(wanted to share this piece I wrote in ’06, two months out of college, because I think it still rings true)
A google used to mean a word of infinite possibilities. It was the childhood answer to a number contest. It was the Phantom Toolbooth’s answer to the end all be all of addition. It was the silencer with a symbol that told us we could never add to find the right answer. Now it is the name of a website, and, in my opinion, an appropriate name to this new era we are surfing into.
We can http://www.google.com a million gateways to endless amounts of any information we might need to know. Here is the site that can answer all of our questions. We can find sex, common loneliness, song lyrics, bank statements, and our college roomate’s new address. This wireless site links us to one another, or to those who have internet access. What does one do with all this information in front of them? How can we be satisfied with any answer when we know in .01 seconds we can find a dozen other answers?
This problem echoes throughout every aspect of our postmodern lives. Richard Powers, a brilliant author, stated that we as people “tend to feel more overwhelmed than unhappy.” Unhappiness can be solved because another possibility awaits us with the next click. People are now transient and forever dissatisfied. Today people switch careers almost as often as other’s change their hair color. We can easily remake ourselves but at the same time anyone can track our trail. Anyone who once owned a cell phone, used a computer, or had a bank account can never completely leave an old self, an old life behind.
We can inherit each others’ past lives and claim them as our own. Every time our boss gives us a blackberry, or each time we use another computer, we are mirroring millions of variations of the same theme that haunts us. Then a letter is changed, another chord is struck, and we feel ourselves unraveling into another story. Somehow we are continuously narrating the future, while dragging the past behind us. These two oppositions of past and future leave us in the purgatory of the present.
As I stand at the crossroads of my own life, I join the vast amounts of those who are in awe of all our options: Where should I move? What career should I pick? Who should I spend the rest of my life with? Even, “what kind of person do I want to be,” can lead to an answer that equals Google; inside each person and choice live a million unlived lives that are pure fantasy.
At one point in time, those lives might have been implied but weren’t at your fingertips, standing right in front of you (or beneath/next/across/down the street from you). Many of these unlived lives weren’t within our grasp because of uncontrollable factors that dictated choice and possibility. In the literary sense, people were working within some imposed structure. Now we are not functioning between two immobile binaries, but walking along the seam of meaningless meaning. What once seemed liberating is now a blur of overwhelming dissatisfaction. The structure has exploded, and we are left with Google.