I mentioned, did I not, in my previous post ‘Critical Art Bypass’ that I had been wandering on the web again just recently, looking for watercolour painting sites to help me improve my technique (which translates to mean ‘to help me change the way I paint so that I can stop painting like me, and paint like all the artists whose work I like.’ Bloody well trying to copy, again, aren’t I?! Bane of my life).
The thing is this is only half true. Or a quarter. Or even a third. Yes, I started out on my web-trawl with the intention of specifically looking for the above information. Yes, I set out without telling anyone where I was going. Or why I thought I was going. So yes, as always when I undertake one of these misguided missions into the murky depths of cyberspace, I ended up wandering around the web for hours, battered and bewildered, wondering bemusedly how I’d gotten from art to armpits. You read that right – armpits. Namely, how to make your own deodorant, using only natural ingredients. And how to make your own shampoo. And your own perfume. And your own toothpaste. And your own... The list, as I discovered, is endless. As are the links.
Links? Yes, links. You know, those things liberally peppered around websites, enticing you to click and go... off into who-knows-what alternate universe. They say things like, “If you liked this, then you might want to read...,” or, “What other people are reading,” or, “Related topics.” Plus, there are the ones that are just the odd word or sentence, usually embedded within the body of the main text, which light up when you place your cursor over them. Oh, how I love the words that light up – mirroring what my mind does when it catches sight of all those lovely distractions! And, of course, you just HAVE to click on them. You do. Don’t you?
Well, according to my sane and sensible friend (who’s about as autistic as a plastic bag), no you don’t. Apparently, other people don’t come on the web looking for one thing and, twelve hours later (that's NOT an exaggeration), find themselves still on here, completely lost, not able to recall what they were originally searching for, and having been led by the nose along a trail that’s taken them from the sublime to the ridiculous.
I mean, who goes from looking up autism to celebrity gossip – especially when they don’t even own a television, don’t listen to the radio, and don’t read newspapers or magazines? So what relevance does it have to my life? None. But in that moment of compulsive madness it becomes the most important thing in the world to catch up on everything I’ve missed out on in the last six months, or however long it’s been since my last trawl took me to this region of web-space; and I find my life inextricably linked (pause for ironic laughter) to that of Britney Spears, Rhianna, the cast of the new Bond movie, or whomever I happen to stumble upon as I blindly click my way to another bout of autistic obsessive/compulsive insanity.
This is what my best friend means when she says that the web is not designed for me. I don’t do surfing – you know, skimming lightly over the surface, riding the waves of information ‘til I find what I want, blithely leaving behind that which isn’t relevant, and not getting bogged down in the troughs. I do deep-sea diving, without enough oxygen to sustain me, ‘cos I’m not good at planning, and I never intend to be down that long. So I end up feeling dizzy and disoriented from the lack of air, and the pressure of all that information pushing down on my head. And there I get stuck, plodding along in the darkest depths, dredging the ocean floor to make sure I don’t miss anything, and collecting all the crap that other people would leave behind. Hell, half of it is probably the crap that people have dumped there in the first place.
Which is how come I end up reading twenty-five different web-sites about the same thing, in case one of the others has a different answer, a better answer, the RIGHT answer. Not that this does me much good when I haven’t got a clue what the right answer is: so how I would recognise it even if I did happen to fall over it in my manic, skim-reading frenzy is beyond me. But I keep trying. Oh, how I do keep trying. It’s as if I imagine that I’m going to have a “Eureka!” moment the instant I find what I’ve been searching for. I have lots of them away from the web (usually very short-lived, and frequently duds), but I don’t think I’ve ever had one on-line. I tend to come off here feeling more baffled than before I came on, having flooded myself with too much information, most of which bears no relevance to my original search query.
“Why do I keep doing it?” Why does the sun come up every morning? Why does the earth keep turning? Buggered if I know. What I think I know is that I love reading, and I love accumulating information (though I don’t quite know what to do with it once I’ve acquired it), and I get to do both on a massive scale on the web – unfortunately, without restrictions. I haven’t yet learned to do discernment. I think it’s a grand idea, but put me in front of a computer, or in a library, or in front of a television, and I will read or watch anything that catches my interest. And my interest is easily caught. It’s not picky, and would probably be the equivalent of a cheap date. I am an internet tart – I get around a lot, especially as my interest is just as easily lost.
I also have a trigger-happy finger which just itches to click those links. And I spend the whole of my time with my hand clasped around the mouse in a death-grip (in case it runs away, perhaps, and gets mauled by a cat), which explains why I have recently started experiencing aches in my wrist, which are probably repetitive strain injuries. My answer to that? I just use my left hand instead of my right. That way I get to have RSIs in both hands – but it means I get to keep on clicking. As you can see, I was born with an abundance of common sense.
So, having admitted to my linking problem, I guess it’s probably time I tried to do something about it. Controlled linking, perhaps?