We've finally arrived at the de Zengotita moment in western civilization -- that grandly synthetic moment when media and real life become indistinguishable. it was Thomas de Zengotita who, in Mediated, argued that electronic media has so personalized our culture that it appears more real than the world itself. And now the misery of the economic crash has brought us to this de Zengotita moment. As Nick Wingfield and Pui-Wing Tam report in the WSJ today ("Out of Office: Job Loss in the Age of Blogs and Twitter"), unemployment and economic poverty has increased Internet use to such an extent that users on the popular General Hospital Happenings tv forum have begun to talk about the drama of their own lives rather than those on ABC soap. As the Texan moderator of the forum explained:
"A lot of the people have lost their jobs and can't afford shrinks sothey're coming on the site and asking, 'How do I handle it?' People are frantic. There's more drama in real life now for sure than on the TV."
More drama now in real life than on the tv.... Except, of course, that people on the internet are defining their situation in de Zengotita's mediated terms. Thus, as "Out of Office: Job Loss in the Age of Blogs and Twitter" reports, the big rise in recent online use is in internet games, gambling and sites like PerezHilton. Given, of course, that Wall Street, Detroit and Silicon Valley have all been operating on gaming, gambling and PerezHilton principles for years, what this really means is that the drama of real life is now catching up with the drama of American business.
According to one recently laid off 27-year old nursing assistant from Lynn, Mass., she is now on the internet five hours a day to "step out of reality". But, in good de Zengotita fashion, this really means stepping into another kind of media. Thus a freshly unemployed IBM consultant from Ipswitch, Mass., is, in mediated Obama fashion, calling his blog "Together we Can!" The truth is that in the age of real-time Twitter communication, we can't step out of media. It is real life. Everything else is invention.
So what comes after the de Zengotita moment? Surely this can't the end the line, the last stop, the final show. Will human beings ever again be able catch up with electronic media?