I think I might be a wee bit broken. A life spent increasingly online has done something to me, something that no stream of Distractify quizzes or compilation of cute kittens is able to fix right now.
It’s like I got sucked up by a tractor beam into the wake of the Death Star.
I’ve never thought of myself as an optimist. But I think I was fooling myself. Sure, there were spirals into depression and Woody Allen style NYC neurosis, but underneath it all, under the goth makeup and bad poetry of my youth, the self-deprecating gallows humor of my twenties, even now, amid the swirling eddy of my forty-something rage, was a belief in the goodness of the human race. The belief that despite a never-ending string of Vaders parading across the world’s stage, the Jedis always win. Sometimes it takes a few prequels to get the schematics and come up with a plan, but the good guys prevail.
I’m beginning to think I was wrong.
Or at least that’s what a life spent online is causing me to think. And this cycle of uncertainty and questioning has a force choke on my sense of self.
In my quest to put my voice out there–as a flare, a guidepost, a way of joining with others to increase the volume, I may have gone too far, gotten lost in too many comment threads, traveled down too many rabbit holes.
It’s pretty dank and dismal down there. If the internet has become my own personal Death Star, right now I’m stuck in the trash compactor, walls closing in, stinking of shit.
Light and dark, good and evil, right and wrong. Which way do we fall on the scales? Sometimes after half a bottle of wine my husband humors me and we have a buzzy debate about the nature of man. Are we inherently bad, kept in check by some complicated contraption of rules and law held together with duct tape and a prayer? Or are we inherently good, mostly Yoda with a few Emperor Palpatines popping up along the way?
I keep insisting we are good. And besides, the nature of man is just that, I argue. Man. Everything’s been tried, my husband says, and it always devolves along the same pattern. No, no, I insist, not everything. And we pour more wine and debate some more until he tells me my allotted time for serious topics is up and there is a football match on television.
But lately my time online has made me doubt my faith in the Rebel Alliances of the world. That, in and of itself is a sad thing. And it is only made sadder because it’s something I brought upon myself.
In my own desire to be part of something, to be seen, heard, in the vain hope that a lone voice could add something to the conversation, my online life has become a pyramid–both an outsize monument and a scheme. I got invited onto the Death Star and I went. And now, after much wandering around, I’m feeling pretty comfy.
I don’t want to live my life with the bitter aftertaste I’m left with after any time spent online these days. I don’t want feel dirty, spent, laying awake at night trying to figure out if my online activities are an exercise in support or if it’s merely feeding my own ego. In reality, it’s probably a mixture of both, but the feeling of accomplishment–a reader reaching out, a civilized debate, conversing with like-minded people– is competing with darker forces.
I am living my own Empire/Rebel Alliance in my life online. The escape pod is in my line of sight: Log off, delete my accounts, go on my merry way.
Yet I don’t. That’s where the ego comes in, I guess. Building the pyramid. I mean, the Death Star was really nothing more than a galactic pyramid if you think about it.
How long can you roam around the halls of the Death Star without starting to feel like one of the troops, before a little bit of the darkness rubs off on you? What happens when the idea of blowing it up becomes hard to imagine because, hey, you’re just getting to know your way around.
I’m not sure what my role is here, or even if there is a role to fill. Life online has brought me joy, and it has connected me with amazing people I wouldn’t otherwise know. It has expanded my tribe and brought me success. It’s brought me laughter and it keeps me informed. But it has also brought me into contact with a dark side of human nature I wasn’t prepared for. Am I better for knowing it exists? Philosophically, yes. In reality? It’s like eating cotton candy and going to bed without brushing your teeth. You feel kind of gross and when you wake up in the morning, the first thing you taste is the very thing that made you feel sick.
Leia would keep looking for new ways to figure it all out. Old man Luke chucked it all in to go live on a craggy rock and do some soul-searching.
Do or do not, there is no try, right?
I’ll let you know. Unless I’m on an uninhabited rock somewhere, you know, without WiFi.