In this first edition of his new column for us, Ryan O'Connell talks about the weirdness that comes with being a person who makes the internet on a daily basis.
Hi. My name’s Ryan O’Connell, and I work for the internet, at a website called Thought Catalog, specifically. You might hate Thought Catalog, and that’s OK. Everybody needs something to hate. If it makes you feel better, you can hate me.
Does it? Does it make you feel better? Come on. Just do it. Take a load off.
Anyway, I’m not here to talk about texting and being in my twenties and being hungover and ten signs you can tell you’re texting while being hungover in your twenties. So put down your machine gun/keyboard right now. I’m here right now to talk to you about how weird it is to actually make a living writing online and how it can make you see the world in a slightly more fucked-up way. You become jaded, you begin to learn the rhythms of human response, and eventually, you don’t even blink when you hear about a new gang rape on Jezebel or see a video of some gay teen being assaulted. Everything becomes like “Oh my god, that’s so sad. Look, a new cat video!”
I don’t like it. It makes my brain ache. Online culture can be so grimy and full of hate that, oftentimes, I feel like I need to take a long bath after a day of blogging.Get these commenters off of me! Get the new Kim Kardashian gossip off of me! Get all of these think pieces about Girls off of me!
But I can’t ever really get clean because I am the internet’s bitch. It writes my checks every month. It gives me food to eat. It also, whether I like it or not, gives me a sense of purpose.
The thing I dislike the most about being a blogger and working for the internet, though, is that it breeds weird social politics. People have vague beefs with each other over the stupidest things. Like, someone didn’t get a link back for an article, or this person won’t follow you back on Twitter, and you know it’s just because they want to project a sense of superiority over you. There is so much resentment happening, and it could be for a variety of asinine reasons. A website could feel like it’s been ripped off and be angry with another website for taking its advertisers away, or, oh no, someone was made fun of on a popular blog by someone you’ve actually met a few times at parties! It’s all of these bloggers just hiding in their semianonymity, using any power they have to make a dig at someone.
I hate going to blogger parties. It’s usually just a bunch of people with glasses jacking each other off on some rooftop somewhere and comparing Klout scores. One of the last parties I went to, I had to hear a girl complain about how Marie Calloway is bad for feminism because she only writes about her sexual experiences with men, and “there’s so many more things a woman could write about.” She then went on to talk about how Tina Fey is bad for feminism because she slut-shames conventionally attractive women who dare to enjoy sex. My friend asked her, “So if Marie Calloway is bad for writing about sex, and Tina Fey is bad for NOT writing about sex, how should a woman be exactly?” The girl paused and was like, “That’s a really good question. I don’t really have an answer for it.”
She then told us that she was a virgin and didn’t like Girls for its cruel and unflattering depiction of twentysomething virgins.
My advice: Get fucked, and then tell me how much you still care about Marie Calloway, Tina Fey, and Girls.
I am at Metropolitan—a bar in Williamsburg that’s full of hipsters who won’t talk to each other until it’s 3 AM and they’re sufficiently wasted—and it’s the week after Hurricane Sandy. The mood is tense in Williamsburg, possibly because their homes were left unaffected and they had a week off from work to do… what? Feel survivor’s guilt? Eat? Drink?
I am with two gay guys from out of town, one of my exes and one of my best friends. We are horny and we are lonely and we needed someone to kiss three drinks ago. The situation seems dire. It’s getting late, and no one has made any attempts to talk to someone. All of a sudden, the cute boys are pairing off with each other like wildfire, leaving behind only the 60-year-old creepers at the bar.
Then it happens. A boy talks to me.
“I know you,” he slurs. “You’re on the internet.”
Before I had a chance to be like “Uh-huh, and you probably are too because that’s how the world works now,” he’s gone.
A few minutes later, I see him circling me again, and I start to get annoyed. What does this bugaboo want with me? I think before gulping down the rest of my white wine. (Yes, I’m that fag who orders wine at a dive bar. I really am working on it, OK?)
He comes back close to me and says, “You know it’s weird because you just wrote an article on Thought Catalog about wanting more gay friends, but it appears to me that you’re doing just fine in that department.”
He was, of course, referring to my entourage, one of whom was outsourced from California and the other an ex with whom I had recently been trying to forge a friendship. I didn’t know how to respond to his comment because it was truly bizarre. Did I explain to him “You don’t understand. I really DON’T have a lot of gay friends. A night like this is a rarity for me!” No, obviously not. Besides, why would I need to assure someone I didn’t know that I wasn’t some weird liar making things up for material?
I was pretty frozen and pretty wasted. My ability to handle a situation like this was at zero percent. I said to him, “Yes, these are my friends. I am out with them right now. What’s the problem?”
He then got all embarrassed and apologized for being a weirdo.
“It’s OK, whatever.”
He then lodged another insult at me—I forget what it was exactly—and then started to behave in a patronizing manner.
“What are you even doing here, besides getting recognized? Why are you here?”
“Why are you trying to make me so fucking uncomfortable right now?”
“You write for the internet. You should expect things like this to happen to you!” He snarled at me.
I didn’t know what “things like this” he was referring to exactly. Getting made fun of by a drunk stranger in a sweater vest for being a blogger? OK.
Weirdly, whenever he threw a dig at me, he would immediately soften, and then try to be like “OMG, but no, I really like you. Don’t be annoyed.” It was the oddest experience. I felt like a five-year-old who was getting teased by his crush on the playground. I would’ve entertained the idea of making out with him, but truthfully, he gave me Jeffrey Dahmer vibes.
This weird back and forth between us lasted for some time. He would say something rude, and I’d be like “Leave me alone!” And he’d be like “You’re cute.” And I’d be like “What?” And he’d be like “Your writing sucks!” The conversation was turning into a terrible K-hole, and I eventually just had to abort the whole thing.
That night I didn’t get laid, but my mind certainly got fucked.
Look, I’m telling you all of these things not to be all “Woe is me. The trials and tribulations of an internet writer!” because ew and LOL. I just, I don’t know, I want the internet to stop feeling like the most annoying person in the world, and I want the people who are in charge of the content to stop behaving like socially awkward monsters. Is that too much to ask? Basically I want writing that feels honest and authentic and not so dirty. My hopes are that the stuff I write here won’t require you to take a bath afterward to get all of the gunk off, but I’m also realistic and know that might be too much to hope for.