other than "the day the Internet died?"
The more I follow these thoughts and daydreams, the more it becomes obvious everything - at least here in America - was swallowed up whole by the Internet. It's an obvious conclusion, but really, there are no offline threads. Everything went online and then got distorted. I'm not sure we can even talk about culture anymore, or society. It's just the meatspace adjunct to Facebook. (The measure of one's social normality is how one prioritizes physical life vis-a-vis their digital presence.) It's a cool scifi idea, right, that we have this ephemeral digital world going on simultaneous to the concrete, embodied world of lived experience, but in practice it just hollowed out everything. I'm tired of it. There has to be a better way to live. I'm going to find it.
I've been giving it increasing - and increasingly serious - thought, but I'm going to travel around the world post-Covid. I work out of an office, but I get a lot of time off, and like most office workers I've been banking it since Covid began because there's nowhere to go. I'm going to see if there's anywhere else that's more sensible about things. (America is troubled for many more reasons than just the social collapse brought about by technology, so my motivations here are multifaceted: I need an escape plan, even if I'm never required to use it.) If there isn't, and the whole world really is just people staring into their cellphones like zombies all day, then I'm going to start a farm here at home. I'm already putting money away to buy the land. I can't live like this.