Commodifying one’s experience
(Or, life on the internet)

Yowza. It’s been some crazy last few weeks. Ever since we got back from the San Juan Islands life’s been nuts — both because of work (many multi-day camping trips; lots of awesome time with kiddos in the woods) and because of play (other lovely adventures, also away from home).

 

Samuel Boardman State Park(happily, lots of time with this scrambling fellow:)

 

It’s been awesome, actually. A little crazy for sure, a little hectic, but crazy and hectic in the full, living-the-life-I-want kind of way.

But the relative break from writing on this blog has made me think a lot about blogging in general — or really, about what it means to have an internet presence.

Here’s the deal. I love to write: I have heaps — really, heaps — of journals full of thoughts that no one but me would ever care about. I process by writing; I entertain myself by writing; I would be lost without my journals. But sometimes it’s more rewarding to write when other people are around to read, when there is the potential for interaction and being pushed and having others give you a perspective outside your own head, when there’s the potential to in some small way create community and learning. That’s why I like this blog, at least in theory: it takes things outside of myself, puts my own bikey experience in context of the larger world. Hopefully.

But then there’s the other side. External validation. The desire to show off. It’s so easy to take a post about a cool ride I discovered and want to share or a question I have — it’s so easy to take that kind of post and turn it into a “look at how awesome my life is” sort of show-off thing, pimping my thoughts and experience so as to create an indirect, fantastic, and envy-worthy image of myself that I want others to believe.

There was a great article in the New York Times about this that a friend sent me a while back. Just a snippet:

Today, each of us can build a personal little fan base, thanks to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and the like. We can broadcast the details of our lives to friends and strangers in an astonishingly efficient way. That’s good for staying in touch with friends, but it also puts a minor form of fame-seeking within each person’s reach…

 

What do you post to Facebook? Pictures of yourself yelling at your kids, or having a hard time at work? No, you post smiling photos of a hiking trip with friends. You build a fake life — or at least an incomplete one — and share it. Furthermore, you consume almost exclusively the fake lives of your social media “friends.” Unless you are extraordinarily self-aware, how could it not make you feel worse to spend part of your time pretending to be happier than you are, and the other part of your time seeing how much happier others seem to be than you?

 

I think about that often. Of course, any image of yourself will never be complete to anyone outside of yourself, and it’s not just the internet that makes that true. And on a smaller scale, it’s not like this blog is meant to create a personal picture of my life or anything. It’s more a venue to talk about the possibilities of car-free adventure, but still. I am a person writing it, and even though I don’t want to admit it, I like validation, and I’d like for you, dear reader, to think that I’m awesome, or smart, or thoughtful, cool, adventurous, someone you’d want to be friends with.

 

oregon myrtle(just a tree-dwelling hobbit looking for love. heh)

 

What I don’t want is to be a commodity, to take my experience and turn it into something consumed by you. And sometimes, lately a lot, I wonder if it’s even possible to avoid that on the internet, this bastion of quasi-informational entertainment.

Am I just one more voice scrambling to be heard over all the other loud voices who are also convinced that they have something ever so important to say? I guess that’s what I’m struggling with here. There is so much media out there, so many people’s thoughts and opinions and advice. Are we even listening to each other at all anymore, or just writing about ourselves over and over hoping that someone, somewhere will be impressed?

I think about my brother (happy birthday, Alex!!:), who basically makes a living commodifying his experience. Or rather, he lives the life he wants, and it’s something I super admire about him, but then to make the whole professional athlete thing work there’s all the facebooking and instagramming and twittering and magazine-writing and picture-taking — all the “spray” — that goes into creating and maintaining an empire. Like I said, I super admire the fact that he manages to keep it real, for realz, but no one can argue that there’s a whole built-up image of him that to most people is more real than the real Alex. And it’s not only him, of course: any athlete, actor, politician, random stranger has a carefully-crafted image that they present to the public because that image is the most convenient one for them to have, the one likely to help them get what they want out of the world.

Is this blog simply part of a carefully-crafted image? I’m not sure I or anyone can ever get away from image-creation — it may just be what we do — but I sure don’t want image creation to be the first and foremost goal. As cheesy as it may sound, I really do want us to talk to each other. To learn from each other. To enrich each other’s experience. And maybe I miss the mark a lot, but I really see blogs or even the internet in general as a great potential tool for that — as long as we actively keep the focus on sharing and listening, not posturing and proselytizing.

All that to say that I feel super sensitive about not wanting to show off lately, not wanting to spout off about how awesome life is and how rad is it to travel through the world sans car. But then again, it is pretty darn awesome to be here — Portland, summer, biking, living the life. I’m not sure what the internet or this blog’s role in mediating that tension is, but I guess I’m admitting to you, dear reader, that I’m trying to figure it all out.

And I appreciate any thoughts:)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>