What does it mean to love something on the internet today? This is the question Robin Sloan poses in Fish: A Tap Essay, a lovely little manifesto that runs on Tapestry. This might be better phrased, what does it mean to love something today? I don't mean love another person, but love something. A song. A book. A photo. A movie. A tweet. Is it possible to love a tweet? Really love it. It's very easy to like things. I find myself liking things all day long. There is so much to like; why not click that little button? But what does it mean to like things all the time, all day long. How can something retain meaning if we do it all the time? And what of levels of liking? At what point do I decide that I love something? And is this something I can even express in a digital space?
In the essay, Sloan writes beautifully of the fact that we rarely return to the things we "like" and "fave." We like. We share. We move on. So what is a reasonable definition of love on the internet? Sloan says, maybe the definition of love is to return. To come back to these things again and again. The internet is designed to pass us by. We are always moving on to the next thing. This has always been true of mass media. The news doesn't report the same story more than once. There is so much information, and so much of it good, that we don't want to miss anything. So what are the things that I return to time and time again? Here are a few:
Bluets, by Maggie Nelson. I have read this book half a dozen times.
The Royal Tennebuams. At least once a year, I watch this movie.
Don't Fall in Love With Everyone You See, by Okkervil River. This album always stays true to me.
Authority and American Usage, by David Foster Wallace. Every time I read this essay I learn something new.
The list could go on. There are many things I love, and many things that I come back to over and over. It's a definition of love that really resonates with me.
Aside from the content of Sloan's essay, I'm quite taken with the design as well. All stories on Tapestry (or essays, or poetry; I don't really know what you call some of these) are stylistically fascinating. To read this essay, and others on Tapestry, you must tap. Literally tap the screen to move forward. You can't go back. Words and sentences are presented individually. What does this do to the reading experience? For one, it slows things down tremendously. It is not possible to scan. Not possible to jump ahead. It forces you to consume the words in small bites. At first, this was infuriating, but after reading a few pieces, I came to enjoy it as a different kind of reading experience. A slower, more methodical, contemplative experience. Which is probably what reading should be anyway. The other aspect is that it is a fully designed experience. From the color to the type to the animation and the drawings and photography. Each element adds to the experience. I'm really intrigued by this app.