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Internet Issue - February 19, 2013
ALONE TOGETHER Art by Noah Harmon
FREE WIFI Joe Dammel looks at the physical places where we go online, some of them unexpected.
LOOKING FOR LOVE IN ALL THE WEB PLACES Bethany Nelson takes us on a journey through Internet dating.
GEORGE Comic by Lauren Fechner
YOU’VE GOT NOSTALGIA The Internet was waaay better in the ‘90s, Christiaan “Bacon” Tarbox says.
LOVE IN THE TIME OF CRAIGSLIST This Missed Connection actually worked--Courtney Algeo gets the story from both m and w.
THE INTERNET! Comic by Amber Verhulst
DUNATION: A decade ago, this message board defined Minneapolis hip-hop. Jack Spencer interviews some of the people who made it that way.
CATFISHING Inspired by the MTV show, Rebecca Schultz tried hiding behind a false Internet identity.
HIDE YOUR SHAME Amina Harper has probably online stalked you.
THE DARK SIDE OF THE INTERNET Nathaniel Smith explores the Internet’s underbelly through art.
AGES OF THE INTERNET Comic by Drew Brockington
THE INTERNET IS DOWN Comic by Blaine Garrett
HELLO, I’M LISA, AND I’M A SOCIAL MEDIAHOLIC Lisa Olson needs an iPhone intervention. COVER BY MATTVISIONQUEST LAYOUT BY CLARISSA HAMILTON BACKGROUND PHOTOS BY ANDREW CASEY AND BRIAN HART
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LETTER FROM THE EDITORIAL DIRECTOR My favorite YouTube video is nine seconds long. It consists of a weather announcer in Haiti concluding a forecast by saying, “Pretty much everywhere, it’s gonna be hot.” The camera cuts back to the show’s anchors, and the woman says, “Then I don’t need a jacket!” Cut back to the weather man--he stares in silence for a moment, then breaks into delighted laughter: “A-hee hee hee hee!” “Thanks, Arthur,” the lady anchor smiles. That’s it. That’s the video. By now, it’s possible that the number of times I’ve watched “Pretty much everywhere, it’s gonna be hot.” is in the triple digits, and I can’t even really articulate why. Arthur’s infectious giggle? The happy reactions of the anchors? The absurdity that comes from how short and context-less the clip is? I don’t know, but I’ve thought to myself that I’m glad I was born when I was, so that now, in 2013, I can pull up and enjoy “Pretty much everywhere, it’s gonna be hot.” pretty much everywhere and anytime. Of course, I use the Internet for a lot of other things: talking to friends or people I’d like to befriend; watching Twin Peaks and accidentally reading Twin Peaks spoilers; idly clicking through wedding photos posted by people I barely know; scrolling; searching; storing information. When I was 14, I used it to read explicitly sexual Harry Potter fan fiction during newspaper class. When I was 16, I used it to make fun of suburban Chicago kids on a message board about high school quiz bowl. When I was 18, I used it to muse about my life in obsessive detail on a blog that wasn’t as private as I thought it was. I know there’s plenty online to make the average user pessimistic about all of humanity, but to me, at its best, the Internet is about learning and making connections: seeing video from India of a young boy playing an instrument whose name I don’t know; tweeting “WHO’S THE LADY KILLING IT ONSTAGE?” at a hip-hop show and getting a reply from the rapper herself; following Twitter accounts in Iran or Egypt during those countries’ uprisings. I like being able to scroll down a page on Tumblr and see a post about lady skateboarders in Bolivia right after a personal reflection from someone who lives in my city. I think I’m happiest, as an Internet user, when I’m learning about something that previously was totally outside my experience. I think MPLSzine can and should be about discoveries and connections like that--people sharing their unusual and original experiences, writers partnering with artists, people interviewing strangers to learn what they have to say. Minneapolis may not be as vast as the Internet, but there are thousands and thousands of stories here that I don’t know yet and art I haven’t seen. I’d love for each issue to have as much potential for the new and weird as an hour spent clicking around the Internet. And I hope that MPLSzine continues to have a place for the irreverent, absurd and goofy--that pretty much every issue, there’s gonna be something as fun and unexpected as Arthur and his laugh. A-hee hee hee hee! Sincerely, Colleen firstname.lastname@example.org
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CONTRIBUTORS Courtney Algeo serves as the editorial director of Paper Darts, and works at The Loft Literary Center. Corey Feldman once smiled at her.
Bethany Nelson is just a crazy girl trying to make it in the big city. She enjoys cat videos, baking cakes and Judd Apatow movies.
Drew Brockington is an illustrator and designer newly relocated to Minneapolis. He is currently working on a graphic novel. Andrew Casey, one of MPLSzine’s Visual Directors, is a photographer residing in Minneapolis. He migrates towards shooting stationary objects and street scenes. He has had a long-held passion and appreciation for street art and graffiti, which led to a history of documenting the artwork under the alias Urban Camper.
Lisa Olson is a barista by day, sandwich eater by afternoon, and podcaster/voice actor by evening (“All My Nonsense” airs at 8:30 p.m. every Thursday on Noagendastream.com). Night is usually booked for insomnia, which typically consists of the consumption of more sandwiches and infinite cat-related internet searches. New to the world of the written word, she's no stranger to the majesty that is Minneapolis and its lovely outlying counterparts. Suburb sown, city grown! Follow her at @LaLaZigfreid and Allmynonsense.com
Chris Cloud is a Creative Thinkdoer and the Publication Director of MPLSzine. He is very excited that MPLSzine gets to highlight remarkable creative work from the MPLS community. He hopes you enjoy the fruits of their labor, time, and passion. See more at chriscloud.com
Zoë Pizarro is a native Minneapolitan. She is MPLSzine's new intern and a student at the University of Minneapolis. She is still uncomfortable calling herself an artist or writer, but she's working on it. She lives for the future's undisclosed adventures.
Kyle Coughlin, Illustration Director at MPLSzine, is a designer and illustrator living in Minneapolis. He enjoys drawing, screen printing, and being awesome. See his work at kylomoonguts.com.
Colleen Powers is MPLSzine’s Editorial Director. She was born Rockford, Illinois and lives in Northeast Minneapolis, and you can usually find her at dance parties, libraries or rap shows. Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” is her one weakness.
Joe Dammel is a film photographer roaming the streets of Minneapolis with a bag full of antiquated technology. He embraces modern technology, too: Find his work at abrandnewminneapolis.tumblr.com. Lauren Fechner is an aspiring artist living and working in Minneapolis. She earned a degree in studio arts from UW-River Falls and has a love for comics and cartoons. Follow her on Tumblr: http://lafetch.tumblr.com. Blaine Garrett is one of the artists in Dim Media. He calls Seward hood his home. It's great. See more of his work at http://dimmedia.com and http://www.facebook.com/DimMedia Clarissa Hamilton, Layout Director for MPLSzine, is a graduate from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. She is a designer living and working in Minneapolis and has an obsession with making zines. Visit her website: clarissaham.com Noah Harmon is a visual artist living in Minneapolis. He received a B.F.A. from St. Cloud State University. Themes explored in his work include, but are not limited to: relaxing, enjoyment, creeps, hotties, famous animals, and common phrases. The work is informed by pop culture, television, and the supernatural. Contact him at email@example.com and check out more work at www.noahharmon.com. Amina Harper is an artist, writer, snack enthusiast, warrior princess and part time alchemist currently residing in Minneapolis. Follow her: https:// twitter.com/aminaharperart aminaharperart.blogspot.com and instagram.com/aminaharperart Brian Hart, one of MPLSzine’s Visual Directors, is a Minneapolis-based artist. His eyes are always hungry. He hopes yours are, too. Google: brianmatthewhart Matthew Jacobs, Social Outreach Director at MPLSzine, is a PhD Candidate in the social sciences at the University of Minnesota. During the day he studies Chinese and religion under authoritarianism. At night he runs dance parties at the Uptown VFW. Say hello sometime at Tuesday Night Music Club
Rebecca Schultz is a Chicago-bred senior English major at Macalester College. When she’s not pounding away on her laptop, you can find her in between library stacks, taking a nap. Tweet her: @rebeccaschultz Nathaniel Smith is an artist, writer and curator from Minneapolis. He mostly creates appropriated drawings and 3D works, and occasionally installations and video/sound projects. He writes for l’etoile “Art&Vision” arts review and for mnartists.org. He was the director of The FUTURE PRESENCE Gallery, and plans on opening his NIGHTGalleries sometime in late 2013. His website is www.everythingalwaysdripsdown.com, and you can find him rambling words on Twitter at @Nathanielmpls and rambling images at everythingalwaysdripsdown/tumblr. Jack Spencer is a freelance writer living in Minneapolis, mostly covering the local rap scene for the City Pages. He can be found on Twitter at @ emceeharv. Mason Sklar is a senior illustration major at MCAD who also makes comics and computer comics. See more of his work at http://masonsklar.com Christiaan Tarbox, better known to the world as Bacon, is a journalism major at the University of Minnesota, a freelance graphic designer, a film review blogger, undisputed Minneapolis karaoke champion, and a professional nerd. Follow him on Twitter: @thatbaconguy Amber Verhulst moved to Minneapolis from the Black Hills of South Dakota. She enjoys drawing, painting and graphic design. She's also a sucker for comics, video games and cartoons. She hangs out at vrhlst.tumblr.com Matt Visionquest is a video and graphic artist who was born on TV and lives in his computer. Check out more of his work at www.yepnope.tumblr. com
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Free Wifi We are afforded a myriad of different ways to connect to the Internet, with multiple connections available to us at any one time. Do we put much thought into which connection we use? Surely at home, school or work, we are likely to use a wireless network, and preferably a password-protected one at that. But businesses also use free wifi as a convenience to customers, sometimes in seemingly odd locales. For example, laundromats often offer free wifi, which seems out of place, but makes complete sense given the few hours one is likely to spend there waiting. Whether we are sitting in a laundromat, a coffee shop or a city park, we can connect. The Internet is just...there. I decided to document some of these locations in the city that people like me walk by every day without noticing. My goal was not to highlight some profound absurdity of modern life, but rather to document how subtly this technology has grown to provide convenience for our hectic, modern lives. I thought that maybe by capturing it all on film, that ancient, analog medium, I could trace it back to some logical beginning, back to the days of Angelfire and Geocities. I thought that by laying the Polaroids out on a table, I could connect the dots of technology in a more logical fashion. 8 MPLSzine // INTERNET
Instead, what struck me was the hidden-in-plain-sight nature of the series. Sometimes, “the Internet” is present in a flashy, yet somehow nondescript sign in a store window, meant to assure potential customers that they will be able to stay connected upon entering. Other times, it’s only visible to those who make it a habit of peering up at telephone poles and street lamps. It dawned on me that maybe the magic of this technological world isn’t the structural framework which makes it all possible; I mean, you could marvel at the complexity of our wastewater system all day, but as long as your toilet flushes, who really cares? No, the real magic is in the way the multiple forms of connecting to the internet becomes a sort of comforting security blanket around our fragile digital selves. I feel uneasy whenever the wireless network goes down and I don’t have my phone with me to patch me through to Facebook and Gmail. Maybe we’ve subconsciously created a series of fail-safes so that this feeling becomes a rarer occurrence in our lives, sparing ourselves from digital helplessness. Or maybe it’s just so we don’t get so bored while our clothes are getting cleaned. Words and photos by Joe Dammel
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AN ORAL HISTORY OF MINNEAPOLIS’ HIP-HOP MESSAGE BOARD The former hub for all things related to Minneapolis hip-hop, the famed website DUNation made a formidable mark on the scene. Running from mid-2001 through 2007, the site was host to information regarding shows, venues, artists, graffiti, and just about anything a rap head could want, and it stood out in a time when local publications shied from hip-hop coverage and when social networking had yet to rear its head. The notorious DUNation message board was host to a number of key scene figures and fans, and carried a drama all its own. I interviewed the site’s founder Lars Larson, as well as some former board members, to get a glimpse of the site’s impact. Written by Jack Spencer INTERNET // MPLSzine
LARS LARSON - Basically, I was in college, and me and my cousin were trying to figure out what shows were when and all that stuff, and at the time City Pages and Star Tribune weren't really advertising local hip-hop shows. You basically had to go to record shops and collect flyers, and not everyone was able to do that, so we came up with the idea to start a City Pages for the local hip-hop scene. If you wanted to have a semi-successful website, it was a pretty good idea to have a message board to draw traffic. We thought we'd make it easy, too--instead of artists emailing flyers seven days a week, they could just post it on the board and people would see it. It kind of took on a life of its own. [laughs] FRANZ DIEGO - People would talk about everything. It was a time when the scene was more cohesive in terms of graffiting, breaking, DJing--all that stuff was more pronounced and fortified back then. It came out more online, and would people would have debates about who best did this, and what was good and this and that. I was working at Yo! the Movement, before any social networking, so that was a main place we would connect with everybody. If we're trying to find rappers, or we're trying to find graffiti artists, or spoken word, or we're trying to promote a show, that was really the place you would go the first time and let people know from there. From there a lot of information would disseminate because a lot of people would check in. LARS - Everyone's got a story. Some people, it was like a part of their everyday life. They probably woke up, ate breakfast, and went onto DUNation. [laughs] We never had a time period, from the time we launched to the time we sold, we never had a down period. We never had a lull. There were some days, I would kinda do it as a joke, but I would shut down the message board if it was nice out. I would leave a note like, go outside and play! Cliques evolved out of it. 16 MPLSzine // INTERNET
ALI ELABBADY (AKA EGYPTO KNUCKLES) - It was thanks to DU that I booked a good majority of the local scene on The Beat Box on Radio K, and not only that, but I got to know most of the folks, fans and artists alike, because of the Yafa Building Sessions I organized on there. That’s largely how Background Noise Crew came about. It was interesting times. LARS - Everything helped everything else out. If there weren’t any shows or rappers in the city, our site wouldn’t have been dick. Since the scene was so poppin at the time, that’s why the site was so popular. Our scene was so alive at the time. FRANZ DIEGO - The DUNation parties were a big deal too. Those were really dope parties, I know a few battles went down impromptu. It was just a hub, and I know it connected a lot of artists together, it was a real good way to get information out to people. It was really intense back then. It was a fun place on the Internet. Very addictive. CHANTZ EROLIN - Somebody had made a thread on the message board about how Doomtree was the rap version of the Burger King Kids gang, all these comparisons, all this shit. There’s some like Latino kid in the Burger King Kids gang that was Mike, the black dude was Stef, the smart kinda nerdy girl was Dessa, all this shit. It was pretty fucked up. I think Mike was like fuck you, trying to clown or something. It was crazy, because I didn’t know anybody in the rap scene at the time, except for people that like wasn’t in the youth spoken word scene, where I primarily was, it was just crazy being like “That’s the Mike Mictlan on the message board!” I was 14 at the time, I wore a Rhymesayers hoodie everyday between seventh grade and sophomore year. There were people on there making fun of Atmosphere and I’m like, “You can’t fucking do that! This is the Internet!” It was half me being an annoying little kid because I thought it was funny and half being an annoying little kid because that’s what I was. INTERNET // MPLSzine
LARS - I know the message board alone has produced two kids, a couple marriages, a couple divorces. It was like a "Behind the Music" of the local hip-hop scene, pretty much. There was crazy shit going on. A lot of stalkers on there. A lot of girls would go on there and try to look for Slug. Every type of person was on there. Rappers, DJs, producers, you had your fans, your stalkers, your really heavy militants, like Afro-Tek, he was cool, he was really black militant, he would get on some people at times, him and [Brother] Ali would go after people a lot. This wife and husband both had an account on the message board, and they both posted all the time. So the husband went on there and noticed that the wife was logged in, so he goes on there and starts reading all her private messages from all these dudes on the message board, and a couple of them were rappers, and she was straight up having an affair with all these guys from the board, and he sees this on his computer! He was just pissed, she comes home and they fight it out, a couple weeks later sheâ€™s moving out, and they're getting a divorce. I'm just like, oh my God, over a fucking message board! There was one girl who kind of got around with different rappers and people in the scene. She got on the message board like, "Hey, I'm pregnant everyone!". People were on there freaking out, like "Oh shit, is it mine?" People didn't know who the dad was, all these people are walking around nervous and shit. That was one of the more popular threads, I remember that for sure. It really had a life of its own. FRANZ DIEGO - [Lars] dealt with so much BS from that site, and he had to pay for everything out of pocket. There was no financial support or sponsorship. People got their feelings really hurt by something that happened on there--if somebody got really called out on something, he'd be the person to get bashed on everything. LARS - It was really hard to moderate it sometimes. The girl I was dating at the time was getting stalked by angry rappers. It was getting kind of out of hand. If a rapper's album failed or if a show failed, I'd get blamed for it. I don't know why, I had nothing to do with it. They'd direct their anger at me. Some rapper in the basement no one ever heard of would start crying because we never made an article about him, so we ruined his career that never started to begin with. I used to get threats all the time, but I never really paid any attention to them. Just a bunch of kids typing on a keyboard, that's all it was. Until I got my tires slashed, that was a little different.
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BIG ZACH - When DUNation came, I was real intent on never publishing anything. I always tried to stay away from DUNation. I thought it created a lot of negativity. Growing up, I didn't grow up in household with a computer, I didn't understand what the internet was until I was in my mid-twenties. I felt like Internet interaction in general can create a different side of people's personalities. When people are beefin' and hatin' and talkin' shit on those message boards, they never have to see each other. Some people talk shit on the message boards and probably just considered it to be fun and sarcastic, and then other people took it different. CHANTZ EROLIN- I don't think I was actually trying to start shit, but I definitely was obnoxious. I'm not going to be respectful, I''m not going to back down, it's the Internet. If I think somebody's wack, I'm going to talk about it in the most ill-informed, immature way. I definitely fired some shots. The crew Get Nice would every once in a while start a thread like "What the fuck is with this kid? Can we ban him or something?" One of the turning points was Heidi Barton Stink, who I knew through Hope [Community Center], hit me up, and she was telling me that she at the P.O.S. show, and that some people were talking shit about me in line. As somebody who was new to the Internet, even to where the Internet was, I was like, "Oh shit!" I kinda toned it down. That was definitely the first time the real world and the Internet ever intersected for me. I was on message boards and shit where it wasn't real at all, because all these people were a million miles away. It seemed to be very primarily Minneapolis people. It was like a secret little club for the scene. LARS - We got a lot of hits from the graffiti stuff, too--you gotta keep the graf stuff active. A lot of the graf-heads would post their stuff on the boards and ask for feedback and stuff, too, and what was fucked up was Officer Donna Olson, the graffiti task force officer, she would actually go and troll the message board to find out who was who... It was funny, because she would actually post sometimes too, and everybody thought it was a joke. The cops were on there a lot, actually. That was back when rap beefs were kind of real, 50 Cent getting shot and all that shit, so the cops are already on high alert about hip-hop and rap in general, and then they see all this fighting on the message board and they really thought they had an issue in the city. I'd get emails once in a while, like "Should we be worried about this?" Like, no, man, it's a message board.
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FRANZ DIEGO - I know all the Rhymesayers dudes were definitely checking that board, even if they weren't posting or letting people know. They all had accounts on that board so they could see what was going on. They'd chime in from time to time. It was a place where everybody was able to kind of take the temperature of the scene, kind of see who's making the most noise, who to build with, that sort of thing. In a way it kind of leveled the playing field, leveled the communication. LARS - One dude who really snapped was Masta I. He wasn't signed to Rhymesayers, but they were kinda helping him out a lot, Ant was producing for him at the time. People weren't really coming out for his shows or buying his CDs, I don't know, it just wasn't clicking. He happened to go on the board one day and just vent, and he went at Siddiq and Ali and Sean, went at all of them. He went at everybody, the whole city! He kind of killed his career in that one post. Rappers would go on the board and post something, literally kill their career with a click. A lot of the rappers didn't realize that a lot of people didn't log on [necessarily] but they read that shit, the press did too. I feel bad for some of those guys. There was one guy on there that was posting under numerous aliases and stuff, and a lot of the rappers are getting pissed, like who is this guy? I'm like fuck it, I'm gonna look up the IP addresses, I didn't really do that a lot, but I did it for this case because a lot of people were getting pissed off. It was this one rapper using all these different names, starting fights with himself to build hype for his record or something. I was like, fuck it, I'm gonna call this guy out, he's the same guy. That's probably the dude that slashed my tires, now that I think about it. That dude was pissed. LARS- I sold it to Vital Vinyl [in 2007], and basically they killed it off within a year. If I had known they were going to do that, I would've just held on to it. It was kind of like a full-time job, I didn't mind the extra work, staying up late nights and all that, but I just had major surgery and I needed the money for medical bills. It seemed like a good time to sell. I was also working at Rhymesayers at the time and I felt kinda guilty being there and running DU, it felt weird to do both. I gave them the instructions to keep it successful. They got it, and they split everything off from the site except the message board, and basically everyone stopped going to the site because it was basically a message board and nothing else. They didn't moderate it or update it even, and then they shut it down within a year. I still know people that won't shop there. Aside from the dumb knuckleheads slashing tires, it was awesome. I met a lot of great people that I still talk to today. I like to think we had a small part in helping get Minneapolis hip-hop to what it is today.
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few months ago, I received the millionth dirty look from my boyfriend for completely ignoring him at the expense of “checking in” to our usual haunt. I had a moment of revelation that I had probably been more intimate with Foursquare than him recently. It had gotten so bad that I once was so busy fiddling with my phone I walked into a liquor store display, completely embarrassing myself, yet even then did not realize I had become one of THOSE PEOPLE. It was that moment, looking into the total disdain in my boyfriend’s eyes, that it dawned on me. After over eight years together and many unappealing habits he was able to get past, this was one that truly seemed to disgust him. That night I made the decision to delete the app from my phone in an attempt to save not only our relationship, but my dignity. Not long after, I was presented with the challenge to abstain from social media all together for a minimum of a weekend. I wasn’t even sure I could do it but I thought for my own mental health I should probably try. Studies have begun to show that Facebook and other social media can be more addictive than sex, and harder to give up than certain narcotics! Whether you believe that to be true, I can attest that personally, I would equate the level of anxiety over “quitting” Facebook to quitting smoking. For me, the constant need to touch that little blue button was equal to my hands twitching and fidgeting to hold a cigarette. I checked Facebook, Instagram and Twitter one last time just before 9 p.m. Friday night. After closing out and app-killing them on my trusty little iPhone, I decided to move them into the useless utilities folder.
Why would I need a compass Apple, just in case I get lost on my way to Urban Outfitters? I figured this would be a good way for me to keep track, more consciously, of when I would instinctively try to open it by having to knowingly go into that folder. The plan was to not check those sites until the following Monday morning, which seemed like eons too long away. To keep a tally of things, I counted any time thoughts would pop in my head like, “I wish I could check...,” “Insert funny status here,” “It’s so and so’s birthday must write on wall,” “What crazy s*%# is @chrisbrown tweeting now,” “What does everyone’s sepia-filtered breakfast look like today,” and so on. I also counted each time that I was able to confirm that physical feeling, the one where my fingers are responding before the message has even made the entire journey to my brain. Do it, touch it, press the button. Every time that first day, I would have a moment of disappointment, a physical tightening in my stomach when I would realize I wasn’t allowed to look. I am about to share something about myself that you may find disgusting and possibly horrifying. On that first day, from 9 a.m. through 5 p.m., those moments happened a total of 43 times. Remember, that is only the conscious ones--never mind moments I may have missed! I try to tell myself that oh, that’s not so bad, compared to the worst. I can’t imagine how much valuable time 15-year-olds piss away taking and posting “selfies” in bathroom mirrors smeared in toothpaste spit to gather as many likes as it takes to keep their self-esteem intact for just one more day. Comparatively, maybe that’s not too terrible, but when I’m being honest with myself, 43 is a lot. INTERNET // MPLSzine
Over 40 times in 8 hours--let’s think about that in terms of addiction. If I was an alcoholic, that many drinks in that amount of time would most certainly kill me. That much cocaine, my heart would explode. In this case, I think the addiction is being about the need to feel relevant, noticed, part of something. One of the toughest parts of not being a part of the social media circuit that weekend was the sense that I was missing out on something. What if I miss the best cat meme ever created in history, to be completely banned by Monday and never to be seen with my eyes?! How will I know if it’s snowing outside? That first day was filled with the real physical effects of withdrawal. It makes me a bit nauseous just thinking about it. Fortunately, by Sunday, the urges had certainly started to subside a bit, an acceptance set in that perhaps my life will still continue normally, as will my friends’ even without my regular thumbs up of encouragement. My heart felt a little lighter even, almost a sense of relief that I got to escape from things like guiltily choosing “maybe” to an acquaintance’s event I know I will not attend. By that evening I was fully confident that I could do this a whole week easily. Had I overcome the Zuckerberg on my back?
Monday morning was a different story. When I came downstairs to begin getting ready for work, my phone seductively lit up at me as though it knew it was that exact moment I would arrive. This was the moment of personal truth where I had to choose if I was strong enough to continue this charade of apathy. I am slightly embarrassed and disappointed to say no. I am of weak will, and like a siren’s song tempting a ship straight into certain death, I opened the folder and hovered over the icon. There was a palpable sense of anticipation--if you had seen my face, I’m sure I was wide-eyed, perhaps licking my lips, a cat ready to pounce. The suspense was killing me as I watched that little wheel spin and spin, struggling to update information from so long ago. 26 MPLSzine // INTERNET
Finally, I saw the little red box: notifications! That was the final confirmation that this had all been worth the anxiety, they must be people wondering what had happened, where I had been all this time. The satisfaction was short-lived as the notifications were only to tell me someone needed bricks for their fake farm and a party had been rescheduled. Surprisingly, I was not as perturbed as I thought I would be--in fact, it was a moment of reckoning. This didn’t have to be my life, no one was depending on me to be socially relevant, and the world will not spin out of orbit if I don’t post a picture of the 1935 silver certificate I found at work. No one really cares, and that realization in itself was the sweetest liberation of all. I openly wept when I received the email announcing that I had been “ousted as mayor” of my place of employment. OK, so weeping may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I couldn’t help but wonder if what I was feeling was how France felt after Napoleon came in and was like, “This is my house now, bitch.” There were a few moments of panic: Will this new mayor rule with a kind, yet firm hand? What will happen to my loyal subjects? Will they be forgotten and cast aside like so many crusty refrigerator leftovers? OH WAIT! That’s right--NOTHING WILL HAPPEN! All of my grumpy, eccentric, lovely customers will continue to visit what used to be MY glorious town of coffee delights. They will continue to forget to return the gesture of pleasantries, continue to banter about the weather, continue to complain about prices and forget to tip. Nothing of value was lost, but it did take me a few weeks to get over the compulsory need to “check in.” These days I can proudly say, I am Lisa, and I am 8 weeks Foursquare sober! I hope that someday soon, I will gain the courage to cut all social media out for a whole week, a month and perhaps even completely, but for now I must indulge. There are 90 Twitter followers out there with which I must share this hilarious YouTube video of a cat in a shoebox. Written by Lisa Olson
Like many bright-eyed and rosy-cheeked young college graduates, I thought at one time that I was too good for online dating. You know what I’m talking about--you felt that way once, too. There were commercials to try to make us feel better about it, but we were impervious to their gospel. Commercials with clean-cut couples staring into each other’s eyes in front of a pure white screen, assuring us that they TOOK CHARGE of their dating lives and found THEIR MATCH online. Oh, how we mocked them. Oh, how we pitied their desperate scrambling to find somebody before the next Valentine’s Day. We didn’t need these services, WE would wait for love to find US. Because, after all, why would we want to hurry the universe? But then the commercials started making more and more sense, after that guy at work never called even though he said he had a wonderful time, and your Facebook news feed filled with babies, and your 20-year-old sister was suddenly engaged. Suddenly, the commercials sounded a little more like your mother. And they said, loudly, “Don’t you want to work at this?! Do you think you’re going to meet anyone nice and compatible AT THE BAR?” So it began. Starting out, I had the purest of intentions. I was going to find LOVE! One should recognize that in the world of online dating, there are various categories, much like in the outside dating world. I mean, picture meeting someone on a university campus or at a political function, or perhaps a modeling shoot for Land’s End. Vaguely Kennedy-ish? Many polos? That’s what those commercials promise, after all. Clean and lemony fresh. Then picture meeting someone in an alley, probably while you’re throwing up too many whisky sodas. Ormaybe in a porta-potty at a music festival where it was really rainy so everything is covered in mud. Or you know, at a country bar. That’s about the same spectrum you’ll find in online dating websites. Let me lay it out for you, showing you my own swift descent through these tiers of respectability. Written by Bethany Nelson
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This is supposedly the pastel darling of the online dating world. The earnest commercials I mentioned earlier? Mainly eHarmony. I was going to do this online dating thing right, dammit, if I was going to do it at all, so I set my sights on the site that promised me a respectable relationship. I filled out their (ridiculously long) survey with care, eager to see what handsome gentlemen they would match with my vivacious personality. Instead, I got this message: “Unfortunately, we are not able to make our profiles work for you. Our matching model could not accurately predict with whom you would be best matched. This occurs for about 20% of potential users, so 1 in 5 people simply will not benefit from our service. We hope that you understand, and we regret our inability to provide service for you at this time.” Yeah. Being rejected by an online dating service is kind of like being locked out of a club you didn’t even want to join in the first place. Like sitting at the nerdy kids’ table at lunch one day, just to be nice, only to have them snicker and say “Um. Thanks but no thanks.” So unfortunately, that’s all I know about eHarmony. They wouldn’t even let me in the front door.
Since the bastion of respectable online dating closed its pearly gates to the likes of me, I decided to move to the next dating site that still had legitimate advertising, Match.com. Thankfully, they didn’t reject me. My profile was set up--I was ready to meet my promised soulmate. I waited, sent out some messages and waited some more. But nothing ever happened on Match.com, besides a large number of messages from clearly fake accounts, and I closed my account before I even had a chance to pay for the service.
Next, I moved to OkCupid. OkCupid is where we all end up one day. You know, after our idealism has drained away and we are ready to face the harsh reality of who we’ve become and what exactly that means for our future. The internet equivalent of a sleazy frat party, complete with awkwardly running into people you know who you never expected to see there. Also, it’s free. One of the first messages I received on OkCupid was “Can we fuck in a Goodwill fitting room?” I think that about sums it up. 28 MPLSzine // INTERNET
Feeling dejected by my dismal beginnings in the online dating scene, I thought maybe the problem was that I was abandoning my moral center. So the next website I tried was Christian Cafe, a website which claimed to have “over 2,500 Christian success stories” and used the word “Christian” an average of 72 times on every page to make sure you didn’t forget they were, you know, a Christian dating site. This profile was a little more personal, asking me questions about my church involvement and level of Christian faith that sounded suspiciously as if my mother helped to engineer them. For me, this site was completely unsuccessful. I didn’t exactly fit the persona of Christian marriage material most of the men on the website were searching for, especially once they discovered I worked for a womens’ rights nonprofit at the time. All I had to do was bring up my thoughts on feminist literary theory and these guys ran in the other direction as fast as they possibly could. My roommate, however, embarking on this online dating quest with me, found a guy from Oklahoma who she proceeded to long distance sext with for a number of years. So I guess if you want long distance sexting, this is the website to try! Emotionally stifled Christian guys are just CRAZY in the sexting department.
For those people who can’t find a hookup on OkCupid, or maybe OkCupid is just a little too vanilla for your tastes, there is always Craigslist. I never tried Craigslist, personally, as I didn’t really want to end up drugged and in the back of a 15-passenger van headed for the remote northern Minnesota woods. I’m almost positive that’s what happens to about 45 percent of people who respond to Craigslist dating ads. But that’s a rough estimate. I’m sure it works for some people, and I’m happy that it does. My online dating days have been over for a while now, and although I had a brief resurrection of my OkCupid profile (which I told myself was an act of defiance after a messy breakup), I think I’m done with trying to find LOVE via the Internet. I still check my OkCupid profile, both because it’s entertaining and because overall, OkCupid was the most successful website for me in terms of finding really great people that I actually ended up meeting in the real world. And for me, meeting great people is really a good enough reason to use a dating website from time to time. I’m not sure what this says about me, but I’m fairly certain it means I won’t be starring in any pastel-colored online dating success story commercials any time soon. And you know what? I’m totally okay with that. INTERNET // MPLSzine
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One hard fact that you learn in life is that dating is weird. From afar it seems awesome, but in reality it’s weird and usually disappointing. From what I can tell, it’s always been like that, and frankly, it probably always will be, no matter how many websites promise to make things easier. In my opinion, technology serves only to increase the opportunities for dating to be a relentlessly confusing intersection of awkward pain and horny nonsense rather to than relieve the stress by way of honing down the array of potential mating options. (Prime example: Christian Mingle. Why would God need to invent the Internet before He could help people find the person they’re meant to be with? That sounds needlessly complex, big guy.) While Craigslist seems like the most innocuous of online dating arenas (Craigslist Killer aside)—due mainly to the site’s purpose not specifically being to find the love of your life—it offers the extraordinary opportunity to FUCKING CARPE DIEM DUDE and find the one that got away, a.k.a. that girl who might have smiled at you on the bus. In the end, no matter how many bells and whistles technology adds to dating, meeting someone you fancy is still a Russian roulette of awkward agony, confusion and— 99.9% of the time—heartbreak. When I sat down with former lovebirds Lauren and Scott to hear the story of how Craigslist Missed Connections united them, I felt probably the same exhilaration they both felt while initiating and responding to the Craigslist Missed Connection that brought them together—ANYTHING was possible. And like them, I came to find out that their relationship wasn’t different than other short-term relationships in any way, other than in how it started. The story: Scott and Lauren, each being new or newly returned to the Twin Cities, were both at First Ave for a Girl Talk concert on March 8, 2011. Each was there with a friend—Scott with a tall gangly broken-armed friend, Lauren with a friend named Lauren. Between bands, First Ave showed footage of Watchmen. Lauren commented to her friend about the movie, wondering what it was called. Cue Scott, who leaned over to “mansplain” (his word) that the featured film was Watchmen, but sometimes they showed Purple Rain. New to the city, Lauren didn’t know much about Prince, so they got to talking about him and his connections to the music scene in Minneapolis. Once Girl Talk started playing, the two danced with one another. Apparently, the club was a mob scene. Lauren notes that she would have liked there to be 300 fewer people at First Ave that night. Despite the crowd, they were not only able to see a couple having sex against the soundbooth, but also to find each other. They danced in either a grinding fashion or a restrained near-grinding fashion, depending on which person is telling the story. 32 MPLSzine // INTERNET
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Following their dance sesh, Lauren took a trip to the bathroom and then left, not thinking anything of the guy she’d spent so much Girl Talk time grinding or not grinding with. That night, Scott slept on his friend’s couch where he decided that he would post a Missed Connection for Lauren. “It was a new experience to me—meeting someone on the dance floor,” Scott said. “Totally new. And I thought she was cute and…we had some cultural connections, obviously, and I think that’s all that I was thinking about. I was just, I mean the emotional place I was in, I was really excited to get back out into the field again.” Despite Scott’s excitement, he still managed to wait one day before posting his Missed Connection. “Swingers made me want to appear not so desperate, or that’s the lesson I gathered from it,” Scott admitted. Swingers, by the way, is his favorite movie. “It’s especially important when you’re posting on Craigslist. I mean, I don’t know, people get killed. I don’t want to make a joke of it, cause it’s really serious, but there’s a lot of seedy stuff that happens on Craigslist. I just didn’t want to make it seem like that’s just what I do—go out to bars and bang out a Craigslist missed connection before the sun comes up.” To Lauren, Girl Talk was a fun time, “still one of [her] most awesome concert-going experiences ever,” but dancing with Scott wasn’t a thing. So, a few days later, when a coworker told her that there was a Craigslist Missed Connection for her, she responded with a certain type of incredulousness that only appears when the guise of public anonymity is perforated by technology. “I was like, why would you say that? What about it said to you This has to be Lauren? There are lots of Laurens, that’s a pretty common name. Plus I was there with my friend also named Lauren.” There was also a more traditional reaction to being asked out—after all, it doesn’t really matter what form it takes, right? “It was flattering,” Lauren says. “I’d never just met someone at something like that before. So it was kind of crazy to me to think that I had just walked out of there and didn’t think anything of it, and someone the next day was like I’m going to post on the Internet and try to find this person. “I think [Missed Connections] is something that a lot of people read, at least every now and then. And there is this sense that it would be nice some day for something like that to happen. But it seems like something that always happens to other people.” While Lauren posted about her MC on Twitter and contemplated whether or not to respond, Scott was left to wait.
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“I didn’t forget about it. I definitely did not forget about it, but I was not worrying about it actively,” he said. “I obviously didn’t spend a lot of time putting my heart and soul into it, but I wanted it to be short. I basically wanted it to be like I can spell, I can punctuate, I can capitalize. Even though I didn’t italicize the Watchmen or whatever, though maybe I should have done that. And I wanted to show that I remembered her name. And I just wanted to avoid all the Craigslist tropes and cliches and conventions of creepy Craigslist guys—Tell me what I was wearing and Man I would’ve liked to this this, and that sort of stuff.” After a day or so, Lauren responded, and the two set up a date at Common Roots. Lauren was impressed that Scott took charge in planning the date’s location and time, but she was also nervous that she might not recognize him--after all, they had only met once. But she did, and they hit it off, and they dated on and off for three months. Eventually it died down, and Scott ended up reconnecting with a college friend via OkCupid (who he went on to get engaged to). And that’s it. That’s the story of Lauren and Scott and their Craigslist Missed Connection, which raises the question—was it a “missed connection” at all? Are they ever? Like every conscientious writer who sets out to be well informed before she writes something for public consumption, I did a little Craigslist research. One sentence history about Craigslist: In 1995 Craig Newmark started a simple San Francisco-wide email list of local events and now it’s 2013 and millions of people post on his website everyday for reasons ranging from finding a nacho machine to looking for someone to test homemade adult toys. Of course, while totally normal people use Craigslist every day to buy or sell a couch and look for or post jobs, rarely does any of that come with the same stigma as the jewel of Craigslist—the Missed Connection. According to Wikipedia (god bless you, Wikigods), the five main reasons for posting a missed connection are as follows: • Lost contact information phone numbers, email, etc. exchanged but lost • Delayed courage person couldn’t muster up the courage to ask for contact details at the time of the missed connection • Delayed realization person realises that they should have asked for contact details after the opportunity has passed, but for whatever reason it didn’t cross their mind until later • Lost each other in a crowd • Didn’t meet up again as planned individuals planned to meet up again in the future at a specific time and place without exchanging contact details but one couldn’t attend.
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The top main types? Wiki’s got you: • Romantic--usually involves spotting a stranger, with or without talking to them • One-off encounter • Multiple encounters, e.g. two coffee shop regulars who exchange glances daily when buying their morning coffee • Looking for an old friend • Lost touch with relative • Lost and found personal belongings • Lost pets • Expressing gratitude to a stranger, including thanking employees of businesses • Sexually transmitted disease alert--someone who has an STD concern wants to warn a previous partner they have lost touch with • Finding ex-partners To me, the most remarkable part about Lauren and Scott’s relationship is how unremarkable it was, even among Missed Connections. It was a “romantic” missed connection based on a mix of “delayed courage” and “delayed reaction” that led to a typical real-world break up. And what I find rather ironic is that during this “missed connection,” Scott met his fiancée, with whom he had REALLY had a missed connection seeing as how they had known one another in college but then lost touch. So, what is it about Craigslist Missed Connections? If most of them end up not amounting to anything, why do people keep posting? I’d argue that’s the high that everyone gets from possibility, just like regular dating. Scott says, “The one that got away, that doesn’t exist anymore. That’s a null set now.” But...what about all of the ones that should get away but can’t because we’re all wrapped up in What ifs and the terror of ending up alone and it’s just not good enough to leave it up to fate anymore? (I mean, even GOD needs the internet to do his job, guys.) Who knows. I’m just telling the story. Written by Courtney Algeo
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What my failed catfish project taught me about life, love, and online dating. I say it without shame: I’m obsessed with reality TV. And you know what goes together better than milk and cookies? Reality television and the Internet. From reaction gifs to Reddit, the Internet is home to even tackier gossip than what exists on the shows themselves. It probably comes as no surprise that when I saw a commercial for a new MTV show documenting online relationships called “Catfish: The TV Show,” I immediately turned to my BFF On Demand for instant viewing. Let me break Catfish down for those who are unfamiliar: Based on the feature-length documentary of the same name, the show is hosted by Nev Schulman, a young wannabe hipster from New York who, in the movie, discovered (spoiler alert!) that the songwriting blond beauty he fell in love with online was actually a middle-aged woman from a small town in Michigan who kept dozens of fake online profiles—a “catfish.” Now, Nev travels around with a filmmaking crew to help dozens of young people meet their online lovers—real or not—in the flesh.
caught-in-action catfishes admit to keeping track of excessive amounts of fake profiles—for some even up to over 100. That’s 100 people that they’ve invented. 100 different logins. 100 different sets of messages to respond to. 100 different pages to update with photos, statuses and wall posts to trick people into believing that farm girl Kathy Reynolds from Ames, Iowa is currently on a modeling call in New York. And that she can’t figure out how to download Skype. Or answer her cell phone. And her only tagged Facebook photos are from her profile pictures...that were last updated two years ago. This whole shebang made me think about my own online identity. Sure, I would tell AOL chat room strangers I was 16 when they asked for my a/s/l (when I was 13), and I was actually listening to Fall Out Boy on loop when I told UpThpunX91 that my favorite album was by...enter some obscure punk band I Ask-Jeeved. But could I actually use a fake identity to manipulate the emotions of people I know I’ll never meet? I made an attempt, and turns out no, no I can’t.
But I’m not interested in Nev Schulman or MTV. I’m interested in the phenomena. Some of the INTERNET // MPLSzine
Summary My catfish profile needed to be someone who was different enough from me that it would shock the victims, so I chose (with his permission) to take on the persona of my good friend Zach. Zach—otherwise known as zb_nerds on his online dating profile—is 23, straight, studying Classics and Archeology, is about 6’3”, plays water polo, sings in our college’s choir, and is super into just-obscureenough books, movies, music and comic books. He’s also a pretty good-looking guy (better than most straight males in Minneapolis on OkCupid), which is why I thought I would have biddies messaging me up the wazoo. What I was good at Making his physical profile. I picked pictures of him in fun and interesting places (Paris! A fun restaurant! A BBQ with friends!), filled out the main page briefly but poignantly, and answered some of the questions with answers that I thought would yield interest from liberal, cute and kind of nerdy girls. It worked, because I reactivated my old profile and I was a 93% love AND friend match! Who knew that my catfish would be a great match for myself? And also a great match for many of my friends! When I tried a “highest match” search, I saw at least seven or eight profiles for girls I know personally within the first 30-40 results. I goof-messaged a couple of them, who sent messages back like “lol” or “ugh of course I would make an OkCupid and be an 80% match with someone from Macalester.” What I was not good at Trolling. I sent out a few messages to strangers, all of which included something that Zach found interesting on 38 MPLSzine // INTERNET
their profile, but apparently they weren’t enough because I would get only a profile view—not even a message—in return less than 15 percent of the time. In the two weeks that I maintained the profile, I only exchanged an average of three messages each with three different girls. The conversation never really got past the “so cool that you’re a ____ major” level. I never got the chance to “gotcha!” anyone, which was what I was most looking forward to with this whole experiment. Four things I learned along the way 1) If you’re going to make fake online identities, you really have to commit. I think one of my biggest mistakes was shying away from messaging too many people and avoiding any sort of sexual conversations. Even scrolling through profiles and knowing that they can see zb_nerds viewing their pictures made me feel weird and invasive. 2) OkCupid is really different for straight males than it is for straight females. The first message you receive when you join the site as a straight female is from the founder saying, “Women have a higher success rate when they seek out matches themselves.” What this means, basically, is that within my first 24 hours on the site (with my real profile with my own pictures) I received about 10 messages and 40-50 views. In Zach’s first 24 hours, he received one message and four views. At first I was frustrated with the extreme lack of activity, but then I stepped back and remembered how many male profiles I would view after I saw them creeping on me—probably only about five percent of them. 3) I can completely understand why catfishing is addicting. By the end of the two weeks, I was so used to taking on Zach’s identity that I would forget that I wasn’t using my own profile. When the process began, zb_nerds was an enigma, but in the end, he was my alter ego. 4) Because it’s so easy to create multiple alternate identities, you really can never really believe that anyone on the Internet is who they claim to be. And it sucks. The most private thing I’m willing to admit I might have kept the profile activated a few days after its intended closing...because I couldn’t resist. I promise I’ll delete it tonight. Or tomorrow. Written By Rebecca Schultz Illustrated Type By Kyle Coughlin INTERNET // MPLSzine
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I once read (probably in a fanfiction) that stalking is when two people go on a romantic walk but only one of them knows about it. If this is true, then online stalking is when two--or more--people go on a walk that is less romantic and more like an espionage teeter-totter that everyone is somewhat aware of but can’t really do anything about. Kinda like a social networking roofie that we all risk having slipped to us while tweeting about how cold our boobs are right now. Chances are if I’ve ever met you in real life and can remember the first three letters of your last name, I’ve probably online stalked you. I feel guilty for it in theory (which actually means I feel no guilt whatsoever and it serves you right for existing on the Internet). I do it for a variety of reasons that range from simple curiosity to downright pettiness, but never have I actually used this information other than for the sake of giving myself a sense of satisfaction and self-importance. For example, I occasionally online stalk people that I used to know because it makes me feel better that I have more Google results referencing my accomplishments than they do. In my lowest, darkest moments, I pretend that this fact makes me a better person… which it clearly doesn’t but pretending is fun. Other times I do it because I know that it saves me the trouble of having to attend my high school reunion. If Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr tell me everything I need to know about people I never cared about to begin wit, then I don’t have to angst about seeing them again. Besides, they all still look the same as they did then and if any of them wanted to sleep with me it they would’ve done it in tenth grade.
Don’t get me wrong, most of the time I just love looking at pictures of people’s artwork and kitties and the family photos and all the nice stuff that people post that lets me know that they are living happy and fulfilled lives. But the eagerness to stalk is like a strange predatory itch that only comes up once in a while, when I’m just sitting around wonder what person X that I haven’t seen in years is doing. Are they married with kids? Are they dead? Did they finally come out? Are they famous or have they developed an adorable little meth habit that has decimated their entire life? Luckily, there’s now a quick and easy way to find out. It’s also a great tool for digging up dirt on someone who pissed you off for the sake of slowly destroying them. However, it’s apparent that I’m far too lazy to engage in that kind of behavior, seeing as I’m sitting at home fact finding on Facebook while eating Pop-Tarts. Some of you are probably wondering if I’ve done this to you (which I have) and you’re also probably coming to terms with this and feeling a little violated. Well, let me just say that if you were more focused on updating your privacy settings and filtering your content instead of posting those pictures of yourself drunkenly opening a bottle of champagne with your asshole from that New Year’s Eve party, then there wouldn’t be a problem. Not that it matters because if you didn’t want anyone to see it then you shouldn’t have put it on the Internet in the first place. There, it’s your fault now. Written by Amina Harper INTERNET // MPLSzine
The Dark Side of the Internet: An Art Manifesto
WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF? Like all tools, the Internet is neither good nor evil--it is merely whatever we wish it to be. The Internet that most of us see on a daily basis is that of connection, commerce or convenience, and occasionally cats. To the general populace, common issues involving our privacy, censorship, copyrights and identity theft seem to be no more than passing clouds on an otherwise funny sunny day. However, as we become increasingly connected to our parallel alternate reality (from here on, the Internet), the gap between how fast information travels and how long it takes us to actually process this material is widening.
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Severe examples have occurred in the past year that erode the idea of an enlightened digital age. Last summer, a YouTube trailer for a film called “Innocence of Muslims” caused mass riots and hundreds of deaths throughout the Middle East. The reaction was caused by the perceived idea that this was a mass-marketed and accepted film in the West, which could have been clarified by a Google search revealing it instead to be the work of one man. Weeks later, a photo of a burning Qur’an posted onto a Facebook page sparked rioters to burn down ten ancient Buddhist temples as well as 40 homes in Bangladesh. The owner of the Facebook page did not even post the picture, but again the speed of the Internet was much faster than our ability to rationally react. Realizing that these events were of course embroiled in political and religious tensions, what truly interested me was the speed in which the sparks became flames on a global level, and that facts were not checked even though it was easier than ever. The dual dilemmas of faster information (but with shorter fuses), paired with the anonymity and lack of accountability inherent in computer communication, has deepened my interest in the Internet as a metaphor for the human nature. The Internet is not only our vastest and fastest form of communication, but also a reflection of the virtuous and the darkness of our desires. For this reason, anyone truly investigating all aspects of what it means to be human within their artwork should look no further than the nebulous and occasionally frightening reality of the Internet for inspiration. WHERE IS THE DARK SIDE? I would like to first clarify my terms when stating the “Dark Side of the Internet.” I am not referencing the technological aspects – hidden or invisible web, darknet or deepweb – an Internet inaccessible to the general population, where every sort of human triumph and depravity occurs completely uncensored and unobstructed by law. My interest happens on the “Surface Internet” that we all use--analyzing the human behavior using technology, rather than the technology itself. Information is moving faster than ever, but it is also being lost faster than ever. Every day, billions of images and stories are passed around the world, at such a pace that attempting to understand the origin, context and validity of them all has become impossible. I am a person who revels in this kind of constant visual stimulation, but I quickly noticed how infrequently I actually knew what I was viewing. When an image is created, then Tumbled, Tweeted and shared, the source is so often lost, as is the context. The separation of what an image actually is and the perceived reality when unleashed on the Internet is both fascinating and frightening. There is little consequence on the Internet, made possible by
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the perceived protection of glass screens and the distance of miles, and we must continually assess what we are actually viewing. The Guardian’s Andy Beckett says, “The modern Internet is often thought of as a miracle of openness – its global reach, its outflanking of censors…”, which is both good and bad – good because ideas can thrive, bad because so can malicious ideas.
“I look through the Internet to find anonymous and dark images, and am most attracted to those that are ambiguous in content--images that seem violent at first but are passionate...” If you are a creative interested in all sides of our humanity, including the darker aspects, there is no better source for inspiration than the Internet. One should begin mining for inspiration in what they find most disturbing, both to face their own demons but also the darkness that exists within humankind. To create new work that attempts to understand the modern condition, an artist must operate with new rules. Arguments over ownership and copyright on the Internet are not over, but they are certainly tired, citing laws of the past as justification for an increasingly changing moral and commercial landscape. If you are posting work onto a platform created for sharing, for the purpose of being seen, you have no rights to these images. Images only belong to whoever is currently looking at them, and if you want to be the only one to own your images, keep them in your garage. Proprietary rights have no place in an online community, and seeking them is akin to walking into a room uninvited, playing a guitar, and then attempting to charge people for the service of hearing you play. If you let go of this notion, you will gain more in inspiration. HOW TO FIND INSPIRATION IN THE DARK I do not consider myself a negative person, but somehow I am drawn to these darker, more ominous corners of our society. I believe this is about finding a balance – I cannot believe the world is all smiles and rainbows, nor can I believe the Internet is all light-hearted infograms and hilarious gifs. People read misanthropic works by Bukowski or Henry Miller, or consider Picasso’s “Guernica” or Francis Bacon’s works of shattered beauty to rank alongside the greatest visual arts not because they are negative, but because they provide the full spectrum of the human experience. I look through the Internet to find anonymous and dark images, and am most attracted to those that are ambiguous in content-images that seem violent at first but are passionate, or images that are peaceful but appear ominous after looking longer. I am particularly interested in images that cause you to go back and forth repeatedly, which mirrors the way we should process our interactions with the Internet: simultaneously receptive, but cautiously so.
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Nathaniel Smith - Incarnation One of the darkest “firsts” on the Internet took place March 21, 2007. Some 100 chatroom users watched 42-year-old Telford, UK resident Kevin Whitrick--“Shyboy_17_1”--mount a chair, tie a rope on a ceiling beam and hang himself, live on webcam. Among the dozens goading him on, one wrote, “Fucking do it! Get on with it, get it around your neck for fuck’s sake! He can’t even do this properly!” There were of course dozens of people attempting to find his address and contact authorities, and many of those goading him on probably legitimately thought it was a hoax (I have never heard of a story where a crowd encouraged a jumper in real life). But this remains a perfect example of the Dark Side of the Internet. You never truly know what you are watching – whether it is a marketing scam, truth or pranking teens. Similarly, “Incarnation” was inspired by a dubious image. Although you assume the figure is blowing smoke out of his mouth, it is entirely possible it from the barrel of the gun.
INTERNET // MPLSzine
Nathaniel Smith - Ascension In “Ascension,” two figures are pictured on a gravel path. One figure, booted and all-black stands behind the second figure, barefoot and levitating. This image almost undoubtedly comes from a fashion shoot based on the focus of the boots. The implied violence is what first caught my eye – the smaller (women’s?) feet are being lifted off the ground as though being strangled in what is an absolutely deplorable way to sell boots. The fact that the image was found on Tumblr without a source again reveals the Dark Side of the Internet--could this actually be a documentation of violence? And if so, would there be any way to track it? Or is this an implication of something less dark, a hug, lifting a smaller companion to see a bucolic view--or is she literally ascending? The anonymity should cause us to question every single image and message we are given on a daily basis, not only realizing the darkness in everyday desires (and how they are manipulatively sold), but to open the possibilities and potential to create work from anything.
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Nathaniel Smith - Kids with... The inspiration for “Kids With…” did not come from recent gun violence or debate but rather from an Internet news story about a child who stumbled into “Darkweb” and how to protect your own children. The internet is a symptom, not a cause, of the darkness these parents fear, making the story (unknowingly) more about an act of futility than an effective concern. The father was quoted: “There is nothing you can't get on there and some of it is pretty grim, so I think that other parents should know about it.” While I can understand the protective impulse, this father would be better off raising a decent human being than raising the alert to parents and elected officials to dismantle the Darkweb, a true act of futility. The Internet isn’t “grim,” people are. In “Kids With…,” an otherwise playful scene is disrupted by the addition of the weapon, made all the more surreal by the fact that this was a real picture, presumably set up and captured by an adult. We should fear this kind of negligent parenting more than the Internet, not just because it is real, but because it is happening constantly. INTERNET // MPLSzine
Technology always precedes morals as well as understanding. Like nuclear power, using computers to express ourselves is taking an expected course: heralded as a new age and the future, then vilified because of meltdowns and disasters, and once it has finally become understood, respected and feared, becoming viable and ingrained in the next generation. Because our computers allow people to hate and create anything they want to from the safety of their home, we must always separate the tool from the user and ask ourselves: Are people more themselves when seated behind the glass of their computer? Or less themselves? This reality is blurred now. A quote I have unattributed in my notebook reads, â€œAliases, avatars, usernames and profiles are the ways we use media to depict ourselves to others. But are these really you? Does it even matter?â€? I would argue that the answer is simultaneously yes, no and maybe. Images and Words By Nathaniel Smith
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Be part of MPLSzine! We’re looking for interviews, reviews, reported articles, essays, humor pieces, lists, infographics, comics, photos, and illustrations related to Minneapolis. (That relation can be loose--if the only connection is that you live here, that’s cool with us.) For now, we are not accepting fiction or poetry submissions--we know we can’t compete with the awesome literary magazines this town already has. We want to explore overlooked places and subcultures; make new connections and observations; share your heartbreaking, guffaw-worthy, and inspirational personal stories; and champion the people who make Minneapolis what it is. But we can’t do that without creative types sending us their stuff. firstname.lastname@example.org To get you started, our themes for the next two issues are LOST publishes April 16 submissions due March 17 FOUND publishes April 16 submissions due March 17 If you can’t contribute right away but want to learn more, email us anyway. We’d love to have you join us.
MPLSzine, a submissions-based collaborative digital publication, is the latest project powered by the forces of MPLS Collective, a cornersto...
Published on Feb 16, 2013
MPLSzine, a submissions-based collaborative digital publication, is the latest project powered by the forces of MPLS Collective, a cornersto...