HR: So Ellen, what are you working on for IRL: Craigslist?
EA: I am working on some new music, I am writing a song about the Jobs section of Craigslist.
HR: How’s that going?
EA: It’s really fun, in part because I am not looking for a job right now, so I can just enjoy the content rather than have a very specific aim when I am perusing it.
HR: You’re a musician. Do you sing? Play guitar?
EA: Yeah I play guitar and piano and the composition I am working on for this show is on guitar and voice. In a different project, I make electronic based music with some twangy vocals over it, so that’s one side of my life and then I write fiction and essays.
HR: Having drawn your inspiration for this piece from Craigslist, do you have a lot of experience with Craigslist? Do you use it a lot?
AE: Yes, every time I open up the Jobs section of Craigslist, I remember so vividly about two years ago I was so desperately trying to find work after returning to the States unexpectedly and then also remembering looking for housing in Seattle when I was over in eastern Washington greyhounding over midday which is always a hoot, and then back at night which is less of a hoot. I’ve depended on Craigslist for housing, jobs, I sometimes look at it for furniture but I don’t have a car so a lot of the cooler stuff requires a car, so I try to not window shop. And there is so much junk on there. It’s so fascinating how people present themselves or present their company, with jobs for example, sometimes they put the wage really front and center, or the other day there was one that said “Awesome boss!” and I thought that better be true! Especially if the boss is the one writing this. I’ve also, more in the conceptual art form I guess, snooped a lot in Craigslist, there is so much dirt and weird stuff out there, I guess it’s one of the joys of the internet and also it’s challenges, like in the era of last night’s debate, that you are exposed to so many facets of life. I’m sure Reddit was the same way.
HR: Yeah, well with Craigslist, you can look at an individual post, but with Reddit, you could go down rabbit hole after rabbit hole, just one after the other. Do you have any crazy stories or weird experiences with Craigslist?
AE: That’s a good question… once when I was living in New York, and this isn’t that crazy but it definitely comes to mind, one time I posted my bed and my mattress for two hundred dollars which is a steal, but no one emailed me and no one emailed me and I thought what the hell is wrong with everyone? Why don’t they want my bed and mattress? And then I found out that it’s illegal to sell mattresses on Craigslist! They actually censor it because of bed bugs.
HR: So when I think of Craigslist, I think of the vast information that is accessible to us, all that is available at our fingertips. Can you talk a little bit about pro’s and con’s?
AE: I think that I wish that we thought about the internet more than we do especially now that our lives are dependent on it and now that it’s woven into our lives, particularly with social media. I don’t know necessarily, aside from comfort or validation, what is necessarily good about people having access to your personal life, especially when the don’t know you, or when you don’t know them. I’m a bit wary of that. And then also, to give an example, I had an acquaintance come through Seattle and was really obsessed with putting everything we’d done on Facebook, to the point where I didn’t feel like we were walking down the street anymore, I felt like we were working on propaganda, the propaganda of “I’m in Seattle and I’m having a great time” project… But on the other hand, I’m queer, and I know and have heard from so many youth or former youth who grew up in rural areas that the internet saved them by knowing that they weren’t alone or that there were other people who were queer and religious or even knowing that mental health resources are out there for LGBTQ folk or scholarships like that. The internet is a mixed bag! It involves humans!