Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Tavi’s Utopia

Image: Sean Santiago, Architectural Digest

Tavi Gevinson is the editor of Rookie, and internet magazine for teen-age girls. She starts her new year Editor’s Letter with an H. P. Lovecraft quote:
“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”
It is the opening of his famous 1928 horror story, “The Call of Cthulhu.” In 2018, it reads like a warning on an internet instruction manual. Tavi elaborates on this dual theme at considerable length, with numerous insights:
The internet feels chaotic, but it is not out of control. The internet is not one giant, democratic forum where opinions rise to the top by their own merit; it is a very deliberate structure, carefully calibrated to convince its users that visibility is the same as power.
She continues for several pages, giving the reader a fascinating look into her mind at work. Her struggles with the internet, self-acceptance and despair culminates with these proscriptions for the new year:
Whatever you need to do to create that space for yourself, do it this year. Do it now. Fight the new pace of thinking designed to keep us in Facebook fights and make Facebook more money. Resist getting so wound up by every story that you accelerate off a cliff into apathy. Lengthen the circuit between a candid thought and your anticipation of how it will be received, a circuit constantly shrinking in fear. Try your ideas out with people you are not desperate to impress, so there’s less ego clouding your discussion.
Christopher Mims, a tech columnist at the Wall Street Journal tweeted:
This is maybe the smartest essay I’ve ever read? I can’t be sure because the whole thing is one long intellectual out of body experience and I want to screen-quote every third paragraph.
Tavi is uniquely qualified to discuss the internet and its meaning. She has been at its forefront since she was a child, always keeping her wits about her, never becoming overwhelmed by the monsters inhabiting its depths, still capable of seeing the stars above her. 

By Professor Batty


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