When the internet was mostly words there was a blog called 665. For 665 days, it’s creator wrote 665 posts. The posts were mostly nonsense and as far as anyone knew, you were the only one reading it. It was your 665 days following this unidentified man through his life.
You saw him write funny stuff, awful stuff, and deeply depressing stuff. You were with him posting fake craigslist personals. You were with him when his heart was broken. You were with him when he had scary nightmares. You were with him on 9/11. You were with him when he made up ridiculous stories about ghostwriters and took the ‘ghost’ part literally. And you were with him when he reached entry 665 and said goodbye. It was so complete: a document of his life with all the weird parts showing. I’ve never really forgotten him.
Last week I came across an article in the New York Times and the author, Leon Edler, writes,
…some readers of memoir are looking for secrets, for complete transparency on the part of the author, as if the point is confession, and the process of reading memoir, a voyeuristic one.
We use social media now to shape stories about ourselves. Ice cream is held in front of coloured walls, pineapple drinks are held beside inflatable pool accessories and coffee is always held in high esteem. Complete transparency. Kinda. Except… 665 didn’t shape nor was he transparent. It was probably the most opaque thing I’d ever read. Yet, his work feels complete.
When I think about how people treat those in the public eye; retweeting things people have written five years ago as concrete evidence that they’re not who they say they are, my stomach starts to twist. I’ve been publishing a lot and this approach makes the contrarian inside of me scream, “You don’t know shit about me.” I refuse to be a one-story or one-trait soul. I love change. I do so frequently and with abandon.
At the time when 665 existed I would never have imagined anyone quoting entry 332 and holding him to something he wrote as punishment. It would have been creatively stifling and it’s worrisome that we have begun to act this way. Isn’t it a good thing that we change our minds? This was not the internet I first joined.
Some readers seem to act like they want a flat-story. A portrait of an individual that never moves and their story is thus under the reader’s control. You are a traveller, so only show me where you’ve been. You are a model, so never share your opinion about politics. You are a designer, so you must love typography and coffee. You are that guy or that girl; don’t budge. What a bore to wish people to be so simple! Complexity yields surprises worth waiting for.
Despite these anxieties I feel encouraged to continue. Maybe a little bit for me and maybe a little bit for websites like 665. All I can hope is that you don’t reduce me to a charicature. Hopefully in a few years, I can look back and say that it was worth every anxiety-ridden moment I went through. I want my document with all the warts showing. And I want that internet back too.
↩︎  Leon Edler, “When You Write a Memoir, Readers Think They Know You Better Than They Do”↗︎, 6/22/2016
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