During the Christmas break of my sophomore year in college, I went to California to visit friends and see California and get out of new york because I had just stopped dating the girl who I had been dating and I was torn up about it, and I think there is this idea that when two people stop dating, the person who initiates the breakup feels good and the person who gets broken up with is heartbroken, but I think sorrow is generally more evenly distributed than that.
I was sitting in Alaina’s family’s kitchen in West Hollywood listening to this band she was introducing me to, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, and I was looking through Facebook pictures and I saw these new pictures of the girl I was dating with her ex-boyfriend and it made me upset. I told Alaina, “I’m deleting my Facebook, I don’t need to see this shit every day,” so I deleted it, and I was also generally thinking that the social internet was making the quality of my mental life worse all-around and that it is a powerful and untested psychological experiment that might be driving people slowly insane. Perhaps other people are less sensitive and are better-equipped to handle it, and the social internet might not be making other peoples’ lives worse.
Jonathan Richman says, “You can have a cell phone, okay, but not me,” or something just like that.
And then last night I saw Catfish, which is a heartbreaking documentary about humanity that happens to be told through the medium of Facebook and the internet, and the documentary’s narrative begins when the subject receives a package containing a painting that a little girl made from a photograph that the documentary’s subject took, which is sort of like something that just happened to me.
Because last week I got an email from someone purporting to be the old Pitchfork writer Chris Ott who wrote a book about Joy Division and may have left Pitchfork acrimoniously and is known for being especially bitter, and I think it’s hard to stand out as bitter among people writing on the internet, and he told me that he had something to send me in the mail and I should email him back my address.
Then he said he had tried to obtain my address from other Pitchfork writers but he couldn’t get it and he wanted to surprise me but that was no longer possible because he had to contact me to get my mailing address, and could he please have my address, and I said okay and gave him my address because I am moving in about a week anyway, so it won’t be my address for long.
I was afraid that the person purporting to be Chris Ott would send me something sprinkled with a chemical death powder, and I told my mom that I gave an ex-Pitchfork writer my mailing address and she said I should immediately cut off contact with him because he may be mentally unstable, and I think she was scared i was going to chemical death powder too.
And then last week I got home from work and my roommate had brought in an envelope addressed by Chris Ott from his office in Massachusetts and left it on the kitchen table, and I saw it and opened it and inside it there was no note but there was a folded up Elvis Costello poster.
And I unfolded the Elvis Costello poster and what fell out of it was Chris Ott’s original review of Slanted and Enchanted, hand-written, every page.
It was touching, especially given how at odds the gesture was with Ott’s public persona as a curmudgeon.
And I thought more about it when I finished the documentary Catfish last night, about how inside every bitter internet person there is someone who is probably very sweet in real life but for some reason the internet compels people to be bitter, which is not what Catfish is about but if you see it you’ll see why I would be thinking that.
And I was also thinking about why the internet makes people bitter and I thought about all the times I’ve written bitter things on the internet, like, “I don’t like this band, what awful lyrics,” and I guess all I wanted to do was discern something that other people had also discerned but not yet written, and raise a chorus of people who would agree with my opinion so my opinion would be valid and I would have correctly seen through whatever band I said I didn’t like, and I would be proven right through the chorus of agreement, and I would receive approbation for my opinion from other people on the internet, and my life would be a little more worthwhile.
But nobody ever chimed in to agree, and even other people who thought the band sucked were trying to frame their arguments in different ways than how I was trying to frame my argument, like I could say, “This band is bad for X reason,” and instead of people saying, “Yeah, they do suck for X reason”, someone else would respond, “No, they suck for Y reason,” and someone would disagree and say, “You’re both total morons, they suck for Z reason,” because I guess everyone wants to be the person who starts the chorus of opinion and receives the approbation, you know? And I think even people who agreed with me would be hesitant to chime in because feeling bitter is an ugly thing, and sometimes a friend will say that a band sucks and even if I feel the same way I won’t want to agree.
And Catfish is superficially about how the internet is a deceptive place and my friend said that it reminded her of that old New Yorker cartoon where there’s a dog typing on a computer and the caption says, like, “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog,” except they should update it to have someone typing something nasty into a comment box and then in the next frame you see the person and it’s like a marshmallow man and the caption would say, “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a softer,” so what i am saying is that probably Chris Ott is a softee, like me or you sometimes.
And also in the vein of Catfish and internet deception and how nobody knows you’re a dog on the internet, I was at a party on friday and a friend said she was sort of in disbelief about the veracity of my interviews and interactions with people I write about, like last week asking Christina Aguilera what she ate for breakfast or asking Kelly Osbourne what her favorite Black Sabbath record is, and also maybe this whole thing might strike you as an elaborate fiction project and I actually am a dog writing this from an internet cafe in Scottsdale, and I have no way to prove that I am not, which sort of bothers me but I guess is just the nature of writing anonymously on the internet, because every encounter written about on here is true except the stuff that’s obviously a joke, like writing that the Pitchfork office party like it was the gathering of a dark secret society, and I only wrote that because the actual party was fun but uneventful.
But also, I am a dog!
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