Now that my friend Chris has become so engrossed in blogging I find my self tuning in to his blog, and others he links to, quite often. I don’t know if it is some sort of voyeuristic tendency I have to lurk and eavesdrop into other people’s lives, but I find it addictive. It’s a kind of geek reality show, and I’m hooked. But, I worry that sitting at a computer reading about other people’s lives is just as mentally stimulating as all the brain dead reality shows the swamp the TV airwaves. Shouldn’t I be creating the next best piece of freeware? Or, heaven forbid, shouldn’t I switch off the computer and do something productive with my life? I could pick up the dusty guitar whose only chord I can remember is E-minor. Or, I could pick up oil painting or poetry; it’s been over two years since I last painted anything but the walls of my house, and it’s been almost a decade since I wrote a poem that didn’t begin with, “There once was a man from Nantucket”.
I could do these things, and yet I don’t. I’m the geek equivalent of the couch potato, and to make matters worse, when I’m not reading about how Chris and friends are changing the face of communication with RSS feeds and other esoteric ways of abusing XML, it turns out that I am a remarkably adept couch potato to boot. Why, when I live just a quick walk from Seattle’s downtown core, don’t I spend more time unplugged? I’m part of a cultural shift: Experience doesn’t matter any longer, only knowledge matters. I can sit at a computer and learn more in a few hours of web surfing than I can by spending days in the public library. I don’t need to see a play; I can read the script online. I can listen to music, the radio, whatever, and all from my nice fat DSL connection. Such is the attitude of our fast food society. We push constantly for more information, but not necessarily more understanding. Everything becomes a sound byte that has been pre-filtered by some company somewhere so it can seep into my over-caffeinated brain before I lose interest and click another link.
I think this is why blogs are so popular. Here you have what amounts to an endless stream of small sound bytes from people all over the world. Some have great insight; others have mundane phrases describing their day. All, however, are riveting because they are raw, uncensored and unpolished thoughts from other people. For once, I can read something that didn’t undergo several passes through the marketing and legal departments. But, unlike literature, verbal communication or physical touch, blogs are detached and immediate, which mates nicely to my drive-through super-size-it mindset. Hurray for blogs, for without them I would be forced to learn everything through MSN and Google.