Overpopulated by nothing, crowded by a sparseness
Guided by darkness, too much, not enough.
Content, that’s what you’d call it
An infant screaming in every room in your gut
Bets strum on an intention but best left unattended
How gathered the pixels in the dust of the digital age to our being
That’s an excerpt from Parquet Courts’ (or Parkay Quartz) fairly unnoticed 2014 release ‘Content Nausea’. Compared to its older brother ‘Sunbathing Animal’ from the same year, ‘Content Nausea’ seems to sit as a series of anxious and frustrated afterthoughts of lead songwriters Andrew Savage and Austin Brown; there’s songs about going to bed but never sleeping, the futility of modernity, even a cover of punk staple “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’”.
But ‘Content Nausea’ hit me most personally in its title track, which asks the simple question, what are we doing with all our comments and our images? Are they just a bonfire to the gods of content? Don’t worry, I’m not about to be one of those assholes that chastises you for using Facebook or owning a selfie stick, you can do whatever you want, but it’s made me question, as an editor and contributor to yet another student magazine of which there are definitely too many, what am I actually contributing to the world?
In a digital social sphere dominated by opinion pieces and comment sections people often tell young writers that they need to have a unique voice to be heard above the squalor, but how true is that really? I’m becoming more and more subscribed to the idea that shock-jocks and controversial voices aren’t the defining individuals of this generation of news and media, but that the waves of anonymous clickers and scrollers are the ones that are burning a path into the future; but when led by anonymity and vague characterisation, where are we even headed?
Even when singular voices break out of cracks in whatever social hive-mind they were born in and end up writing a noticed op-ed about the topic of the day, it’s becoming more and more apparent that thoughtful discussion and memes are just about the same gasoline for the same fire, and at this point I have to point out, yes, I’m very aware of the hypocrisy of this article.
So, if this really is as significant an issue as I’m making it out to be, what’s the solution? The sharing of content and the way in which we do it is the issue. Right now, if you’ve written something you’re proud of, what do you do? Post it on your blog or whatever and scattershot repost it on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr? These online sharing platforms have given people the ability to share like they’ve never shared before, but we’ve sterilized our feelings and thoughts in the process. An essay published on The New Yorker’s website and one published on your blog with 4 follows exist in the same space, by why place them there? Why not take your writing and share it in a physical sense? Read it to a friend, print it into your own newspaper and spread it about town. ‘Content Nausea’ has another line where Andrew Savage asserts:
For this year it became harder to be tender
Harder and harder to remember
Meeting a friend, writing a letter, being lost
Antique ritual, All lost to the ceremony of progress
With all our creation and creative expression being handed these new outlets with which to spread themselves, I’m left staring at a huge pile and trying to pick words out of the rubble. Modern society has bred an impressive desire for discussion, but we’ve lost our way when it comes to curation.