Time

Column: Dear Evgeny Morozov,

Each week in ‘What am I meant to do with my time?‘, Christopher Hocking turns to a famous figure to see if it can tell him how to live a digitally native life in 2013. Today, it’s anti-technologist writer,researcher and Festival of Dangerous Ideas speaker Evgeny Morozov.

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Dear Evgeny,

In a moment of extreme, almost frighteningly powerful inspiration yesterday, I posted on the Kmart Australia Facebook with a complaint about a Jane’s Addiction compilation that I claimed to have bought there and found faulty.

“Tried to burn it using my friend’s computer – he is a dentist and lets me borrow his computer (at his desk) – but couldn’t unlock CD drive? Not sure if it’s a software issue – he uses Windows Media Player – thought that an older version might help as its a fairly old album (like ’01?)
”

It is my creative zenith for the day. There is no Jane’s Addiction ‘best of’ (in any sense)(they’re all the best) I hit Post and laugh to myself. Subversive, parodic. The perfect crime, the perfect comedy. Command + Shift + 4, post to my friend’s wall, sit back and wait for the Likes to just roll in. This is going to be huge, probably my legacy.

I wonder who’s monitoring the Kmart page – and what they could find out about me? Obviously they can see my profile picture and verify that, yes, I do look like I’d be into Jane’s Addiction. Fact. Will they recognise me the next time I’m in store? I am regretting this act of internet rebellion. What will my boss say to me? What will my girlfriend say to me? A vision of black-gloved hands smashing in my kitchen window while I’m out, rifling through my CD collection. My professional reputation ruined, forever black-bagged. The future is a boot stamping on a CDR forever.

But obviously, no, I’m not being watched at all. I’m calling out into a warehouse of unmanned machines – cogs spinning and subdividing endlessly into blogs, blogs within blogs, subterranean blogs. Corporate Tweets falling off a production line – where do they go and what do they mean? “OUR SUBWAY SANDWICHES COULD MAKE YOU INTO A HERCULES” cries Subway Dubai before spiralling away into the ether. “What’s your ‪#favoritecolor? Tell us the shade that speaks to you using ‪#IKEAtextiles!” Hash tags written in dust. This is the horror of the internet – the vast mystery of it. An endless grove of willows, dense and blinding and forever expanding. They sway hypnotically, conjuring visions. The face of an ex-girlfriend appears repeating infinitely, across albums and albums of Facebook holiday photos. A .gif looping endlessly in a forest, with no one there to see it.

Next, next, next. Jacques Brel blushes. I watch friends “watching” films with iPhones in hand – digital pages dog-eared by the endless thumbing. A photo of a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend. The squeals feedback through the fields. You try to reach the end but the horizon is always so much further away. You think, what IS that ex-girlfriend doing? Google finds an article she wrote for her university from two years ago. You read a transcript of a debate she was in from years before that. You try to remember the name of her friend – Rosanna? Rosalinda? Deeper and deeper, staring into the unblinking eye, that well of misery. Deep into MySpace – who knew it was still there? Like a gristly head emerging at the end of a pier, a corpse rolling like an otter down the river and crashing into your dock. THEY LEFT THE SELFIES AND ONLY MOVED THE HEADSTONES.

Deeper into the sad waters. The endless flow of pictures and opinions and TED talks – oh lawd, the TED talks.

From overhead, an avalanche of nostalgia – remember this gif from the ’90s? Where were you when the Fresh Prince of Bel Air? Top 10 ’90s Cartoon Themes Covered By Bottom 10 ’90s Bands. ALF. ALF. ALF. Chunks of ancient media tumbling down. A never-ending YouTube playlist of 4 Non Blondes, No Doubt, oh boy remember The Goo Goo Dolls, quick, Top 10 Pictures of The Goo Goo Dolls Then & Now. If punk is anti-nostalgia, then ’90s contemporary rock is nothing but.

My other reason for posting nonsense on Kmart’s wall was as a cheeky (read: dumb, I’m dumb, a big idiot) parody of a Facebook acquaintances status talking about how they had made a complaint against the same company – some confusion over an exchange of goods, a rude lay-by counter attendant, probably later described as “Kafkaesque” to friends. “Holy shit,” comments a mutual friend and two people like it. Public humiliation blues. It doesn’t pay to have opinions on the internet (except if you write a column and are literally getting paid for it)(wait am I?)

After finding her post, I started scrolling through the others left on the Kmart wall, scrolling through it like I was walking in a graveyard – a sober melancholy, a vision of both past and future.

“can i sent gift vouchers to a relative in victoria on line”

“Purchased a clothes airer today – great price but why hang them so high – it was difficult and potentially dangerous to get down”

“Put clouths online please bigw are now”

“Y was my post removed?”

“I only liked your page to tell u how disgusted I am with the service I was given”

Kmart customers

? – 2013

Is anyone getting any of this? Windswept and shipwrecked on the shore of the internet, calling out for help – help us, we want the police to be notified, we’re in trouble, please tell me someone’s getting this. To trawl through it is another kind of loop, another tide towing you through the innards of the internet, through the saddest wax house. The answer is yes, someone is getting it. Whole blogs devoted to compiling these weird follies of naivety, accidental (or intentional) bigotry and delusion. Aaaa it is so satisfying to hate and judge them from afar, whoever these people are, whoever these weird misshapen wax-heads are behind the glass. Come and look at this one accidentally writing their shopping list on the Woolworths’ Facebook wall – and like that it is preserved forever. It is written into the stone of the internet, stone that youth  will always be able to return to and laugh – laugh because they have a deep understanding of the internet culture, because they will never be old and dumb like yooou. Their laughter hangs in suspended animation, as dew on the Vine; echoing torever through Ask.Fm. Re-re-cycle. Future cities dig up the e-bones and fluorescent skull.gifs of their ancestors and wonder, what even IS this garbage? Our wordpresses are thrown back into the digital peat.

But for now, who cares? Forward me that link to that Tumblr where the people make errors because of misunderstandings, I want to seive through it until I am unconscious at the wheel. A blog that collects photos of strangers from the past, without context or comment? Yes, I understand and accept that I will stare at that for hours and hours. We are dogs eating endlessly – lying on the concrete slab of the keyboard, back legs paralysed by overconsumption. Who put all this disgusting, addictive food here? The other dogs. It is Dogs all the way down.

It is a Sunday afternoon and we are outside by the mandarin tree, reeling from a heady election the day previous. The opinions on Facebook come endlessly, dropping like overripe fruit and rotting there among the ragged weeds of the internet, more grit for the marsh, grist for the machine. Everyone has a mouth, everyone is screaming, everyone will be screaming yet. In the distance, a child plays plays a haunting, piercing scale on a flute. I receive a notification.

Hi Christopher, unfortunately as this product is not produced by Kmart we are not able to provide any assistance. If you believe the product is faulty you can return it to the store. We would recommend trying the disc in another device to see if there are still issues. Thanks – Kmart Australia.

Its probably locked seeing as ‘burning’ discs is illegal? – helpful internet bystander

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Christopher Hocking is an Adelaide writer who has been published on Scum Mag and rejected by McSweeneys, Voiceworks, Stilts, Bumf and more. Over the past week he decided to grow up and start using a WordPress.

http://chockowski.wordpress.com
https://twitter.com/fileunderkris

Read more ‘What am I meant to do with my time?

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(Top photo by Prairie Kitten)