Dirt: Embracing ambivalence
“A witch, given to me as a gift, lives in my wallet like a little doll in a trunk.”
Elissa Washuta on inbox zero, her first NFT and the freedom to be fascinated.
I started deleting at the beginning, with the one auto-sent to my brother that said, “If you haven’t already heard about Gmail, it’s a new search-based webmail service” and “Gmail is still in an early stage of development. But if you set up an account, you’ll be able to keep it even after we make Gmail more widely available.” I am closing the archive of myself, deleting who I used to be, piece by piece. I don’t want to live here anymore, in the territory of best and I hope this message finds you well. I want the right to be unreachable, to refuse I look forward to your response.
The other day on Twitter, I saw someone looking for the owner of an ENS domain they wanted, tweeting into the void to ask them to reach out. I’m obsessed with it: anon can opt in but doesn’t have to opt out. The first time I saw the Sex and the City episode in which Mr. Big says to Carrie of the famous person he’s dating, “She can reach me, but I can’t get her,” I didn’t know how badly I’d want it.
When the world wide web was new, all I wanted was to be reached in the forest through my parents’ PC and the orange portal that was Bolt.com. That was years before I was offered that free email account with “1,000 megabytes (one gigabyte) of free storage” and “Built-in Google search that instantly finds any message you want,” before our messages could live to become teenagers, twins split between our archives and someone else’s. I miss the golden heart-swell of a line appearing in the blank of my inbox. Remember back long ago when people didn’t open email attachments? That is how I feel. I just can’t open an attachment, it’s not safe.
Writers say we would quit Twitter if we could, but we’re bound to it. I heard someone is building us a new internet, painting it in purple like a Lisa Frank trapper keeper. I’ve known for my whole career that the literary world doesn’t trust experiments, so I’m not surprised that the writers around me want to take a bat to the blockchain like that printer beat-down in Office Space. Writers and readers circled a literary NFT project and took it down, for the environment. Because as @what_eats_owls tweeted, “an NFT is basically the digital equivalent of a CVS receipt that takes out an acre of rainforest to ‘print.’” Never mind that the planned platform was Solana, whose foundation recently reported that a transaction uses about as much energy as a single Google search.
I deactivated Twitter (main, anyway) the day Kickstarter announced their move to the proof-of-stake Celo blockchain and people I respect vowed to boycott. While I work on a book about money and glitches in the simulation, a project that necessarily seats me in ambivalence, I want the freedom to be fascinated, which means I need to be alone for a little while, DMs dead and inboxes filling with follow-ups. Sorry. I just think this reachability might be bad. What are we doing with our interconnectedness, anyway? Screenshotting bad takes to preserve them, quote-tweeting to dunk, threading to educate everyone about how shitty they are. We call it “literary community” but we don’t even want to talk to each other–we want the right to make them hear us.
Aren’t we already living in the metaverse, more ether than meat? If we find ourselves stretched equally between real life and the TL, worried that one part of us will wither if we free the other, we’ve already made our departure from the world as it was. We’ve made collectibles of our emails, figurines of our screenshots. Our GPUs are sweating through another open tab. Ethereum uses too much energy, but it won’t always.
Anyway, writers are tweeting to protect the environment from crypto while their books that smell like books are crossing the ocean from China on a container ship that will burn thousands of tons of fuel by the time it gets to the Port of Los Angeles, where it will sit offshore waiting to dock, and then the containers will sit at the port waiting to be picked up by a truck, driven by a person, creeping toward the front of the line.
My attic floor is measurably bowing under the weight of those books. One driver after another comes to my door to bring me things I could live without. I have depression, and also one NFT. A WITCH, given to me as a gift, lives in my wallet like a little doll in a trunk. I am responsible for taking care of her. This is what is really scary: giving up my ability to be careless, to get my password reset when I forgot to write it down, to leave my credit card behind at some bar, to ask the landlord to come down and let me into my own life. — By Elissa Washuta