Craigslist is amazing. Back in the early 2000’s, Craigslist was like the Silk Road of the 7th Century – or even the darkweb Silk Road of the early 2010’s – in that it seemed to offer an intersection for people of every walk of life, seeking to swap everything humans could ever imagine transacting. No one was afraid to voice their opinion, offer their services, or plead for your services.
Anything is possible in this free exchange of services and ideas. While some deride the unregulated nature of such a marketplace or discussion forum, that same unregulated nature allows for – and indeed fosters the creation or further formulation of – ways of thinking that would perhaps otherwise never have occurred to us.
Such is the case for The Best of Craigslist, a collection of the most unique, hilarious, or bizarre postings make by real people across America to the eponymous website.
One particular Best-Of post which I had originally found years ago, recently got me thinking. The title was: Are You A Ghost Surfing The Web?, posted mid-October 2011, and the appeal of the post focuses specifically on that issue:
Documentary style program is looking to contact a ghost on the internet. If you are DEAD and reading this, please respond!
What is your name?
How did you pass away?
Why are you surfing the internet?
It is a truly beautiful, transcendent message that is meant to echo into the afterlife, and the hilarity of the post is surely proportionate to its supposed authenticity. How…I mean… if someone is dead… and they… why would you… and on craigslist? WTF!!!
And then I thought, how could the person who posted this ad prove that whoever contacted them wasn’t, in fact, a true ghost? …Anyone with enough spare time and trolling spirit to mess with the people behind this “documentary style program” would only have to give some vague semblance of a “believable” story, just via email mind you, to be taken completely seriously! This is made possible in that the person they are addressing has already accepted the idea that we live in a world where it is even possible for ghosts to surf the web! Amazing. Simply amazing.
But then I thought, how do I know that I’m not a ghost on the internet? How do you know that You are not just a ghost surfing the internet?
Actually, what I mean to say is: how would or could anyone else know for sure that you or I were not just ghosts surfing the internet?
…I don’t mean to flirt with some quasi-philosophical, Cartesianist-by-way-of-The-Matrix style, “how do we know we are really Alive alive, mannnnn,” argument or evocation. I simply wish to ask – based on the ways that I myself and you yourself utilize the internet – who would objectively be convinced that we were not in fact merely the output or manifestations of otherwise inactive, inconsequential, immaterial keyboard-punchers who exist purely beyond this mortal realm?
Would their minds be changed because of our facebook pages? That must count for something, right? Remember how you reposted that hilarious novelty song/ironic comedy parody mashup two months ago? Lmao, btw, and consequently, case closed, right? Yet don’t we all get friend requests from “people” who so obviously don’t seem to exist? But surely we can spot them, their meager or missing account details usually stand out dramatically in comparison to our own extensive backlogs of statuses and photo albums, don’t they? And yet, not spottable enough for facebook’s algorithms to eradicate the problem. In fact, not that it is any cause for sincerely alarm, but merely for the sake of reasoning along these lines, how many of our current facebook relationships are in fact “friends” with us as the result of mistaken identities or of an approximation of names, faces, or memories that help us (erroneously) conclude, “I probably know or knew that person. Grade school probably. Might as well accept their invitation,” while in reality they are the creation of a Bangladeshi clickfarm… which might be above the board, but only in the case that you actually went to grade school in or around Bangladesh. As far as the world’s population goes, most people usually did not.
So how can we prove to a remote observer that we aren’t ourselves ghosts? Some people have their own blogs and online diaries, some people run their own successful tumblr accounts, websites, or contribute extensively to popular forums and discussion boards like 4chan or reddit. They seem to be creating evidence for their existence outside of the realm of the undead, right? Thousands of people on hundreds of message boards and comment s\ections are at this moment debating who or what the best Star Trek crew would be comprised of, how stupid or cool Batman, Superman, or Spiderman look in their latest iterations, how important their favorite childhood TV shows or Youtube channels are or were “back in the day,” or are simply reacting to the reactions to someones reaction-reaction videos.. And yet with the exception of many (but not all!) of those people who distribute video or audio evidence of their physical form, we are still faced with this poltergeist-esque version of the “Nobody knows you’re a dog” conundrum…
Continued in Part Two…