This week, as my friend Daniela embarked on yet another journey (Tanzania, Kilimanjaro, Ethiopia) with her backpack, camera and the mindset for journal (Diaries of a Backpacker), a group of us started questioning her as to what was she running away from. Obviously, something: the inability to stay still? the non-attachment? the time to think?
Not that I was any different a while ago; however for me travel was the form of self, looking at society from the distance, leaving what I didn’t want behind and finding a new self. The road was first the way out, defense against thanatos. If I felt I had reached the ceiling, I’d pack and go. Then it became lifestyle, movement, tangible transformation. I started envisioning cities in my mind, beautiful places, so I’d fly there to make it real…. Cliffs of Moher in the western coast of Ireland, Santorini, The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. For a while now it has been the desire to see the bold, the beautiful and the breathtaking no matter what.
Coincidently, at the same time I come across a magazine that speaks straight to those of us who “embrace travel as a lifestyle”. High end fashion photos and long stories, and the magazine is calledTrunk. It’s a little more sophisticated than National Geographic Traveler, and it’s distributed in the Thompson Hotels, Their goal is to spark readers’ adventures. Like I used to do with my dreams. Does it do it? I don’t know… The traveler is a traveler at heart, the unknown is alluring. Oh, yes, and one year ago I had to cancel my last minute trip to Egypt because the companion chickened out.
After being wired online for so many years, becoming adept, addicted, supporter, critic, I am, together with an army of like-minded people making the effort to unplug.The poweful blackberry re-shaped the brain, and changed our attention span, the Iphone and every other smart phone is currently an extension of my arm because “I am what I app”…. But abroad and incommunicado I unplug and it feels good. Like ending a bad romance, it was inevitable that one day we’d start to say “enough is enough.” WhY? what is scarier: that big brother is watching, that someone will hack into my email or that I jump onto the band wagon like sheep? Unplug is the new black. After a character in Greenberg decides that “she’ll try to get off email”, it’s time to praise the National Day of Unplugging (March 19 to sundown of March 20) when participants were asked to put technological devices to sleep and reconnect to the real world.
If the culture of the online world has no rules, we certainly observe patterns, most of them affecting relationships. Online connections are the new ways of the heart, less sensory, much more verbal, and praising the virtual connection itself. The downside is that it has made us human commodities in search of the self; and romance is just like a multi-layer game happening in the virtual world. How to break the pattern and ease the search is a challenge. Men and women, older generation and youth, all seem to be in different paces.
Reading about unions of 20+ years that get shattered by social networking to the difficult task of online dating, I conclude that there are more misses than hits in the telematic world. I’m not old-fashioned, absolutely; it’s just that it seems juicier and real when it doesn’t involve a screen. If a guy leaves his wife of many years because he got in touch with a childhood sweetheart through facebook, this is a direct result of the new social computing. He is nostalgic for former intimacies. The couple who had been together since their early twenties broke up thanks to the new technology; and the politician who leaves his wife to be with his mistress in distant Argentina does it thanks to an online hook up that made them feel like teens. The pattern is distance, one of distant intimacy, the other of time. The husband looked backward in time not to dwell on banal dealings he would have with his wife in the present. Email was a point of entry to what was an indication of being alone. Just as the politician wife, that thought the husband wanted to be alone away from his kids to write; ‘taking a hike on the Appalachian’. Both wanted to disappear ‘back in time’….the safe distant. Both were looking for the distant other again.
In these departures and arrivals, the connection is the star, the freedom of the virtual world is the new epistolary romance; and the media testifies as it brings about the truth in it’s civic new role, defined by the patterns of our new lifestyle, that of social computing. While youth knows the exact time to power down and drop the lvu spelling innovation of the txt romance; the older generation, who grew up reading Bronte and Byron, makes it bigger and louder, ignoring the limits and the power of the virtual world.
I have started to generate my reader. “The fly on the wall, the curious, the corporate, any given giant looking in through the glass to find my soul. Because you have made him or her be. He or she is the hit on this blog, where I list my musings in the universe of pop culture, media and the intimate self. At the same time I struggle with the idea of being the narrator of a fictional story. The fact that I am building my narrative in life, narrating my musings online makes me a fictionist. Do I truly have the ability to see through the mirror? Or am I daydreaming and delusional?
I, the author start writing about you the reader. You the reader-given the enormous amount of text at your fingertips online and the possibility of playing a game with me about returning to human settlement…whatever that is…. start writing cutting and pasting what you would like to read from keywords. In doing this you are authoring me to the dystopic middle landscape.
Lifespan, lifescape, lifestyle, and game. I read about the human experiment of 5,000 years and in any fictional character I hear my voice. It’s the social fiction that makes me transport myself into the story. Like blogging or tweetering. I cannot lose touch with my sensibilities and perform to my writing. I feel daunted because nothing really matters when you are just the narrator. Ignorance is bliss. Silence is bliss. But voicing out my thoughts is part of my self.