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Jia Tolentino Has Been Burnt Out on the Internet Since 2014

The New Yorker writer talks about her book, Trick Mirror, internet hangovers, and stoner thoughts.

12.9.2019

'I’ve been burnt out from the internet since 2014.' jiatolentino discusses her new book, what motivates her to work, and more:

The New Yorker writer talks about her book, Trick Mirror, internet hangovers, and stoner thoughts.

is built on exploring dark alleyways of the zeitgeist and avoids coming to easy conclusions.

about memes, why knowledge can seem useless at the current boiling point of the internet, finding joy by shoveling yourself out of the shit, and more.

I’ve always found it very moving, interesting, and endlessly fascinating to watch myself try to preserve some humanity from systems of capitalism, patriarchy, and the internet, but disincentivize them, you know? I always talk about the YouTube comments section as still very pure, and as a place where the humanity jumps out. I think that’s why I write so much about memes; they are an escape valve. If I’m trying to get towards an understanding of the self as diminished, and something that can be sort of stupid and inconsistent and silly, then the self is a thing that exists so we can interact with one another. I think that memes are the framework on the internet that most supports that model of selfhood. They don’t magnify the self—they put the self in proportion as the stupid thing that it is. I think memes are little flares of people wanting to speak on a different register, wanting to not connect on the monetized channel of approval and disapproval that the internet rides on.

I don’t have a thing right now. I also think that we are in a meme decline, a meme recession, you know what I mean? There hasn’t been anything that has made me cry-laugh in the middle of the day. I’m wondering if I’m just getting old, or if meme production is just down for Q3. I think there is a real id underneath the meme ecosystem and the things we find funny right now as a collective. That’s what I look for—when there’s just a sense of this zeitgeist-y id that’s coming out through the dumbest shit ever.

Do you identify with the idea of an internet hangover? You talk about this a bit in the book.

Yeah, it’s a nightmare. But don’t we feel burnt out by all of the systems that we’re trapped in? That’s kind of why I’m so surprised by people reading this book, because the book is about this feeling, and I think that’s a hard feeling. I am amazed that people are ready to be pummeled by all of this at once, when we already are pummeled by [this feeling] all the time in life. Maybe there was a point in trying to see how to look at the world this way because it seems to be bearable for a lot of people, which is unbelievable to me when I’m just trying to make it bearable for myself. So the answer is yes, absolutely.

helps in that I don’t necessarily have to be paying attention to the news. I can shut Twitter off, and I don’t have to be in the office. I can have a lot of freedom about where my attention can go. But sometimes I’m really awful about making new stuff. Right now I’m pretty awful at it because I’m so on my computer; I’m so strapped to the internet since the book came out.

How do you motivate yourself to ask a million questions when you constantly feel kind of doomed?

This is probably such a stoner, acid-trip thing to say, characteristically, but I’ve found that to be the thing that makes me want to work. It’s like, you might as well; it doesn’t matter, so you might as well. If there is almost no chance of anything meaning anything—beyond interpersonally, like, I do think what we do for each other matters a lot—but in terms of your work and understanding of these systems, for me, the sense that we’re barely here is the basis of my impetus to do as much as I can.

Read more: Vogue Magazine

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