Sometimes the unbearable lightness – fluffiness, I should say – of the Internet as a whole is really irritating me. But it also demonstrates how depression can come with an incidental perk: being different! Our poor depressed brain may be far too susceptible to negative feelings, but at least we’re still trying to use it.
You know as well as I do how Internet is fluffifying our world. Stare at your screen and for a while try following a link trail, roaming randomly from site to site. Soon you’ll realize again how near-total vapidness has taken over online. Yes, some online content of real importance, originality and interest still does exist – but often it gets completely drowned in this endless sea of fluff.
Technically, our worldwide bottomless pit is a great achievement. But what are all those gigabytes used for? For instance, go take a revealing look at Google Trends. A daily list of the top search terms typed in by Google users. It shows in a depressing way what topics first and foremost occupy the American mind. Important news items? Politics? Economy? Science? Religion? Education? Art? No. No. No. For the main part, it’s Fluff. And it’s the same fluff wherever you go.
The Twitter Counter shows us who are most popular on Twitter: (1) Lady Gaga with over 20 million followers, (2) Justin Bieber, (3) Katy Perry, (4) Rihanna, (5) Shakira, (6) Britney Spears, (7) Kim Kardashian, (8) Barack Obama, (9) Taylor Swift, (10) Selena Gomez, (11) Nicki Minaj, (12) YouTube, (13) Ellen DeGeneres, (14) Oprah Winfrey, (15) Ashton Kutcher, (16) Eminem, (17) Justin Timberlake , (18) Kaka, (19) Chris Brown, (20) Twitter.
Kate Perry just reported to her over 16 million followers that she’s been working on some new dance moves in her spare time today. Good to know! I must say I’m relieved the Twitter top 20 also has a few stray ones who once in a while might have to say something of actual interest – Obama? Oprah? People who don’t even sing or dance very well? Amazing they made it!
There are two non-persons in the Twitter top list. The first is of course Youtube. Naturally we want to be tweeted (and clog the Internet lines) immediately for any new hilarious video of a Man Tripping Over His Garden Hose, or a Cat Running Into A Glass Door. I really do my best to understand. The second non-person among the top-tweeters is Twitter itself! This is tweeting about Twitter. And then tweeting about people who tweet about Twitter. And then…
When I looked at the Twitter top list page, their “Featured Twitter User” was one Ariana Grande. Her tweet: “I’m off to bed now. Just wanted to say hi, talk about romantic TV and check up on you all, lol. ???? Have a good night everyone! Luv u.” Thank you so much, Ariana. This was just what I needed to know. Brilliant.
Yes, maybe I’m just jealous. Maybe I sorely feel left out. My own stupid fault. I don’t even want a
Fluffer Twitter account – still reading newspaper websites, you know. Maybe I’m just a dumb sod. On the other hand, at least I stubbornly keep trying to use my brain. Shouldn’t this be reason enough to keep up some self-respect? Even when confronted with all this Unbearable Lightness that seems to have become the norm? All these pseudo-events?
Meet Daniel J. Boorstin. Yes I know, he looks like a poor sod, too. Not very good Facebook material, I’m afraid (apart from the fact that he’s long dead). But as a historian and social theorist, he had some interesting thoughts. In 1961, long before Internet, he published The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America (get it from from Amazon). In this book, he discussed how the emergence of new media (at that time mainly news, advertising and TV) had caused a deluge of something new: “pseudo-events”.
Pseudo-events are events or activities that exist primarily for the purpose of the media publicity, without serving any other function in real life. For a modern example, take a Kim Kardashian press conference. This is not about all those vital, important things we might learn from the mouth of a media-produced fashion doll: the main thing here is the event of the press conference itself.
Because such pseudo-events would be meaningless without being present in the media, they become “real” only through getting media coverage. This means that eventually, the reproduction or simulation of subsequent pseudo-events will become ever more important. Consumers will begin to value them as “real”. Put differently, pseudo-events will begin to generate ever more new (but similar) pseudo-events. Gradually, a media world filled with a never-ending stream of pseudo-events will push the actual world with its actual events to the background. Thin air will now be seen as important.
Looking back, we must give Boorstin his due recognition: while just describing a trend of the 1960s, in fact he predicted exactly what Internet would begin to do after his death. Today’s new media have amplified this trend of pseudo-events to absurd, grotesque proportions. Our TVs, laptops, tablets, phones spew out a constant stream of self-replicating (and imitating) pseudo-events.
The main difference with the 1960s is that back then, most people still were consumers rather than producers. They were still mainly at the receiving end. Today, each Twitter or Facebook user is also constantly busy producing and spreading his own pseudo-events.
To rephrase Boorstin’s original definition: you can now make every little dumb thing from your personal life into a pseudo-event by tweeting about it. Without that tweet, it would have lacked its new pseudo-event status. Instead of “tweeting”, here you can of course also read “posting a YouTube video” or whatever you like.
The result? An Internet that for a very large part keeps filling and refilling itself with useless and meaningless junk. A constant, relentless stream of media-tuned pseudo-events that may look varying on the surface, but are basically similar. We already got a deluge of Commercial Pseudo-events. Sport Pseudo-events. Celebrity Pseudo-events. And thanks to social media, we now have a zillion of Personal Pseudo-events floating on top of that.
What Has This To Do With Depression?
Chronic depression, frequent online activities, and Internet’s overwhelming fluffiness are three factors that can interact in several ways. At the core is your rising awareness that all this fluff that so obviously appears to fascinate most of mankind, seems not interesting to you at all.
This can intensify your feelings of being abnormal, excluded, some kind of outcast. It may translate itself into questions like the following ones:
• Am I the crazy one, or has the rest of the world gone mad?
Answer: you’re not crazy. Just different from an apparent majority of people online. Instead of worrying about being different, see this as a positive asset. You may have an intellectual, emotional, creative depth that many Internet users seem to be sorely lacking!
• What am I missing here? What don’t I see that all those others do?
Answer: the problem is not that you’re seeing things less clearly than others. It’s that you’re seeing things more clearly than others. To begin to understand the massive popularity of dumb YouTube home videos, first you need to take several drinks. Make sure you’re fully intoxicated before trying to watch them.
• Am I the only one feeling this way?
Answer: of course not. Many people feel alienated by the shallow irrelevance of most online content. And there are also people online who keep trying to offer content that is more substantial. You only have to search much harder to find them: they’re in online nooks and crannies buried underneath the prevailing, dominant layer of fluff.
• Did depression cause my general lack of interest?
Answer: not necessarily. Maybe you’ve always been intelligent enough to find fluff boring. But depression may have made your attitude more cynical, with the result you are now more easily bored by what used to entertain or amuse you.
• Does my lack of interest worsen my depression?
Answer: only if you feel somehow guilty about it. But why should you feel guilty about finding all this attention for Kim Kardashian’s choice of dress utterly boring? This kind of guilt will not happen if you manage to identify a few remaining items online that actually do interest you a little.
• So are all those Kim Kardashian fans just plain stupid?
Answer: yes. But unlike you, they seem to be happy.
• So why are all those Kim Kardashian fans happier than I am?
Answer: I’m not sure. Probably because they are stupid.
• So you’re sure all those Kim Kardashian fans must be stupid?
Answer: I already told you, yes!
• So it’s all those Kim Kardashian fans who are really stupid? Not me?
Answer: if you keep asking this, you’re stupid.
• note: As you will have guessed, this entire post is intended not only to comfort you, nor just to lessen alienation feelings caused by the utter vapidity of today’s Internet.
From a fluffy point of view, it’s only quantity that matters – not quality. Therefore, in sly and devious ways, this post is also designed to increase our visitors score!
Using highly advanced SEO (Search Engine Optimization) techniques, we will lure thousands of clueless Kim Kardashian fans into coming over here and take a curious look. Of course they won’t understand a thing of what this is all about, but what does it matter? It will make this page into its own pseudo-event!