I woke up to app vomit on my wall the other day. Twenty two posts in a row with a nauseating pink gradient filled heart paraded in front of me like a digital attack as I scrolled down. With all the drama surrounding hacking and cyberwarfare as of late, and phrases like the “Pearl Harbor of the digital age” being thrown around, my relationship with the internet is kind of on the rocks. I felt violated by this unwarranted post-a-thon happening under my name. Especially considering, on a public digital surface that calls itself mine, people I know and trust taunt me with answers to intense, personal questions, like:
What was this combination of algorithms that wrote such a strange broken poetry all over my wall, so that everyone could see? I was expected to play a game to unlock the answer to this odd inquiry? The bizarre syntax spit out of some mathematical formula was intimate, familiar, and intrusive. I was posed questions about my identity (is Hannah a terrorist?) and probed into the touchy and complex territory of relationships (do you love Hannah?).
The oddest part, and what made me carefully read through the over twenty similar boxes lining my wall, was the title of this game, or app, or whatever they call it these days:
Just four lower case letters, the simplicity of its visual presence ironically butting against an overdetermined connotative weight. Every way the word inserted itself into the blue and white interface was just, well, weird. Kind of mundanely haunting? Irkingly dark? Quietly offensive? I got caught in the simultaneous feeling of banal annoyance, apathetic disturbance, and paralysing intrigue. As a linguaphile and digital addict in general, I was trapped and repulsed by love’s bizarre serenade. I hesitated, soaking in the questions, for almost two and half minutes when I was asked to decide:
What was love trying to tell me? Would I miss it all together if I blocked its advances? Why was my decision about its presence couched in such absolutes: all posts? Was I sure I wanted this? Forever?
It is hard to connect, even though we are hyper-connected, through wires and across clouds. It is hard to see, even though everything is crystal clear HD or coming right at us 3D. It is hard to feel and think, even though information and commentary comes at us at hyper-speed, updated every ten seconds. Who did love really think it was, to dictate the way I deal with unanswerable questions about all those strange and beautiful emotion things? I have trouble saying “I love you” to those that I do, and figuring out how to handle the multi-faceted valences of a sticky, if oh-so-sweet thing, like this particular four letter word takes up a lot of my emotional energy. The mathematically generated questions parading under my digital identity reduced the in-real-life experience of love to box after box of post, to simply love: a thing to unlock with a few minute twitches of an index finger, a routine series taps on matte black square keys. love managed to erase all the beauty of the real love’s contradictory presence in our lives.
I didn’t want to see more. I made a decision:
With a click, love was forever blocked, but love was not.