In Defense of Shutting the Fuck Up
My resolution to create more and talk less.
Hello. As I mentioned last month, I am currently busy working to meet a book deadline. I should be finished after next week, and then it’s back to semi-regular programming over here, including my weekly book column. For now, here’s a few words about something I’ve been thinking about as the year turns.
I’ve had this lyric running through my head for months. It’s from a Sundowner song, or, technically, a Lawrence Arms song, depending on how you want to look at it. It’s the one about resolutions, the one everyone likes to post on New Year’s Eve. Of course, I am not enjoying the song for its superficial connection to the recent holiday like everyone else, but rather for different, more intellectual reasons which make me deeper and more profound than my peers.
“I think I’m going deaf, or maybe I’m just hearing less.”
My brain has been getting more mileage out of this line as the years go on. In a literal sense, sure, I am hearing less. I blew out my left ear at a show at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco in October and couldn’t hear out of it for four days. (Invest in good earplugs, kids!) But in the metaphorical sense, I find the volume of the world to be so overwhelming these days that I am no longer able to hear any of it. Open your phone and it’s just a wall of noise.
I used to have an intense desire to be heard. In my teens and twenties, I couldn’t get my voice out there loudly enough. I made fanzines full of my loud, shitty opinions. When blogs became popular, I moved my loud, shitty opinions online. Then at 30 I landed a full-time job as a staff writer for a music website and it was a natural fit for my LSOs. A big fat loudmouth with working knowledge of the internet? Buddy, it was the job I’d been training for my whole life! I was a full-volume machine, ranting and rambling to anyone who would pay attention.
But that eagerness to be heard has burned off in recent years. Lately I am more prone to shutting the fuck up. I don’t know if it’s me or the internet that’s changed since then. Probably a little of both. I definitely feel less of a desire to stay hyperconnected to culture as I age, but social media has also taken a palpable nosedive over the last few years that has rendered it nearly unusable. What was once a customizable feed of organized information is now an indiscriminate firehose of algorithmically dictated sludge. It’s a cesspool of rage baiters, crypto bots, cruelty peddlers, bloodthirsty fanbases, hacky meme creators, hacky meme thieves, for-profit bigots, misinformation hucksters, shameless spon con sellouts, bottom-of-the-barrel engagement farmers, AI freaks, masochistic daily main characters, unoriginal trend riders, soulless front-facing reaction videos, out-of-context outrage inducers, disingenuous comedy podcasters, and Matt Rife.
I look at people who thrive in this climate and feel immense pity for them. These are people desperate to be heard but with nothing to say. Who would want such a fate? It reminds me of that line from the first scene of No Country for Old Men. “A man would have to put his soul at hazard. He’d have to say, ‘Okay. I’ll be part of this world.’”
If you spend too much time getting lost in it, it all feels very important. But when you take even the smallest step back, out of this online prison of our own making, you realize none of it actually matters. It has no value. It’s all worthless and amounts to nothing. Just white noise. Worse than that, it is actively getting in the way of the true visionaries and artists as their voices are drowned out by hacks and grifters willing to play the content game.
Maybe it’s a product of age and the hyperawareness of the finality of time that comes with it, but I can’t be bothered with this shit anymore. It’s a time trap. It’s attention poison. Any precious minutes I am spending thinking about some stranger’s opinions or the pointless drama du jour are minutes I’m not creating anything.
I don’t think it’s just me who wants off this ride. Plenty of recent trend pieces have pointed to the fact that most average internet users are turned off enough to have given up on posting all together, instead retreating to smaller group chats and private Discord servers.
If I want to get on my high horse, I’ll point out that it is actually a noble act of defiance to shut the fuck up! In a tech-dominated capitalist hellscape that profits off of bad takes and misguided opinions, it is a courageous political statement to keep yer fuckin’ trap shut. It is outright commendable to refuse to contribute to the noise and provide free work to platforms owned by the two most insecure billionaire tech dorks on the planet.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have millions of opinions. I still love running my mouth. I love to talk shit. But instead of rushing to mindlessly type them into the content machine, I find myself doing the rational thing: being petty in a group text of trusted friends, drinking a glass of water, and moving on with my day.
2023 was probably the happiest year of my life. I spent all of it with my head down, working on a book with a friend. He’s a few years older than me and has been through a lot in recent years which has forced some perspective on him. Every time we get together, he ends the hang by saying, “Let’s make cool shit!” I used to chuckle at the sheer simplicity of it. There’s almost an endearing naivety to it. Now I realize how ahead of me he’s been. Because, really, what else is there?
Let’s make cool shit.
This is the resolution I find myself making as the new year begins. To create more and complain less. To open my mouth only when I have something worthwhile to say. To be more deliberate with my words. To support friends, to make art, and to see the world. The rest is just noise.
You can also reach me in real life here: PO Box 11352, Glendale, CA 91226