I was in line for groceries. As if pulled by a tractor-beam, my hand moved to the front pocket of my pants and fingered distractedly at the phone inside. I ran my fingertips over the case, playfully teased the home button, and entered and withdrew from the connection port over and over until it was time to pay for my food.
I didn’t look at the phone, because I didn’t need to–just being so close to it, being one with it, was enough. This is what the Internet has done to us. We all sit at home, staring at our computers and touching ourselves. We shower with our tablets, sensually rubbing soap onto their gleaming front faces. We sleep with an external keyboard in our bed, waking with rounded-square impressions on our skin and the sheets stuck to our genitals.
We all do this, all of us. And we can’t help it because it’s not our fault. It is the Internet’s fault.
I can’t tell you how many people I see kissing their phones on the bus, because I’m too distracted by kissing my own phone to check. But I bet it’s a lot of people. I bet it’s all of them, because we’re all… we’re all victims. Of the Internet. Or maybe social media. The websites are in our heads and they’re… They’re making us do things.
Should we fight it? Sometimes people tell me to, to stop, to please stop. People tell me to get out, or to leave them alone (probably so they can touch their own devices in private). But it’s pointless to fight back. Resistance is futile. You remember the Borg, from Star Trek? Well, the Borg is here, friendo, and we’re having sex with them.
You’re probably not even reading this right now. How could you? A few moments of staring at the screen and you’d be overtaken with the desire to compulate (a portmanteau I made out of ‘computer’ and ‘copulate’). I know I would. It’s a miracle I was even able to type this out, and I was only able to because I used… Well, let’s just say I didn’t use my hands.
There’s no going back. The Internet has won, and all of us will have this erotic compulsion, all of us, forever. We all do this, and it is awful.
Maybe it’s a bit crazy? I feel like Ortberg and Beaton have a very similar comedic tone and range of references (particularly in terms of historical knowledge) and so there’d not be much gained by a team-up. Good collaborators (in my opinion) are just similar enough to work together, but different enough that they each bring something to the table that can influence or contrast with the other.
Which is not to impugn the excellence of either woman’s work–I adore (as we all do) Hark! A Vagrant, and I felt honored to be published on The Toast recently. I hope it’s not pejorative to say that they work with a similar comedic perspective.
I’ve been super interested, lately, in that tone, the one I see in both their work. It’s something new, something native to the Internet, no? The casual, naturalistic dialogue in contrast to situations where it doesn’t perhaps fit. A king peppering his speech with ums and ahs, or a upper-class suffragette telling a male opponent to go fuck himself.
It’ a style previously seen in work like Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which obviously predates the Internet, but I think what’s new about its use by writers like Beaton and Ortberg is that it’s part of the basis of their comedy–it’s in the very DNA of their senses of humor, and part of their personality. We’re seeing this dialogue style last entire bodies of work, which is also, I think, new.
(It’s a style I use, too, of course, although not to the same success as Beaton or Ortberg.)
Hm, this got a little away from me. I’d only wanted to call Ryan silly, as part of my larger campaign of doing sick burns on all my Internet friends.
To my teachers at my second high school: I’m sorry I didn’t respect you. By the time I got to you (after transferring from the all-boys place because the only other alternative I felt I had was suicide), I’d lost all respect for teaching staff. They couldn’t stop the bullying, they couldn’t keep me interested during lessons, and they couldn’t explain to me why I felt so, so sad all the time. So I acted out, and probably made lessons much harder than they had to be.
Also, I stole a projector from one of your classrooms. I’m sure someone got in trouble for that. I still use it, though, if that makes it better? The tech department probably would have junked it by now, so maybe I’m kind of a hero for prolonging its life?