As I’ve unplugged (at least as far as deactivating my Facebook account and ignoring Twitter counts toward this end) I can say I find myself sometimes bereft of the constant chatter. The “sound” of other people’s voices that came through on my feed telling me of their day is gone and I’m left to the triviality absent emails of friends. Communication has been whittled back to the full fledged letter, difficulties of the heart and even simple family adventures are discussed freely and in detail. It seems as though my community got smaller, but the value of each person increased exponentially.
There are some, of course, whom I’ve met through those mediums which I’ve been blessed to communicate with post deactivation, but overwhelmingly I’m left with questions. Does “social networking” enhance or reduce the perceived value of personal relationships? The answer for any one of us is necessarily both personal and unique and so I feel inclined to share mine: My personal relationships, or what I thought were personal, suffered in the medium of “look who comments (and doesn’t) on whose posts” and “look who bought x,y, and z/went to x amazing place”. To be fair this made me confront many issues I had heretofor ignored while hiding those who seemed to be freezing me out on my newsfeed including what my expectations were and why I had them. The one that this post is most dedicated to was this: People were different in person than they were online. And I had a lot more envy encouraged than I knew how to reasonably handle.
Now, this is not true of ALL people, but by and large the “friends” (those I knew in real life) who were virtually ignoring me would be pleasant to my face. Hugs exchanged and the “it’s been so long” that never before seemed socially obligatory to me was dished out copiously. Which was real? Which false? The more I watched these individuals the more I realized that the dishonesty for them seemed to be in the face to face communications. It was the simplest and most taken for granted thing that pressures us all as well and it is summed up best in this clip:
This social dishonesty seemed to be encouraged by the digital world. As long as one never had to confront the person directly then whatever dishonesty one valued, or was too uncomfortable to confront, prevailed. The life one chose to have was available to be communicated far and wide among all connections on the internet – the brilliant vacations, the shining moments in a marriage or partnership, peaceful and clever moments in being a parent – and the drudgery, difficulties, and even the heartache were left for “sometime” and virtually ignored (literally). For some folks I know the converse was true. Every person I know shows different aspects of their lives to different people at different times but what makes the digital expression of this most interesting and disappointing is that it diminishes, not enhances, personal relationships. A tool, such as the internet and its various offerings, is of course used to whatever end each person decides (consciously or subconsciously) and for many folks I watched on Facebook everything became a show, an empowerment of their strongest desire and motivator.
This does not mean people are inherently bad or even self centered, merely that they can, and often seem to choose, the lie they wish to be a truth gets presented as actuality or they become naked in the world and show who they truly are – to whatever end. At the end of the day walking through Facebook became a stroll through a desert of melted clocks. Or perhaps that is simply a reflection of what the analog world is as well.
The contest of “reality”, of the world in all its hard edged 3-D glory, is where the mind can truly be exercised; through taking in and accepting the nature of things and working with it. After all, is not the defining of nature what philosophy actually is? Is this not where we can work through the problems life seems to hand us with our hearts and our minds – seek to synchronize them? Appreciate the beauty of it? Living in a Dali painting was interesting for a time, but I think if I should make my return to that world it should be with the firm understanding that life is infinitely stranger, more complex, and more beautiful than anything the internet has to offer. A tool in my tool belt it will be – and I plan on using it well.