There’s a romantic notion put forth by television and movies that the roar of a waterfall or a dammed river provides a kind of meditative quality when our protagonists witness it.
Perhaps they’ll spend a moment to meditate under the crashing whitewater, becoming as still and as permanent as one of the riverbed stones it normally dashes upon; or that after stepping through, or travelling alongside, the audio guy fixes for the noise and you hear the passing and bubbling of a trillion buckets of sweet-water as a calming hum or hiss. But to anyone who has stood next to such a calamity, I suspect this illusion is a distant fantasy as the roar digs into your brain and pulls reason from your skull.
We like to romanticize these forces of nature, as if we had some kind of supernatural authority over them in post-editing. Maybe we do, to an extent, even in our own memories. The ringing of church bells stings like a wasp should you stand too close, but the sting turns sweet upon reflection. The concert you wish you brought ear-plugs to, the roar of engines unleashed on a proper bit of tarmac, or the whoosh of the jet sitting outside your window as you climb into the great beyond: all of these seem like lesser, prettier versions of themselves when you look back.
I suppose this is why it took so long to realize my voice was being crowded out: not by a diminishing passion, but rather the growing roar of life as it surges around us and crashes into the virtual stones that make up Internet Bedrock.
While some may complain that they were born too late to explore the Earth and too early to explore the Solar System, I dare say I was born just at the right moment to hit the frontier of the Web. It was still wild and free like all the best parts of a Western, with none of the ridiculous learning curve of pre-DNS/HTML when I snuggled into my homestead over at Geocities. Anime and Fanfiction had just started to become a true culture online, and while I was hardly a pioneer, I was proud to be an early settler.
The strange mixture of anonymous freedom and a hungry, caring audience is something I don’t believe could have happened in any other medium or format. It’s still a magical thing that brings a voice and power to new writers every day, no longer limited to the biggest animations or movies at the time. But then again, that could be the problem I’m seeing.
As the Internet became bigger and faster and more social, everything began to blur together. It’s not that the next bright, rising author penning a Firefly Fanfic can’t get their readers or a bit of fame (and/or infamy) under their belt…it’s just that the environment has shifted so dramatically and fundamentally that I can’t help but wonder if my feeling of being lost in the flotsam and jetsam isn’t the new normal.
We point and laugh at the record companies and the movie associations who take shuddering, chubby baby steps into the digital realm we run, swim and sprint through…but they’ve already sent their best runners ahead to convert the Web into a more consumer-based experience. Between the ads and the cookies and the tracking of habits, purchases, surfings and details, I think the old money industries aren’t nearly as neonate or unsteady on their heels as they sometimes seem to us. Web 2.0 is a consumer-based thing. Web 2.0 is shiny and slick and accessible from your PC, your Phone, and your Web-Enabled Fridge. Go ahead and install your Ad-Block and your Anti-Spam…you can’t get it all when it exists in the DNA of the new beast.
At first it was just information overload we had to deal with…and the rise of the Search Engines made that manageable to a certain degree. But now? The same 24X7 barrage of sales, politics, sex & celebrity that had evolved on Television has joined the torrents both literally and figuratively. Everything is packaged and compared and gamified so you hunt down Likes and Upvotes and other forms of Imaginary Internet points, adding to the chatter each step of the way. You’ll see more pictures of your coworker’s nieces’ baby this year than you would have ever thought possible, or cared about until it was right in front of you and the polite thing to do was spend a few minutes typing cutsey responses and attaching “Despicable Me: Minions” based virtual stickers as emoticons to every subsequent snot-nosed crying toddler portrait.
How can you compete with that level of noise?
You can’t, really. And I think that’s what us old Internet Geezers (you know, of 25-45) are having an increasingly hard time about. I’ve been loosely watching as a number of us try to restore and relive the glory days: Fanfiction communities reborn and rebooted, with fresh websites and web-presences and web-web-web-Two-Point-Oh Compliance and New Features And…
But we’re just adding to the noise at that point. We’re spending all our time promoting and networking and installing and debugging and reformatting and reliving that none of us are writing. We’ve gotten used to the idea that viral exposure and posts and shares and likes are more important than content. And though I think we all know this is wrong…so obviously wrong…we keep trying to jump and holler and whoop and sing at the top of our voices, trying to be heard because we feel less and less eyes and ears turning our way when we do.
We’re so busy shouting that we’re not saying anything anymore.
So what DOES get through the pandemonium of the New Web? Well. One or two voices get through by backing the right anime, or book or TV show – partially due to the new Web giving a greater sense of community to Fanfiction in general. Fandom is strong, and between the rise of Geek Culture, the incredible Con circuits that sprout up around anything worth half a dollar and half a moment of anyone’s time, and the infinitely fine-tunable mewling mob begging to consume nearly anything and everything…there’s always room for Fandom to grow.
But more and more, the smaller voices are getting heard the loudest. The ones that post a bit of fanart, or a snippit of fanfic on Tumblr, or a Tripcode on a #Chan board leading to a Pastebin. Instead of relying on search engines and gateways and turnpikes and archives, it is providing the content for those passionate about the social media to consume that makes the difference.
It’s a bit unnerving for those who built homepages and bought URLs, hoping to maintain a bit of control over our little Internet Homes – but I suppose it fits well enough with the New Web that we have to find a way to adapt.
Pull back a bit. Stop shouting. Stop spamming URLs and Tweets and whatever else your ‘Getting Noticed as a Writer’ guide told you to do. Write. Draw. Compose. Do your art. Use your heart. Don’t worry about the delivery system: It’s already far more advanced than you realize. It will take care of itself.
I’m suspecting that the best way to get carried down the waterfall and into the river is going to be with a whisper.
=- Studio Shinnyo 2016. Khattam-Shud, EOF.Posted under Manifestoes