Los Angeles exudes a definite psychic difference from other large cities. People don’t associate. To associate is to connect someone or something with something else in one’s mind. To group. To collaborate. We don’t do that in LA. Communities are hard to come by. More often than not, we dissociate:
“That is an asshole in a Toyota Tundra blocking my lane, not a man driving carefully because he’s driving his elderly grandmother home from the hospital. That’s not a breathing, fragile human being balancing a two-wheeled machine. It’s a goddamn biker in my lane. That’s not another person in my line of work who might be an interesting partner. It’s my competition.”
Identified here are four similarities between the autopolis of Los Angeles and the information superhighway (what a throwback phrase!). The same way Angelenos fail to see each other as humans is similar to the way we interact and dissociate online. You don’t believe me? Start your soundtrack. Here we go…
Competitive psychic isolation // Competing intent for attention
Los Angeles is an autopolis, a postmodern mess of Carmageddons and A Clogwork Orange. Yes, really, A Clogwork Orange. The shoulder-rubbing interaction of public transportation, plus opportunities to actually walk through a neighborhood that New York City and Chicago provide are absent from most urban areas of LA. Lack of community is pervasive. Los Angeles residents drive from the garage to the freeway to the parking lot. There’s no forced diversity, and casual interaction is strained—you’re always in someone else’s way. Such is the Internet, where we position ourselves as the individual, the master, completely in control of how we present ourselves, constantly demanding someone, anyone, look at us! Retweet us! Like us! Psychic isolation and demand for attention drive dissociation.
Supremacy of the beautiful // Idealized personal presentation
The rating system for human hotness is strictly enforced in Los Angeles. The ultimate is a ten. Everyone wants to be a ten. Very few people are tens, but there are more here than anywhere else, and lots of nines and eights, and this is the cause of much frustration. People rating themselves on an unrealistic cultural ideal is just what we do. The vanity that Los Angeles has long been mocked for is rampant on the web. Don’t argue. You’re all doing it on Facebook and Instagram, shaving off the sweetest, juiciest bits of that lifestyle you lead for everyone else to observe and enjoy. We recoil from reality, dissociating from real connections.
Ideological separation // Physical separation
Online, we delve into the same type of separatist experiences Los Angeles citizens must endure to stay sane. After a few years traveling cross-town in brain-numbing traffic for parties, waxings, weddings, and work, many an Angeleno has vowed to never leave their neighborhood, excepting yearly vacations. Compare that to traversing the web, where you choose exactly what to accept and what to ignore, like Eastsiders and Westsiders on our respective sides of the 405. We don’t have to argue. We don’t have to go anywhere uncomfortable. Each website click and food delivery funnels us deeper down an ideological pathway. We selectively narrow our online and physical explorations, dissociating from opportunities for growth.
Constant distraction // Ad bombardment
Any visitor to LA is immediately struck by the heavy population of billboards, murals, brightly painted storefronts, moving ads, publicity stunts, galas and openings and skywriting and neon. The giant buildings and car-ensconced status of each potential consumer means advertisers must work that much harder to reach us, cluttering the landscape with sexy giants. It’s the banner ad of life. The pop-under of the soul. Online advertisements are becoming
increasingly stubborn, limiting your “Skip Ad” options and counting down those interminable seconds until we reach that content or destination we so earnestly desire. It’s difficult to drive without ad distraction in LA, and just as difficult to navigate the web without an ad up in your face. Constant distraction dissociates us from the task at hand, whether it’s making a left turn or researching a paper.
I do love Los Angeles. And while I believe both the Internet and Los Angeles are cliquey, competitive, and isolative, they’re also wonderlands of opportunity and small pockets of community.
What’s your take?