9:08 a.m. - June 28, 2006
Now, the blogger starts out a solitary figure, alone in the world of cyberspace. But naturally, he or she finds others of a similar ilk and kind in his preferred blogging medium and starts a little network of bloggers, essayists, and online writers of all sorts. There is a contraption called ‘the buddy list’ that allows you to read each other’s work when they update.
Not long before this little history began, my site had been gathering readers and I was corresponding in kind, leaving comments and notes on their sites. My buddy list was nearing full, and I was happy with the number of readers that I had acquired over the months.
One day, the notification that someone had added me to their buddy list appeared on my welcome page, and I had later found that he had made several comments on my past essays. His screen name was “Bartelby”.
I went out to see this Bartelby and his site, and I was impressed with the few entries that he had posted. They had a depth and a style that is normally not associated with the medium of blogging. I eagerly added him to my buddy list and looked forward to reading his daily or weekly musings on life.
At first Bartelby was a prodigious commenter on my essays. His comments struck close to home and were always thoughtful and insightful. I felt at ease with Bartelby, and decided to extend the communication with him. So, in due course, I had exchanged Yahoo screen names, we befriended each other on MySpace, and he was even invited to some message boards that I belonged to.
But one day, I noticed that Bartelby had not updated his personal site in 21 days. Sure, he was commenting, still, and responding to messages, but his personal blog was static for a long time.
I called out to him via IM, “Bartelby, would you please update your site? People are anxious to read what you have written?”
His terse reply to my entreaty was this: “I would prefer not to.”
I sat there in stunned silence. Here was an erudite man, one who started his own blog, one that had captivated me with his words, and one without qualms of communicating in other ways, yet when I asked about updating his blog he gave the most curious of responses.
“Prefer not to?” I typed, “What do you mean? Man, come on, people like your work.”
“I would prefer not to.”
I found this development rather odd.
Bartelby was still commenting at a fast pace, and in his other communications he seemed OK, but for some reason he was not updating his blog. In fact, he had paid for all of the luxuries that come with the site, and I was hoping that he was not wasting his money by it being static for all time.
Later, that week, a comment struck my fancy, so I dashed him off a note on MySpace. I entreated him again to update his site, as people were starting to become concerned about his lack of updating.
Again, the message was short and direct, “I would prefer not to.”
Now while Bartelby’s blog, as still as it was, had great quantities of writing, there was nothing remotely personal about the contents. No mention of friends, family, home, or any information of such nature. Certainly, there are many other things to write about than those items, yet I found it curious that his blog contained none of these items. In fact, his MySpace page just named him as a resident of the planet Earth.
My curiosity was piqued again, so I approached Bartelby via email to ask him some details about himself. Where was he from, what did he do? For some reason, in our voluminous contact, none of these real personal details were forthcoming from him. Could he tell me something about himself?
His response to my messages, “I would prefer not to.”
This was it for me. I was now obsessing about the man. And in my condition, that is not healthy. I had some of my other online friends try and find out what they could about this most curious gentleman, and why he started an online blog and refused to write, while commenting all the same.
One day, though, I had had it. My buddy list was full and I had more readers than buddies, so I had to remove some of my original buddies who were no longer updating. It pained me to do this, but Bartelby was one of them.
Since I had a relationship with him, I messaged him, stating that from this day forward, he was not on my buddy list, but should he decide to write again, I would read his every word.
His terse reply, “I would prefer not to.”
As time went on, Bartelby’s comments became less and less plentiful, but his presence was there. He was like a spectre. He was still on MySpace, still on the message board, but more of a reader than a contributor. Then, one day, I noticed he had not logged in and not commented.
Frantically, I looked for him, and found him on Yahoo. I messaged him asking where he had gone, and what was going on.
“I know you – and I want nothing to say to you.”
“It was not me that brought you to this place in your mind Bartelby.”
“I know where I am”, he messaged, and then he signed off.
Then one day, I was doing some routine maintenance on my accounts, and his screen name had vanished from my readers list.
I checked MySpace, and he had unfriended me. I searched for his profile, and he was gone.
I went onto Yahoo, and tried to message him. Nothing.
I sent him an email, and sent one to his alternate email. Both bounced back.
Bartelby was with kings and counselors, I murmured to myself.
A few days later, I got an urgent message from another online friend. It seemed that Bartelby had a massive blog at another service. His writing there was bountiful. It was full of details and minutiae; in fact, it was a chronicle of his life down to almost the minute.
It seemed that this site had crashed, and poor Bartelby’s life was lost in the ether. The server could not be recovered, and Bartelby had not backed up any of his writings.
Poof, in a matter of minutes, the details of his entire life were gone, cast out of cyberspace for want of a better backup drive. While he was writing about his life, the computer age signaled the death of it.
Ah Bartelby! Ah humanity!