It was 4pm a few Saturdays ago when I closed my laptop and considered the fact that I less insignificant than the hangnail on my big toe. Plastered on the front page of five important and noteworthy websites were two stories that had gone insanely viral. The first was about a man who had found a speedy method of removing his shirt… and the other was a video of some kid who got kicked in the face by the conductor of a train as he was taking a selfie. These two stories dominated the Internet during the weekend and I watched them spread like the bubonic plague. A guide to removing shirts and a kick in the face. So that happened at 4:00, which caused me, at 4:01, to consider the fact fiction was dead.
I don’t consider myself to be a pioneer in the world of storytelling. My goal in life has always been to be the type of writer who’s taught in classrooms after an untimely, manly death. But this isn’t about me — well — it’s kind of about me, but it’s more so about the Internet. I just don’t want to be a part of the problem. America’s bloodlust for digestible content has turned into a binge of junk information and junk writing. The kind of writing you wolf down and shit out in a few hours later — forever lost in the sewage pipes.
The fact is, fiction won’t sell anything on the Internet. A whiskey company could pay a website to make a GIF-ridden listicle and sales would go up — stick it in a short story and it’s deader than disco. That’s just something we have to accept — the Internet and fiction will never be peas and carrots. I think it’s because the Internet has never been about anything but the absolute truth. Never before in our entire lives has information been so attainable.
If you Google “Finland” — it’s because you want information about Finland — not a story about a depressed private eye ex-pat who lives in Helsinki and is in love with a red-haired cop. That sort of thing will always be reserved for the big screen… yet this small screen — which dominates our days — is immune to the charm of a tall tale. It’s hard to fathom the amount of content that’s taken in through the brain and exited out through the asshole into the human-centipede-sharing-circuit.
One person sees a funny video of a kid getting kicked and shares with their friends. That person shares it to their friends… and so on, and so on, forever and ever. The content we’re taking in is just… so confusing. Half of it is repurposed misconstrued facts (a crime that I’m, of course, guilty of) while the other is a well-curated smoothie of low-hanging fruit. Why? You can take in lessons from both, to be fair. I’ve received tons of useful information from listicles… and I’ve also found myself changing my life from the morals I’ve read in poems and short stories. Ha, good Christ that’s so snobby when written out.
Fiction isn’t dead — it’s just dead on the Internet. A life lesson is a lot more attractive and digestible when presented as a photo of a cute cat with a snarky title underneath rather than the 5,000-word saga of a protagonist. I can’t write something like this without it sounding like I’m bragging about my distaste for lowbrow humor and content. I know I’ve shared bogus, unimportant stories to my friends without knowing the context. I was never a #Kony2012 kid, but I’ll believe what people tell me if they sound convincing enough. This isn’t a memorial for fiction, I suppose — it’s just an admission that the crap we have circulating the Internet nowadays is just fucking stupid.