Refresh Refresh Refresh: The Night the Internet Went Out in New York City

Don't worry, your connectivity is fine. We're talking "out" as in "side" -- away from the warm laptop glow and into the drizzly, drunken night. That's what Fridays are for and on this particular one, the real world was especially welcoming to members of the Internet community, offering multiple venues for you to spend time with warm bodies and alcohol, without straying too far from the ol' comfort zone. At "Refresh Refresh Refresh: Tales from the Internet" bloggers, their friends and fans convened. Elsewhere, Nic*Rad's People Matter art show welcomed two of the Internet's most visible authors, Stephen Elliott and Tao Lin, while Foursquare Day swept the iPhone nation. Only at events like these does your follower count matter, if only so you can casually mention it on the way to saying how little it matters. It's cringeworthy on so many levels, isn't it, this idea of the Internet IRL?

"In real life" -- necessary because everything else we do is in "fake life" (Gchat, text message, you looked skinnier in your avatar...). But the friendships are real, sometimes, or at least they translate decently to a gallery in Chelsea or a bar on the Lower East Side.

Nic*Rad -- painter of bloggers, journalists and other info-givers -- welcomed Elliott (founder of The Rumpus and author of The Adderall Diaries) and Lin (Shoplifting From American Apparel) to his People Matter gallery for a night of reading and Trader Joe's wine. "Mirth and love," Rad said, describing the "packed house." He opened the night by reading a Facebook message, possibly to set the tone. "I assumed that the internet arts audience would revolt against the overlapping events," he said, referring to the other NYC options for the night. "But the room was full."

Foursquare Day, while occurring in locations across the United States, was obviously centered in New York City. Organizers warned of a "huge line" for the party at the Hotel on Rivington and foursquare was required on everyone's phone for entry. This is as far as I got: #4sqDay.

On the Internet, we can usually have it all; last night required a choice.

Leon Neyfakh, an Observer reporter and Internet enthusiast, curated a relatively intimate night of readings, with each piece based, at least somewhat, in the virtual world. The crowd was cordial, ready to laugh or otherwise smiling, and attendance was encouraging, while the bar remained reachable. If nothing else, the night highlighted crop of talented writers who skew young and might even be called underrated if their platforms weren't so impressive already. Their online personas have yet to eclipse the quality of their work, thankfully. (That being the case, I don't think The New Yorker was there, but maybe that means no one's feelings will get hurt.)

Juli Weiner, of Vanity Fair, spoke about the plague of ignorant commenters quick to accuse but unlikely to actually read. As she zoomed out from her playful anecdote to reveal What It All Means, her voice cracked sweetly. Maybe she was just nervous, but the room felt empathetic and agreeable in its silence as she finished. Similarly, Elizabeth Gumport's make out/Facebook stalk/break up/Gchat/make up/repeat horror story was taxing in its relatability. Gabe Delahaye (editor of Videogum) did well to demonstrate that the best of online humor can translate live, closing out the night by reading from an obscure self-published manifesto for online dating (and mail-order marriage). He didn't write it, but he owned the laughs.

This Recording editor Alex Carnevale, though, was almost certainly the night's most senior participant, and also the most affecting, reading from his New Year's wrap-up "In the Aughts," or "In Which We Request A Do-Over On This Last Decade." Maybe the strength of the piece came partially in its juxtaposition -- it was the only one not explicitly about the Internet -- but it seemed especially wise in the young room, though the allusions and references belonged to everyone. Carnevale paused often, maybe for dramatic effect, wiping sweat from his forehead and back through his hair and rarely looking up. The dark humor hit squarely and one man cackled a bit too loud at a few of the bleakest lines. The piece, originally published online, did mention Google and used blogging as a punchline, but it transcended both the night and its theme.

Going out under the pretense of extending online interaction is risky. You meet people whose name you only know because it's in their URL and sometimes find that they're better behind a keyboard. You might be, too, at least sometimes. We hear a lot about how our technological dependence is ruining person to person contact, but mostly that's just fear-mongering. If last night is any indication, everyone is at least still trying.


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