Other authors fret about the impact of the Web, but Augusten Burroughs “would not want to even be alive” without it.
Question: Do you worry that the Internet will kill long-form writing?
Augusten Burroughs: I don't worry about anything in the Internet age. I have been online since I was aware of it: 1985 in San Francisco with an Apple Macintosh and back then it was just a black screen and you typed and someone typed back. I loved it. I loved it. It has changed everything in my life. I would not want to even be alive in an era that did not have it because it is essential to our evolution as a species. It, to me, feels utterly inevitable. We have to have it because if you think about it, we've created a system where there's sort of a global caste system. What happens if you're the genius 9 year old girl living in a dirt poor unnamed country with nothing and there is not one eye trained on you and you don't even know enough to hope but you're a genius. One day someone drops from the clouds some peculiar little durable computer thing that you've never seen and you pick it up and you poke at it. You kind of figure it out. What you realize is that this little thing connects you but more than connecting you to other people in the world it masks you.
Now a lot of people can be afraid of the masking because people can misrepresent themselves and they can pose as people they're not. Well, yeah; that's true. That's one side of it. But the other side of it is that it equalizes you and if you happen to be a person who is not equal in the eyes of the greater society that's a damn good thing. Because now, guess what, you are. You are every bit as valid as the Stanford graduate. We have to have that not for politically correct reasons, I don't give a shit about that, but we have to have it because these people contain essential things. Essential things. In order for us to progress, we need brilliance and brilliance isn't fair and it's not polite and it's not -- we can't grow it. It happens. It happens. Genius happens and it doesn't always happen in a zip code where we can access it. Therefore, we kind of need not to keep tabs on everybody but we need to give them access to everybody else.
So I think that the Internet is our most profound and beautiful achievement. It is magnificent and it's just a baby. It's just a baby. I cannot wait until we can know things because we have the Internet as a layer of our thinking that doesn't control us, we control it, yet we don't have to be aware of it. It will be like a suit that really fits well.
Recorded on November 3, 2009
Interviewed by Austin Allen