Beyonce vs. ChatGPT

There are things one can understand without knowing, but I’ll try to explain myself anyway. Here’s a practical tip to start us off with (because I feel I’ve become too sensitive, overly emotional; my curse and blessing, of being a Cancer, being a woman, being this and that [they said it first, I picked it up afterwards]): I use the SelfControl app to block the “internet” on my laptop— the mindless, time-wasting websites— from Monday thru Saturday. On Sundays, I unblock everything for a short period of time; dedicated time for wasting time. It is just as crucial. My phone is dumb and useless at distracting me. You’re welcome?

This Sunday, I regrettably spend way too much time, in fact 6 hours straight, on the internet; no, not just on the internet, but on the internet from the same spot on my couch; laptop to my left, my phone in hand— switching from one screen to next; texting and scrolling, watching and scrolling, typing and watching and scrolling. Is there anything one does uninterrupted, voluntarily, barely moving with no monetary gain, for six hours straight? That’s the power of the internet. Instead of feeling bad, I actually feel good that my life is so offline now that this is the exception, a once in a while indulgence, to keep the online-offline, plugged-unplugged equilibrium going, so that I still understand cultural references at work, from the bartender, on the road: Culture is internet, internet is culture. But I cannot, and I don’t believe anyone should, spend hours upon hours, vertically, sedentarily, in the trenches of the internet, day after day, week after week. I used to, for years, but I don’t anymore, and it’s been a blessing; a miracle how some of my brain cells managed to make it through, so I still have enough focus to read books that tell me things I don’t want to know, to hold conversations that delight and satisfy, to go out into the world and search for people I can hold.

But that’s not what got me here. 6 hours is a long time to spend on the internet, and you are bound to stumble upon something, somewhere. This is what starts this. I have never heard of Doechii, or her music before, but as soon as the video starts, I knew I would enjoy it. With so much on the internet, I have learned to identify what I like quick and exit out even quicker. And I enjoy Doechii’s performance so much that, one, I watch the whole thing in its entirety, which is a rarity for me with so much, and so little attention span, and two, I go searching for her, for more, on YouTube. Upon watching this video— and I’m not interested in ideological mastrubation for the purposes of this blog, but what I felt, in the core of my being, in that moment— it felt off. Not bad, or wrong— don’t mistake my disdain for purity, or moral superiority— but just off. As usual, I considered if I just got old for the culture; unbeknownst to me, while still struggling to make sense of my behind from my front, I skipped the parts where one is supposed to grow up, become an adult, know things about a thing or two, and went straight for old: turn into the women I resented in my youth.

The women that considered us too fast, too loose, too this, too that. All the while we were just kids dying to express ourselves; the too-short skirts, basement tattoos and piercings where it’s too painful to consider now, and the see-through tops; so I understand youth. And after my discomfort at Crazy, I move on to this. I enjoy the flamboyant, flagrant, and relatable lyrics- you could almost miss the message from the shock, your discomfort at your shock. There is nothing wrong with the music video either, nothing I can point at and be outraged, nothing unusual, nothing I haven’t seen before, and will see after, but it feels so much. I wonder, is it me? Am I just old? Or did something (also?) change? I can’t pinpoint at what exactly, explain it beyond what I feel. All I can do is search up Beyonce, 2006 Beyonce, Beyonce-before-Beyonce, to see if I just got old, to remember things before this thing, be affirmed that (hopefully) it’s not me, indeed, but something has fundamentally shifted, and so suddenly.

I search for this video. A classic. Beyond nostalgia, beyond appreciation for having grown up on the past, instead of now— even when my mother deemed it the devil’s music, antagonizing me, asking me to consider God, the church, anything but Beyonce; my youth-fuelled frustration at her inability to recognize greatness, no, not God’s, but Beyonce‘s— I feel somethin’ in the milk ain’t clean. It’s not the nudity, vulgarity, sin and other drugs. It’s just, I know, I know, I know, but you know? All I can say is, despite myself, despite my desire to express myself beyond internet buzz words— forgive me, the internet did raise me— THE VIBES ARE OFF. This isn’t a criticism of Doechii, Crazy, or even Beyonce-after-Beyonce, and other artists of the day, but about how the internet, the technological gadgets of yesterday, accelerated at such a breakneck speed that in no more than a decade, less than 10 years later, everything changed so much, so fast, culture and society feels off. For context, I graduated high school ten years ago: I cannot be old. I shouldn’t be old. Culture should not abandon me, consider me obsolete, so soon. Are you kidding? In fact, I still feel like a child. (But arrested development of a whole generation is a topic for another sleepless night)  

So I watch video after video after video. Videos of my youth. I used to watch each for hours on end; no, not listen to the song, but watch the videos on repeat, study every move, ever lyric, every move with the lyric, intoxicated with the feeling. You ever love something so much it becomes an obsession? You feel it, right in your core; simple as. On a desktop at that, there were no smartphones then. I sat on an uncomfortable computer chair and watched these videos for hours on end. Is there anything that captivating anymore? Is there anything I can love on the internet as much as I loved Beyonce back in 2009? Or did I just get old? Was Beyonce my Doechii? Excessive, overstated, overstimulating— just off— for the generation before me? I’d say to that not everyone could have good taste, but do I also just not have good taste for what is now? Do I just not understand? Am I outdated? A crusty old bitch? We used to call women that didn’t understand, didn’t see us, cursed our lil’ fast asses, crusty. As if we won’t let age catch up to us, turn us into these women soon enough; old and crusty. Maybe it’s not Doechii, maybe it’s me: Not because I got old, but because I changed. More accurately, because I didn’t change while everything else did. I hit the brake on the internet around 2016, right before it grew a soul and integrated itself into our psyche, and I have been slaying the dragon ever since.

Friday, we argue if ChatGPT can replace writing done by a person. I, obviously desperate for something to hold onto— writing: words I can see, taste, hear, feel their texture, on the train ride, walking down the street, in the shower trying to shut my brain up so I can think about things that pay the bill— and another writer on the table coming to my defense, we argue ChatGPT cannot know what it means to be human, express what her and I could express. Remind me the source but, we fear becoming like our computers, but we should fear the computers becoming like us. I consider my friend’s words, that once ChatGPT becomes really good, becomes you and I essentially, we, the writers, will be buried. He uses the word buried. Sink, or swim— get on before the going gets rough, or get buried under the greatness; no, not Beyonce’s, but AI’s. I still refuse to believe in ChatGPT, hoping if I don’t, if I simply close my ears, la la la la la la, and pretend it doesn’t exist, I can make it disappear; like the monsters under my bed. Don’t mistake my disdain for ignorance, I can see how ChatGPT can be useful, but I still want to scream, “NO NO NO, NOT THIS PLEASE.” Will there be a time where there won’t be a choice? To spend a day offline

With six hours spent on the internet, on a Sunday evening well into late night, writing some of this too, I feel sad about how easy it is to spend six hours online, and nothing else as easily, until I remember that Friday. With my phone at home, I arrive at the bar at 6:00pm and upon getting up to leave, when I finally ask for the time, it’s 12:23am. I have made so much damn effort, so much it makes my brain hurt, to not let my life be six hours of scrolling, scrolling, scrolling, from the same spot on the couch, on the internet that died for me a long, long time ago, I feel delighted the four of us came together, to talk, argue, consider this and that, let six hours pass us by barely noticed. In 2016, this was the dream. Time reaches us and teaches us all; and so, all in due time. 

Until next time,

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