Distorted Perspective

Climate Strike

Climate Strike

Climate Strike

Climate Strike

Climate Strike

more from the September 21 climate strike in Seattle

Transit

In Transit

Uprights

Uprights

Divisions

Divisions

I’ve been thinking about London and the balance of emotional display on the internet. At a glance, the internet is a very Positive Place. The largest websites are trafficked in Like-based metrics. Everything pops with color. And everyone is always smiling in their pictures.

When Marshall McLuhan wrote about the news, he made sure that he didn’t just write about journalism or reporting, but advertising as well. Advertising was a part of the news as much as the content, sometimes moreso.

The ads are by far the best part of any magazine or newspaper. More pain and thought, more wit and art go into the making of an ad than into any prose feature of press or magazine. Ads are news. What is wrong with them is that they are always good news. In order to balance off the effect and to sell good news, it is necessary to have a lot of bad news.

The way journalism reinforces positive advertising—and whatever consumer psychosis comes with that reality—with negative reporting, the internet does with the existential nature of being human. All the smiles and thumbs-up icons glimmer next to corporate logos as an untethered relationship to our social reality bubbles under the surface.

Gentrification

Gentrification

Skyline

Skyline

I didn’t really like London. In fact, I strongly disliked it. I had a good enough time visiting the city: there were plenty of museums and the weather was decent enough. But all in all, I can’t for the life of me think of a reason to return. It felt superior in the same trashy, Fallen Empire glam that America is trying on for size.

It’s a simple enough idea to have, to dislike something. Everyone dislikes things. But there is a certain slant of our social ecosystem that moves against that notion: the idea that everyone has to Like everything, the projection of constant happiness and five-star reviews. That the privilege of experience comes with prerequisite for enjoyment.

This notion exists because our lives are, increasingly, advertisements. The cycle of influence is so easy to spot because we’re at the fucking bottom of the whirlpool of hypernormalized reactionary social interaction. People changing avatars for Gay Rights or World Peace, changing hairstyles for pop stars or comic book characters; our actions of self-identifying all end up as monetization for someone. And everyone knows this, and subsequently we’re all understanding that being a part of this world is making someone rich, even if we don’t necessarily comprehend the details.

And since our lives are now all advertisements, if nothing else but to feign positive re-inforcement to keep everyone around you smiling, you’d better be having fun, goddammit.

Pick-Up

Pick-Up

Smoke Break

Smoke Break

Reflecting

Reflecting

If we create a culture where people are afraid to dislike things—because either the fake ecosystem of social media begs for only Good Things, or because the grotesque hatred that fuels a majority of its discourse is terrifying—then we create a society shy of exploring, too timid to create. Life, or at least the act of living, is about understanding as well as learning. Within that balance will always exist good and bad and not always in the same ways.

London isn’t going to miss me and I’m not going to miss it. I’m sure there are some Brits out there who would Take Great Offense to such a sentiment, and some would just tell me to fuck off. But that’s fine, and that it’s fine is the point. It’s better to have an honest world where we can agree to disagree than have this intangible maze of false platitudes fueling whether or not it’s okay to have an opinion.

I’ve been thinking a lot about malice—or, maybe more accurately, what it means for a person to be hurt by another. Malicious intent is a major factor if someone inflicts harm, either mentally or physically, but what does that mean in this day and age?

The confusion that can come with facing a foreign opinion—by foreign I mean one whose thesis seems absurd to the point of being provocative—can feel strangely invasive. Belief and opinion are concepts that encompass some of our most basic subconscious humanisms; how we connect ourselves to the world at large, how we subjectively grasp our day-to-day life. When something opposes that, it has the potential to disrupt our entire sense of the world. It can feel like a threat.

An old roommate of mine was a born-again Christian and it was just something I never got used to. People can believe what they want, but sometimes he’d say something about God or Jesus and my mind would just hit a wall. I simply couldn’t grasp some of the ways his mind constructed the nature of our universe. For the most part, we got along fine. But there were certainly nights where we would spend hours in a heated debate, unable to come to any sort of compromise. A sense of aggression was certainly present.

And so now we have the internet, which is littered with beliefs. Nobody could exist online without being able to find someone who thinks the complete opposite. It is at the core of our social discord in America these days. Millions of people feel attacked constantly, simply by and for existing. Human history doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to trying to settle massive ideological disagreements.

Malice is defined as a desire to cause pain to another, yet these days one cannot even express themselves without the knowledge that someone, somewhere will take offense to whatever it is. Stating any opinion is, in some form, a knowing act of aggression, even if there is no specific harm intended to anyone in particular. It is also inviting that same aggression, even without an intention to provoke. It’s easy to feel bullied in an age when there is evidence everywhere people believe you’re wrong.

When the internet was rapidly growing in the early-aughts, one of my biggest questions was how it would effect society at large. And not in the physical framework of same-day deliveries, but the existential relationship we have with ‘America’ and the more intangible frame we keep that image contained in. This, these days of absurdity, panic, mistrust and fear, was not the outcome I was hoping for.