I like the internet. I like it a lot. It has given me the opportunity to discover bands I never would have heard about otherwise, to see movies I would never be able to get a copy of, to meet people I can relate to that live all over the world…but, as much as I like the internet and feel that it has enriched my life, I also don’t like it.
What happens in real (I know that what happens online is technically real, but for my purposes, let’s pretend real means non-digital) life is, your friend gives you a tape of songs, and you listen to it (duh.) You listen to it in your house, in the car, at your boyfriend’s house, on your portable player as you walk around the neighborhood, at your grandma’s house, everywhere. You listen to it tons of times, until you know all the words to every song and can air-guitar and drum out the beats. You listen to it until the tape starts stalling from overuse and you keep having to take it out and rearrange it so that you can hear your favorite song.
What happens in internet-land, is so different. Your friend sends you a playlist and you go to listen to it on Spotify or iTunes or Youtube or Soundcloud, etc. and you really like the first song, click on the artist’s name and suddenly have the entirety of their discography in front of you. You can listen to the most popular songs without hearing entire records, you can listen to bits and pieces of songs, or skip ahead to the chorus to see if you’ll even like the song and want to spend time listening to it or not. You go back to the playlist afterwards and do the same for the artist that created the second song, or maybe continue to click on songs that are linked to you through the first artist because they are somehow similar. This process could go on forever, it never ends. While the internet gives us access to so much, it also denies us access to the pleasure of a limit, it leaves little room for quiet time or focus, or depth. It encourages us not to live in the moment, but to constantly be attentive of the next thing coming up in our peripheral vision.
I get a lot of inspiration from the internet, images, sounds, ideas, but have to remove myself from it and collect my thoughts about them in tranquility, in nature. I’ve been challenging myself to listen to entire records (even if doing it online) rather than individual songs, to get books about celebrities or historical things that I like rather than looking at information about or pictures of them on the internet, to make collages from paper materials rather than spending a ton of time on tumblr, to have conversations with people about the music that they like to get recommendations of artists rather than looking at things that the internet thinks are similar.
I realized when I went to the Outside Lands music festival a couple of weeks ago, that most of the time that I spend listening to music I am doing something else as well. Being at the festival and doing little but experiencing the music with all of my senses, my mind and my body felt intensely moving and incredibly important to me. I worry that I’m not doing the music the justice it deserves when I make it background noise, I worry that the music that I like is not what I would like if I gave it my full attention. I worry that growing up as part of the internet generation will somehow deprive me of creativity and my full imagination, of the possibility of originality, of enjoying simple things, of depth (in place of breadth,) of silence and peace. But, being the contradictory person I am, at the same time, I thank the internet. I thank it for allowing me to discover the music that saved me when I was having a hard time. I thank it for giving me information to help me understand my world better and blame myself less for the difficulties I’ve experienced. I thank it for helping me come up with ideas that I am sure will be of great importance to me in the future. I thank it for bringing me friends and making existing friendships closer.
I do not know how to end this as I have a lot more to say about it, really, I could go on forever..so I will do it with a quote from Rilke (after whom I was almost named):
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”