When I was growing up, online hangouts occurred on IRC, forums or altavista chatrooms. All these platforms had one thing in common: anonymity. The internet was objectively known to be a creepy place.
The first time I went online, I was around 9 years old, around the turn of the millennium. I registered a nickname on my country’s IRC network. Radark, I thought it sounded super badass. I convinced a group of people I was a 16 year old hacker. I had watched my older sibling play around with Netbus and Sub7 a few days ago, so seemed easy enough. Plus, the copied book we got sent by snail mail called “Hacking” gave me some street cred.
So off I went on one of my first online adventures, convincing a group of computer science enthusiasts or students that I was a 16 year old hacker. And it all went well for the whole time of 3 hours, until my sibling came back and told them Radark is a 9 year old kid.
Woopsy. Too bad, great thing I could just do /nick aNewName and off I go, another personality, others to fool, but more importantly, others to converse with. While growing up, I chatted to a lot of people. I did not have many friends in real life, so the internet was a great place. In particular, I could talk about anything without fearing the repercussion of my opinion not being accepted. And as easily as you could create a personality, you could erase it. And it was fine, nobody cared. Granted, you do /whois to figure out whether a nickname was registered or not. But that was pretty much as much as you would know about your conversation partner.
Nowadays, I don’t know where kids hang out anymore. I hope I am wrong, but I have the impression kids hang out mostly on Instagram or Snapchat (Facebook is for old people). And this is worrying because all these platforms have, in its core, the user-centric aspect of it. These are not primarily chatting platforms, despite being used as such. Indeed, they are broadcasting tools – the user is incentivized to share content, which ends up often being personal content (in the form of pictures, videos or others). This also means that changing/deleting profiles is actually an annoying process because you put some effort into these profiles. It also means that the barrier to randomly chatting to someone is now higher – it’s not longer whether the nickname has been registered or not, but whether the other person has shared some content themselves, has enough followers, etc.
I think in general, people don’t think much about the information that can be inferred from public social media posts. Indeed, the current state of the internet incentivizes users to not think about it: it’s cool, link your phone number to your facebook, to use your real name, share geotagged content, win points, whatever. All these academics publishing stuff on user privacy, they are tinfoil hat dudes.
Anyway, my hope is that I am completely wrong, and kids just use Discord now.
After a ‘break up’ there is all this sexual frustration that masturbation alone does not satisfy. I watch porn, but soon enough it spirals towards this category of weird stuff which is no longer arousing, but rather almost physics and biology defying.
‘What am I doing with my life?’
Then it comes calling up close friends for support, and realising it’s been a while since I found time to see them despite having spent the last weeks with someone I just met. I realize I could have been a better friend.
The hours waiting for a text dilate, as if I happened to find myself hanging out at the edge of a black hole. If my heart were a black hole, would it be because it consumes everything which comes close enough, or because no light shines out of it? I think about breaking the ice and telling this person of this absurd image – they might find it funny and I can’t stand the silence.
Phase two is exercising. It’s hard to overthink when you are gasping for air in the running tracks.
I saw them recently. It was okay, they were okay. We laughed, whatever, it was fine. Maybe my heart is, indeed, a black hole. I understand sometimes the timing is just not right. All my logic tells me that dwelling in certain thoughts is hardly of any help, but I can’t help wondering what is it that I am missing.
In the evening I sat myself down and let some emotions condense into something concrete. It’s been a while since I worked in a new piece. This one is called ‘Fill me up‘ and it depicts the moment leading up to a kiss. Both subjects are missing parts of their bodies. It is a reference to this myth by Aristophanes, that humans had originally four arms, four legs, and a single head made of two faces. The story tells that Zeus, as a punishment for humanity’s pride, split humans in half, thus creating humans with only one set of genitalia, forever longing for their other half; the other half of their soul. I feel like often, we are just missing something, hoping to find someone to alleviate the void.
I know, if only I loved myself a bit more, I would be less tempted to find salvation in others. I wonder if this could have been the case too, that if they too loved themselves a bit more, they would have believed someone was willing to accept their incompleteness.
I firmly reject the idea of destiny – but it’s hard to believe all this was by chance.
There are crowds and crowds of people standing around as we try to make our way through the other side of the city. Züri Fäscht is a festival that occurs every 3 years. Around 10 pm fireworks rip through the skies to the beat of pop music and, like radiative colourful Xanax, everybody quiets down and observes these explosions. I heard someone say that it’s estimated that around 2 million people will have been in Zürich this weekend – that’s almost 7x the amount of people living in this city, usually.
We make our way through the static crowd because we have no interest in these fireworks though. In the most dense areas, as we push and shove these fleshy statues around us, I distract myself and think of percolation theory. It’s the study of diffusion of a medium through a pourous material – think of water passing through a sponge. These thoughts keep my mind occupied from the smell of weed, sweat and people.
We finally reach the destination we intended to reach, only to find our friends are long gone. Worth mentioning that double or triple number of phones trying to connect to the cellular networks inevitably lead to an overload and thus, the network is mostly down. Meanwhile, my friend got high and still wants to dance and I have been working non stop for two months, so I’ll take any social contact.
It’s 12:30 and it appears there is a second round of fireworks. I don’t understand the fascination people have with these events. Soon enough, the lights from the stands and carnival go out in anticipation of the upcoming show.
Everything quiets down briefly only to be interrupted by three explosions, and in a few seconds, the sky is full of colored lights, like a flaming huge golden dandelion.
I feel something.
As fireworks keep shooting up in the sky and blasting, colouring the sky and quickly vanishing, I imagine myself as one of these specks of light – quickly ebbing away, leaving only a small trace of smoke, which eventually diffuses. Is this a metaphor for human existence? The colours are so full, so beautiful, so violent that I feel tears forming in my eyes. Everything is dark and all eyes are carved in the sky, so I let them roll down. Life is so breathtakingly beautiful sometimes. I keep thinking I am over it and that I am ready to go – but then I catch a whiff of its perfume, a sight of its colour and I’m pulled back in – I’m again completely in love with life, trapped. Like a child that is overwhelmed with emotion, I am standing here, looking at this symphony of colours, teary eyed. Let these sparks be a memory of all those who existed, who have come and gone. There are so many of them and each individual one is just a bright tiny dot that eventually wanes off.
What if all my rebellion boils down to the fear of fading away, quietly, just like one of these lights?
work-in-progress fiction essays from ‘On math and the mundane.’
I get it. I get why people are – in one way or another – desperately searching for connections. I get it, why people do all sorts of crazy things for love. Life is so terribly lonely, boring and at times, unbearably unpleasant.
M asked me: Does it make you less lonely, when you sleep with them? Or does it make you feel more like a man? The moment you both are a simple connected object – are you less lonely then?
Her unfocused eyes – staring at me. We are intoxicated. Am I less lonely now?
I saw the girl at the pool, again. My calculations are probably correct – she had her period last week. Every four weeks or so, she disappears for a week. Otherwise, she’s always there on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
I slept with M again. She’s a nice girl. She thinks she knows too much. I think she’s still a kid. She thinks she ought to feel as much pain as possible – that this will numb her for the future – but I fear she will physically break. She falls in love with anyone who gives her attention. But hey, who am I to judge when it plays alright for me?
Her warm scalp against my palm – right after we merged into one – feels too hot. I don’t think I could ever love her – she feels too real. I would rather she left now.
The girl from the pool, thought. She’s an empty vessel, thin white skin. She could be anyone I want – smart, funny, innocent. I think I love her the more I see her, her mannerisms, the way she tip toes her way into the locker rooms, wrapped on her pink towel.
The moment I’m about to come, all sorts of thoughts scream in my mind: Sometimes I think I’m close to loving M. So close, so close… So… Close. Just one second more. But as I purge into her I am taken by a familiar feeling of disgust – like I can watch myself from the outside, and here I am, with a limp dick against her thigh, red faced, hovering over this girl I will never love.
122 unread messages.
The break from virtual world has its perks. Reality has an interesting spark that I often forget about. I remember once a friend explained to me why he loved Van Gogh – it’s because he saw and represented reality in such a delicious way.
Reality is delicious. I stumbled around in some city I was transiting and ended up in a burger joint, offside of some main road. I was alone, in the discomfort of not having physical nor virtual company. I ate looking at other tables, one with two old couples sharing a meal, one where two girls were knocking back some cocktails and a third one with 4 young adults. The old table was the most interesting one. Things were slower, they ate, drank wine, spoke calmly, without pretenses. Sometimes when I catch myself speaking in a group of people, all eyes carved on me, I feel suddenly embarassed: all the hand waving, describing a situation which is not that funny, my nasally voice and sentences punctuated by ‘like’s, trying too hard to deliver a weak punchline. Key part is ‘trying too hard’.
On my way here I sat next to a guy who was on Tinder up until the plane took off. I saw who he was accepting, his type – I wonder whether I was his type. Maybe if he’d look to his left he’d see me and we’d strike up a conversation, he’d tell me where he’s heading, I’d tell him where I’m heading, we’d complain about airplane food, make some small talk until some comment which is meant to be a joke sparks up a sobering conversation and discover we fear the same things; we might have discovered that reality is delicious. But I kept my headphones on and hummed to my familiar beats instead.