The past is always with us, and where we come, what we go through, how we get through it; all this shit matters. I mean, that’s what I thought he meant. Like at the end of the book, you know, boats and tides and all, it’s like you can change up, right, you can say you somebody new, you can give yourself a whole new story, but what came first is who you really are and what happened before is what really happened, and it don’t matter that some fool say he different cause the only thing that make you different is what you really do, what you really go through. Like, you know, like all the books in his library, now, he frontin’ with all them books but if we pulled one off the shelf ain’t none of the pages ever been open. He got all them books and he ain’t read one of them. Gatsby, he was who he was and did what he did, and because he wasn’t ready to get real with the story, that shit caught up to him. That’s what I think, anyway.
Poole, who was voted Time’s most influential person of 2008 – two years before Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was declared the magazine’s Man of the Year – believes Facebook’s commercial motivations shut down the online experience: “Mark and Sheryl have gone out and said that identity is authenticity, that you are online who you are offline, and to have multiple identities is lacking in integrity. I think that’s nuts.”
“We went from a web that was interest-driven, and then we transitioned into a web where the connections were in-person, real-life friendship relationships,” adds Poole. “Individuals are multifaceted. Identity is prismatic, and communities like 4Chan exist as a holdover from the interest-driven web.”
Allan believes such attitudes are naive. The millions who have gone online over the past decade want a safe place where they won’t experience bad behaviour, have their identities stolen or be duped by impostors, he says: “Pretend identities don’t work very well now that the web has moved from a minority sport for geeks to a mainstream occupation.”
I was checking in on the progress of the Mark Sandman documentary this week, and read through a few related articles in the process. One thing that struck me was that, in addition to the general umbra of mystique he cultivated around his personal life, he was particularly sensitive about keeping his age a secret. Having been born in 1952, he was already on the cusp of turning 40 at the beginning of Morphine’s recording career, which, for a rock musician, is an age more commonly associated with long-since-exhausted creativity, “Vegas Elvis” irrelevance and unwitting self-parody. Marketing executives worry about whether the youth demographics are going to identify with someone old enough to be their parent, that sort of thing. Anyway, it was kind of quaint to read about a reporter for Rolling Stone trying fruitlessly to find out his real age. Really? As recently as the mid-nineties, it was possible for a minor celebrity to keep something like that a secret without a reporter simply looking up his high school yearbook or something? How long would he be able to pull that off today before half of his acquaintances from adolescence would be tweeting pictures and anecdotes about him?
My affection for anonymity stems from my impatience with the irrelevance of the quotidian details of life. I love the interest-driven web; I love being able to find discussions of ideas that I would never hear otherwise; I love the creative stimulation; I love the excellent writing. Most of all, I love the fact that participation in all this revolves around what you think, not who you are, in that small-town sense of your identity being cemented in place by the opinions of everyone else. And I resent the fact that social media has brought all that small-town idiocy and superficiality back to center stage.