It takes a lot to make me rethink my place in this city, and even more to make me question my very existence. But lately, irrational social fears are keeping me up at night. Something is going horribly wrong, and I have finally traced the problem to its source: blogs.
Or, more specifically, the Blogosphere—a land where the smart get smarter, the connected connect to one another, and the losers go home. The Godfather here is Nick Denton, owner of Gawker Media, a top-tier blog conglomerate named for its flagship, gawker.com. Launched by Denton in January 2003, with Elizabeth Spiers as editor, Gawker made its name by skewering New York media culture—what are the funny signs up in the bathroom at Condé Nast? Who was spotted going into the Condé Nast building wearing something awful?— but Spiers lost her indie cred when she moved on to the New York magazine-owned The Kicker and started blogging about how she goes to parties and hangs out with the very people she used to skewer. Other sites under the Gawker umbrella are Wonkette (Gawker for D.C.), gizmodo.com (Gawker for techno-geeks), and Fleshbot.com (Gawker for porn).
A step down from Denton’s cabal are blogs like TMFTML (The Minor Fall, the Major Lift), independently run by some guy sitting in a room. Sort of the P. Diddy to Gawker’s Sting, they remixed the hit song and made it . . . different. Plus he maintains total anonymity—which really pisses bloggers off. On his level are sites like Cup of Chicha, Old Hag, or the Elegant Variation. Here, you’re less likely to find breaking news about media culture, but you will learn a lot about the drinking patterns of articulate twentysomethings. They’re all friends, the bloggers on this level, and they’re in a constant state of link-swapping, making it possible to actually click through the Web in a giant circle all day, like Tigger bouncing through the Hundred Acre Wood.
I don’t know all of this because I am a blogger. I know it because my friends are, and now everything is bad. And while a lot has been made of the cultural implications of the Blogosphere, I am not convinced that anyone has taken the time to talk openly and honestly about the effects it is having on the day-to-day existence of the world’s adult non-bloggers, or what I like to call The Way Blogs Are Ruining My Life.
1. No one shows up for anything anymore.
There was an innocent time, about a year ago, when I was concerned that the Evite was going to be the death of polite society. But we now live in a world where it is unnecessary for people to attend any social functions whatsoever, so long as they are a blogger. For example: Let us say that I occasionally perform at literary events. I invite my friends to these events, hoping for affirmation and free drinks. How heartbreaking, then, when no one arrives! Phone calls are made: I am sad that you did not come to my event! The bloggers reply, invariably: But I linked to you on my blog! That is just the same as if I showed up in person!
It is not. It is very different.
2. No one tells me anything anymore.
There was a time when my friends and I got together to chat about our lives, a time when any problem could be resolved in the warm light of our camaraderie and beer. And then my friends became bloggers. These days, I do not even hear about the stupid stuff that’s going on—”I got a haircut” or “My apartment burned down”—because the bloggers assume that I have read about it on their blog. Which I have not. And then I wonder why they are not answering their home phone, and immediately assume we are in a fight.
2a. No one has fights anymore.
If there actually has been a falling-out, an incident, I rarely find out what I did or get a chance to fix things. I just wake up in the morning to find that they are no longer linking to, say, my barely solvent literary magazine. And then my world allegedly crumbles.
3. No one invites me to anything anymore.
So say now that I am sitting at the literary event, wondering where everyone is and why everyone always has better things to do. In that other time, the innocent one, I might have thought myself paranoid, but now, in fact, everyone is doing something better. This is because the bloggers are starting to have parties to which they only invite other bloggers.
Secretly, and for research purposes only, I have been to one of these parties. The party I attended was quite progressive, as there were four or five of the blog-free in attendance (all of whom admitted to being on Friendster, however, which is basically just a gateway drug). Yet despite this initial multiculturalism, the room immediately broke down according to Blogospheric lines, conversation centered around issues of blogs and blogging, and about a half-hour in, the bloggers stood up en masse and left. Those who remained—non-bloggers with the exception of the party’s gracious host—were left to quietly wonder what they’d done wrong, and worry.
The original goal of these parties was to meet each other face to face (in order to convince any skeptical friends that they know everyone they’ve linked to in person and it isn’t as freaky as it all seems), but as the blogging has become epidemic, there are fewer people to convince and more people to meet and, consequently, link to. Bloggers collect links the way I used to collect scratch ‘n’ sniff stickers: Whoever gets the most/best wins.
4. They have created a new world order.
My society, that of the media-driven entertainment/publishing/music-business-involved/obsessed mid-to-late twenty-something, is being divided into a caste system that I believe in years to come will have the power to control virtually every facet of off-line life.
In order of fabulosity, the Blogging Caste System:
This last group will eventually be sent to some sort of work camp where they will be forced to silk-screen T-shirts and knit legwarmers out in the hot sun all day. There will be nothing to read in the work camp but archived issues of Salon, and while residents will be allowed one 10-minute session on the Mediabistro personal ads every week (in hopes of marrying up), they will be prohibited from listening to any CDs released post-Strokes, lest they accidentally become a professional music journalist (the only career that holds the power to trump the Blogging Caste System).
5. Did I mention that blogs are ruining my life?
I am no longer getting work done. I am not sleeping enough or eating enough or editing my barely solvent literary magazine, because the aforementioned issues have made it a social imperative that I check up on all the goddamn blogs every single day (and make comments) so that people know I care about their lives/band/Condé Nast.
Additionally, I must Google my own name on a weekly basis in search of mentions on blogs, in order to know What People Think About Me. This is a dark, paranoid enterprise, capable of destroying even the staunchest feelings of self-confidence if the search should turn up evidence that, say, someone who actually showed up at my literary event did not enjoy it, or that someone has posted incriminating pictures of me, pictures obviously taken by a cell phone when I wasn’t looking. (Remember: It isn’t paranoia if they really are blogging about you.)
Listen. My name is Whitney Pastorek, and I do not have a blog. I am not on Friendster, I do not live in Williamsburg, and I do not think Death Cab for Cutie is a particularly great band.
But I exist. I am a good person, a good friend, and my thoughts and opinions have weight and merit. The bloggers do not control me—they only control each other and massive amounts of bandwidth, which isn’t even a real thing, just something made up by web-hosting companies to charge more! People! If you find yourself on the lower levels of the B.C.S., join with me in saying NO! NO to letting them diminish our self-worth! NO to letting them drag us out to flash mobs! Turn your faces to the sun! Stand and fight!
Whitney Pastorek is the editor of Pindeldyboz, a barely solvent literary magazine based in Astoria, Queens.