One of my favorite blogs is The Rumpus. Actually, I don’t really think of it as a blog since it is written by multiple people, but I suppose it counts as one. The Rumpus is what I read when I want to feel smarter than I do when I’m reading Gawker, but when I still want to be assured that at least 50 percent of the writers have tattoos. I am more likely to read something and think, “I didn’t know anyone else had even HEARD of that!” than I am at the NYT or other sites. I’m also more likely to read personal experiences that sound like they could be written by me, rather than by someone with a lot of money who lives in Manhattan.
The Rumpus was partially started by the phenomenal Portland writer Cheryl Strayed, who wrote Wild, which is one of my favorite memoirs. She writes an advice column there called Dear Sugar. The Rumpus publishes All Over Coffee, my favorite comic, gorgeous watercolors and ink drawings of San Francisco mixed with cryptic and literary captions that are usually unrelated to the artwork (the only other place it appears is the San Francisco Chronicle). When one of my favorite musicians died young in 2013, The Rumpus published the most moving tribute I found on the internet.
Pretty much anytime I am reading the site, something will catch my eye in the sidebar — a link or reference to one of my favorite writers, musicians, artists, movies, etc.
It’s almost like being in an echo chamber of my own mind. If I haven’t already heard of the topic at hand, I can pretty much be assured that it will be right up my alley. This is one aspect of the internet that kind of creeps me out. I’m pretty sure that it’s been scientifically proven that the atomization of our lives via the internet is responsible for the polarization of political and cultural discourse. We can all just retreat to our little corner of the world where we never have to hear from anyone with an opposing viewpoint.
Going in a different direction from the previous paragraph, blogs like The Rumpus are a little overwhelming because I *am* so interested in almost every post. I can get sucked in and waste five hours reading, and only get through the last week’s worth of content. I will be halfway through an article and get sidetracked clicking on all the interesting links at the side. That is great for spending a lazy Sunday, not so great when I have work to do or when I am trying to get my attention span to last longer than three minutes. There is something satisfying about reading a newspaper from cover to cover — not necessarily reading every single article, but glancing at the headlines, reading the articles that look interesting, getting to the end, closing it, and being done. On a blog you are never done, by virtue of infinite scrolling receding into the past.
There is a story by Jorge Luis Borges about a fantastical kingdom where the obsessive ruler wants to create a map that is at a 1:1 scale with the kingdom — that is, the map is the same exact size as the kingdom and covers the entire landmass. With the internet, I feel like that, but worse. Instead of one map, there are thousands. Thousands of bloggers and writers writing all day, and I am just one person. I may be able to read faster than they can write, but I will never ever finish, because there are only so many hours in the day and days in the year and years in our lives. I suppose that my anxiety about missing great writing is not a reason to take issue with the internet, though it does warrant its own acronym — FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out. Other people might be afraid of missing out on the best party this weekend; I am afraid of missing out on the best writing.