Ode on a Google Turn

>> March 18, 2013

I was always going to be a child of the Internet. Born to a father who firmly believed in the pervasive power of the Internet, it was only a matter of time before I moved on from the mere utilitarian use of the world wide web (the erstwhile favourites, Hotmail and AltaVista) to the recreational (ah, glory to the recently hormonal thirteen year old- MSN Messenger and ICQ) to yes, the most debilitating of them all, the utterly useless (just about everything on the internet). In the summer of 2004, as my friends were looking up Encyclopedia Britannica and pretending to be eighteen year olds in online chat-rooms, I would discover the medium that has grown to give me endless hours of pleasure (and procrastination)- the personal blog.

Looking back, I suppose this may have had something to do with the first blog I ever read – brought to my attention by my dear English teacher and fellow internet-junkie- Domain Maximus written by Sidin Vadukut. This was way back in the day – when Sidin was only just a young earnest Dubai-returned malayalee boy studying engineering who probably hadn’t the slightest clue about what was going to become of him- before the travails of south Indian men and IIM and the Dork series. Fresh on the heels of Domain Maximus, I would not only actively stumble upon many other blogs, some of them on themes that held a specific interest to me, though most of them were unassuming personal reflections of people from all over the world- but also discover what can perhaps be called, for lack of another word, the voyeur in me. Soon after, I would make the move to what has come to be a most intimate part of my internet experience – Google Reader. Once it became impossible to religiously check for updates on my preferred blogs every day–Google Reader was exactly what the unapologetic blog-phile in me needed.

When Google announced the discontinuance of Reader starting July 1, 2013 and I predictably joined in the collective twitter-outrage which is always #somuchfun (but, seriously, Orkut is still alive and they want to kill Google Reader?!!), I decided to indulge in some spring cleaning. On last count, I realized, I have 153 subscriptions on Google Reader, a large number of them defunct and yet a substantial number still relevant in my scheme of all-things-internet. And although I have created around ten different labels to categorize the blogs- the label with the largest number of blogs under it remains the same as it was eight years ago -  the personal blog. As it turns out, I have continued to read more personal blogs more than any other kind of blog.

What was this voyeuristic tendency I discovered as a teenager? And as a twenty five year old today, why do I return to these blogs? The most compelling reason, of course, for which I have persistently returned to these blogs has been, without doubt, the sheer literary quality – many of my favourite bloggers are published and acclaimed writers today. Literary merits aside, I have often asked myself why I persist in following so many mostly un-literary accounts of strangers’ lives – of college, professional dissatisfaction, personal achievements, failures, love, hate, break-ups and marriages- the whole gamut of personal life experiences, related day after day. Is it the mere thrill that comes with reading such intimately personal accounts of people experiencing life in ways strikingly similar to and yet so different from mine? Or it just good old ogling, a variant of the peeping-tom sickness, something I should probably rid myself of?  Is it, perhaps, something I should treat with the same degree of disdain that I usually reserve for people who invite me to play Criminal Case on Facebook? Or, am I, like so many others in my generation, just another victim of the incessant need the internet has cultivated in us- the need to remain connected, with everyone and everything, in some form or the other?

It might take a good deal of psycho-analysis to understand why- but what I figure, in any case, is that it doesn’t matter. So many of these people, from all over the world, and in so many different walks of life, have exposed to me to thoughts and experiences I could never have found on my own.  If you have a personal recollection to make, the internet will welcome you with open arms, and if you cannot write to save your life, you will still be led to believe that you’re God’s gift to the literary world. As the indiscriminating repository of all those bloggers’ personal stories and rants (though, I don’t, as a rule, read any blog with the word ‘rant’ in its title), Google Reader alongside a cup of coffee has made countless mornings of mine more satisfying.  On almost every day for the past eight years,  I have logged on to Google Reader safely ensconced in the reassurance that no matter what the internet is going to throw at me, I will always have a steady stream of my own painstakingly curated reading feed.

I stumbled upon most of my best liked blogs entirely by chance- and I stuck around, mostly thanks to Google Reader. And like all once-wonderful things from that era when the internet was still discovering itself, like mixed-tapes and VCRs, Google Reader is yet another “casualty of this new digital era”, one more tombstone in the ever-growing Google Graveyard. Twitter can tweet for all it wants- but years down the road, when I tell them about my first time, I will tell them about Google Reader.

Fuck those fucking glasses, and the nerd they rode in on!

4 Comment(s):

Anonymous,  March 18, 2013 at 12:47 PM  

its sad that google decided to kill reader, definitely 'not-acceptable'. In fact, i still don't have a plan be & i am worried now. what if they decided to kill gmail? :/

You have written it well, connecting with ur personal experiences of blogging. After reading, i think its good that google gave this shocker, now i have a reason to clean the follow list & organize it :D

loop March 18, 2013 at 3:43 PM  

This is such a great post!
I still cannot come to terms with the fact that, this curiosity, these odd connections, this silent pleasure of learning about someone without it affecting anything "real" (or at least a feeling that it doesn't!) - these very things that were so important during all those formative years of mine - are a passe.
Thank you for writing this post. =)
(Got here through Judy Balan's blog)

Akanksha,  March 19, 2013 at 1:21 AM  

Loved the post! And I know exactly what you mean about Google Reader being that window of discovery. More webcomics for me than blogs, but still. Will be missed sorely.

P.S. Icy Highs is a fantastic blog too! Thanks for the link :D

Igirit March 20, 2013 at 12:15 AM  

Thanks for reading :) And, don't worry, I hardly think they will discontinue g-mail.

Lol, yes, it would be very absurd and disturbing if these connections did affect anything 'real! Thanks for reading and commenting :)

Yes, Icy Highs is pretty fantastic, isn't he? :) Be sure to buy his book! See more here http://bookendyourweekend.blogspot.in/2011/10/cough-syrup-surrealism-blurb.html !

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