In some of my previous post, I’ve openly admitted to being nosy. Always was. When I was a kid I loved playing spy. I loved eavesdropping. And most of all I loved keeping files on everyone in my class. So it should come as no surprise to any of you that I sometimes snoop around the internet, google-ing random people I’ve known, know, or have just met (and sometimes dead people, whose names I find on old crumpled letters stuffed inside of a book or on an old moldy patient file from some abandoned insane asylum…never mind about that). Harmless stuff really. I’m sure we all do it.
But things are changing in cyber land. I remember when it was difficult to squeeze out a few drops of info. For example, once I spent an hour or so searching for an old friend. All I could find was his current job location, a comment he wrote on an obscure blog, and –a real gem on that day- his amazon.com gift registry. That’s how I learned he was divorced from the woman I knew him to be married to and was remarrying.
Farther down the rabbit hole, I discovered the new bride was a former student of said “old friend.” So. This suggested a possible ending to marriage one. It felt deliciously evil to stroll through his china patterns, see his (and his new brides) style and how many place settings they wanted. I made a note to check back in a year or two to check for a baby registry. Then I immediately made my amazon wish list private.
There were no pictures. No websites dedicated to their wedding or anything much after the registry. Then along came Facebook and Google Earth. You could actually find their house. Zoom in. See the street they live on. I could see photos and details of their life linked easily to other people I know. Info began pouring in without my even having to search. The hunt for information is now easy; it’s fishing through it for the grains of truth that have become the real hunt.
I love when I discover something I didn’t know about people I actually think I know. I get to see one of the other faces they show other friends, colleagues, or their families (especially enlightening). I marvel over what they choose to leave out or put in about themselves to share with others and what they choose to reveal to me (what it says about our relationship)…..like my friend who I thought was openly gay and acts very “sassy” but on Facebook carefully skirts the issue and calls his boyfriend his “friend.” From the looks of the pictures of his parents, I am assuming they still think he’s just a swinging bachelor on the prowl (even though he’s 50…and was heavily involved in beauty pageants…and has a lot of rainbow stuff). Oh well, we all have our “front stage” personas, but in our cyber age, we actually get to see the many sides of each other. That is, if anyone is looking at anything other than themselves for five minutes.
On a bad day, I get an odd curiosity about myself. I Google ME and find …nothing. My self esteem is prune shaped as it is. This doesn’t help. It’s like I don’t exist. Maybe that’s a good thing? So this usually gets me wondering about other people I know and I start comparing. I find all sorts of success: fancy websites, amazon sales, blogs, reviews. They’re doing great. I find old high school pals looking younger and happier than they did at 16! I am happy to find them happy really. I mean, it would suck to come across an obituary …especially for myself. But, well, there is the part of me that pouts about their success. I’ve even lost days of writing because I was paralyzed with poutiness …sulking that so and so was better than me so why bother etc….as if my goals in life ever had to do with them in the first place. But in those moments, mature thought processes don’t apply. My writing isn’t good enough, my house isn’t big enough, and my ass isn’t small enough. I feel like a failure.
A lot is made of people’s “accomplishments” in this “self promotion” overloaded society. We’ve all become expert Mad Men, only without the cigarettes, cool suits, and sex romps…well, speaking for myself anyway.…We have greater tools and we know how to stage our life, Photoshop out what we don’t like or want to hide. We turn ourselves into a character, an expert, a success. Everyone’s life online starts to sound like a resume or like those things you were once taught to say in job interviews like, “My biggest weakness? Humm. I’d have to say that I’m just TOO punctual and effective.” Or my favorite, (I’m paraphrasing here but still): “I’ve been writing since I was teething and I just can’t help myself from writing 200 pages an hour….I wish I were less talented, but oh well.”
Unfortunately, for writers and freelance artist etc, I understand that self promotion is a necessary evil. And as technology grows and social networking sites morph into some Cronenberg styled, PR camp’s wet dream (even from our own wet dreams of fame and glory), I myself have found it necessary to have a Facebook “fan” page, a Facebook “friend” page, a twitter, a blog, another blog, a Flickr, a Youtube, an alias (in order to, ironically, be myself somewhere), and on and on…
But, as Seth Meyers would say, “really?” Just because we need to promote things when we actually have them to promote, does it mean we have to sound so braggy or push so hard to sell “me,” when our cart is empty of product? Do we have to take the tone of someone so bloated with self importance that bending to tie ones shoe would be a challenge?
Selling yourself can go too far. Who are you really trying to convince that your vacation is worthy of a Conde Nast spread or a six figure book deal? Why can’t it just be a vacation? Steinbeck never had to pimp himself all over the web to be published. But I wonder if he would have, had he been living today? Doubtful. Hemmingway would have blown his brains out a lot sooner, I’m sure.
Despite the vulgarity of it all, I still enjoy my little hunts. I enjoy driving down Google Street just to watch them all turn their tricks.