Dec 09, 2011, 05:34AM

Wired In and Disconnected

What yesterday's Virginia Tech shooting tells us about our digital overload.

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There’s nothing funny about the shooting at Virginia Tech on Thursday. There’s nothing amusing, befuddling, confusing, or especially abnormal about its circumstances: suicidal nut tailspins and decides to take a police officer with him. It’s the kind of story that would barely make blurbs if not for the university’s recent tragic past, and it won’t be news in a day or two. I found out through a Twitter pun right as the news broke: “VTech: Just Some Bros Doing Shots.” Stupid, lazy, opportunistic: all of the above, but most of all it speaks to how stuck we are in this rancid, disconnected, ironic-think way of engaging the world. Thousands of people heard the news and immediately started mining for the perfectly packaged quip. Two people died yesterday, but we don’t know them.

Most of us aren’t crass narcissistic attention whores, but everyone’s still worn down. Times are volatile, but they’re volatile because of the way we’ve chosen to live: in a super-world, where you can and should meet every last impulse and desire, eternally stuck on orgasm mode. Most people under the age of 25 regard recorded music as a birthright, and will jump through every last hoop trying to defend the idea that music shouldn’t cost anything. We have everything we ever wanted and more. After a while what seemed fantastic, hilarious, stimulating, or upsetting is just boring. Our tolerance for boredom spirals down, down, down, until you get to the point that less than 41 percent of Americans read more than two books a year. People don’t want to read; they want to drink until they forget about all the problems they never have the time to deal with during the day.

Unfettered capitalism undermines our humanity by reducing our existence to a series of cold exchanges in a zero sum game. This attitude breeds selfish morons and puts them in power. When you dismiss compassion and selflessness entirely, there’s an emotional death there that makes people do and say horrible things, like vociferously attacking Obama’s health care plan and then eating crow once breast cancer comes around. When did Monday morning quarterbacking become our autopilot? We already live in a fake plastic half-world of retarded advertising and adolescent impulse, and we don’t really want to change. Occupy Wall Street happened and continues to happen. People are mad, but maybe they just won’t vote for Obama next year. They don’t want to draw outside the lines. It’s too risky. It’s like not we’ll get drafted if we don’t protest—heck, it just makes going to Wal-Mart easier.

The more we talk and share with each other through shiny screens, things just get hazier. JPEGs and instantaneous news hasn’t connected us deeply—it’s isolated us even further by making us believe we’re engaging, that we’re treating each other properly. We’re not. Proportional rates of violence have never been lower, but never have we been able to be so wanton with each others’ psyches. I’m not at all offended by bad jokes, just the idea that it’s the best we can do, or all that we have to offer.


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