I don’t know where this post is going and I have ear-worms of poetry fragment inside my head.
Am I Morrissey?
“Spending warm summer days,
writing frightening words
to a buck-toothed girl in Luxembourg”
or Robert Lowell?
“Only teaching on Tuesdays, book-worming
in pajamas fresh from the washer each morning,…..
……These are the tranquilized Fifties,
and I am forty. Ought I to regret my seedtime?”
It’s a sunny day, a slow day….
a warm summer day, indoors…..
I’ve now dragged my laptop onto the daybed under the pergola, which catches fragments of sunlight. Neighbours from the flat next door yammer in a language I don’t understand at all – I cannot even catch a phrase, not a fragment….
the cats frolic, pigeons coo…… and I am forty one, earworming in my pink leopard print pyjamas, stained from the flaming rust of monthly emissions reminding me that I have not spawned this month, or this lifetime…..
I woke up and washed down my morning stovetop expresso with facebook, blinking at everything, and feeling a bit guilty for not meditating first…..
It was benign and relatively empty.
Another blog on mansplaining, fuelling my misandrist tendencies… If only gendered power relations were so simple!
I started my previous blog nine years ago with a fervid rant against a particular climate in the postgrad corner of the humanities that I interpreted as misogynist. I’m not swallowing my words, and I still remember the cold shock being ignored and excluded for reasons that I couldn’t comprehend. At first came doubt – self doubt, despair and then rage…… there were patterns I could discern – gatherings of a particular gender that was not mine, they were also of a class that was not (quite) mine, a sexual identity that was very definitely not mine, and a racialised ethnicity that is reasonably close to mine or one that is transparent enough with my language and cultural capital….. what I’m saying is that a lot of people were and are excluded by ‘boys clubs’ in academia – and it’s a very privileged few who get to call them on just one of the many barriers that are created and maintained between these ‘knowledge makers’ and the rest of the world….
Right now, this post could go in two directions, and this is the thrill about posting stream of conscious ness rants. One path tempts me to discuss social media and the ways in which knowledges circulate between the private and public spheres, and what kinds of knowledges I am invested in, but also exclude, deny or push away. The other path tends more directly to the question of what and who constitutes knowledge, and how is this legitimated or contested.
Both are central concerns of the vague liebenwerk that I could call my ‘research’. Having spent a few months mostly on facebook, reading the odd zine or graphic novel, and occasionally a couple of chapters of real theory, can I really call this ‘research’? Do the 3 little letters of my professional title change this? or does the verbal promise of more work next month change me from being unemployed to being on unpaid research leave?
I’m trying to return to a daily practice of writing, hoping that it will give me the oomph to pursue publishing something more widespread than a blog post…..
I find writing tortuous or the ego block of it tortuous – or something. Somehow – if I allow my class/belonging/gender anxieties to swarm then I cannot bear to open any word files – let alone type something serious….
This is not uncommon. Hell! Virginia Woolf put it better than me – nearly a century ago.
I find Facebook to be a strange mixture of dissipation and stimulation and I’m honestly unsure how I feel about it.
It seems to hold the promise of vast possibilities of contact with people I know of, and admire, often from afar….. I love the possibilities of improbable conversations somehow being enabled through the ‘like’ and ‘share’ and ‘comments’ functions.
However – I’ve seen how the blogosphere has declined into twitterfeeds, and noted how I don’t read my emails or respond to e-groups anymore…. it’s all become skimming.
And despite assiduously working to control and contrive the amount of information and updates I receive from the myriad of my facebook ‘friends’, it appears that I often end up knowing far more minute trivia from people I barely know, than important information from friends I care about. Many people display the worst of themselves on facebook. Substance abuse (typing with a glass in one hand) is one of the most painful things to witness online, and it is disturbing to realise that friends with whom I have often enjoyed a drink with, often enjoy a drink alone, every night, every day even, and they like to ‘boast’ about it online! Naive friends who accidently post endorsements for commercial advertising campaigns, or spam app requests – all of you are delicately censored out of my newsfeed.
OK – it’s not about real socialising – most people know that FB and social media are about a contrived performance of sociality in order to disseminate a particular trajectory of self-construction: such as promoting one’s art, business, writing, parenting skills, social life, cultural capital or affective capital (see? I really am a nice person, I like all your stuff!). This is worlds apart from the slow trivial ease of friendship, and also, maddeningly, it is often worlds apart from the truly interesting ‘real world’ social worldmaking that occurs in projects such as Weedy Connection (which is well documented on social media) or others that aren’t (like where the hell is Lucas Ihlein? I miss you!)
At the same time – FB has allowed me to develop numerous friendships that I wouldn’t have pursued otherwise, and obtain and share a great deal of information and access to articles and journals and blogs that I wouldn’t have found out about without the work of some people on FB. It’s all scan-level reading though, and rarely deep and slow, and nothing like a book. I have still gained fewer friends in 5 years of FB than I did in 2 years of community radio or 3 years of blogging….. so, now that I have seen everyone I went to school with 25 years ago, and seen that most of them are also middle aged, what is the point?
My whimsical pondering has arisen because I recently deleted a friend from facebook. This was a genuine and dearly loved friend whose lack of netiquette enraged me. I don’t usually think of myself as a ‘polite’ person. Louche and uncouth tends to be closer to how I present myself, and yet there was something in the excessive length of comments, their invasive propensity on my wall, and their intensity and frequency that annoyed me intensely. Most of the comments had a link to research/evidence or other publication. There was meritricious effort attached, even if it was dry, and the effort facilitated access to credible information sources – which is also appreciable. but I did not appreciate it.
I am one of the worst committers of the crime of excessive writing.
My blog posts are too long. this one is over a thousand words. I will stop soon.
However I am *almost* incapable of reading a facebook comment or post that is longer than 50 words.
My eyes skim over blocks of text longer than 5 lines. Is it just the font? or the format?
The affective impact of such blocks of text is also…. intensified. And FB is so much about affect. Some posts are all about heart-string gushing grief/guilt/ isn’t the world TERRIBLE? Or about righteous outrage. I love those ones. Or about vapid inspirational quasi-mystical memes. I especially love those ones. And cats. lots of cats.
The posts from my friend were imbued with a cold arrogant sneer of “I know better than you”. The feeling of being trumped, of someone knowing more/better than me, was however, more than resentment. the comments were a kind of closed loop – never posting or sharing posts from others, never sharing other forms of affect (joy, rage, fear…..) never standing to be corrected, always and only the smug correctness. It was as boring as death, because, like death, it allowed for no return, no feedback, no exchange other than, ‘yes, you are right’.
So this is why I deleted my FB friend. Because knowledge seemed to stop with them, and where knowledge stops I turn and dance away…..