It takes a lot to make me rethink my place in New York 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 identified the problem: blogs.
Or, more specifically, the Blogosphere -- a land where the smart get smarter, the connected get even more connected, 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 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, the publishing conglomerate that puts out glamorous magazines like Vogue, Vanity Fair, and GQ? 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 parties with the very people she used to skewer. Other sites under the Gawker umbrella are Wonkette.com (Gawker for D.C.), Gizmodo.com (Gawker for technogeeks), and Fleshbot.com (Gawker for porn).
A step down from Denton's cabal are countless blogs independently run by people sitting in their bedrooms. 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 How 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 bloggers. For example: Let's 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's 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 camaraderie and beer. And then my friends became bloggers. These days, I don't 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 blogs.
3. No one has fights anymore.
If there's been a falling-out with my friends, 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.)
4. No one invites me to anything anymore.
Bloggers are starting to have parties to which they invite only other bloggers. Secretly, and for research purposes only, I attended one of these parties, a pretty progressive one, as there were four or five of the blog-free in attendance (all of whom admitted, however, to being on Friendster, which is basically a gateway drug). Yet despite this initial multiculturalism, the room immediately broke down according to Blogospheric lines -- conversation centered on issues of blogs and blogging, and about half an hour in, the bloggers stood up and left en masse. Those who remained -- non-bloggers and the party's gracious host -- were left to quietly wonder what they'd done wrong, and worry.
5. They have created a new world order.
My society, that of the media-obsessed mid to late twentysomething, is being divided into a caste system that I believe will soon have the power to control virtually every facet of offline life.
In order of fabulosity, the Blogging Caste System (BCS):
6. 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 post comments) so that people know I care about their lives/band/Condé Nast.
Additionally, I must Google my own name every week in search of mentions on blogs, in order to know What People Think About Me. This is a dark 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 BCS, 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 (www.pindeldyboz.com), a barely solvent literary magazine based in Astoria, Queens, that, according to its Web site, has the following aspirations: "The goal of at least one of the editors is to develop Pindeldyboz into an imprint at one of America's large and fine publishing houses, and thus be able to select and publish novel-length works while maintaining the grassroots nature of this publication. An alternative would be an enormous monetary gift from a wealthy benefactor, which would allow all of that to happen, but without the corporate oppression. If anyone has a lead on either of these pipe dreams, please let us know immediately." Reprinted from The Village Voice (Feb. 25, 2004). Subscriptions: $99/yr. (52 issues) from Box 3000, Denville, NJ 07834; www.villagevoice.com