|Blogs, Intimacy & Communication
||[Jul. 6th, 2005|08:49 pm]
|||||The city at sunset||]|
A dear friend recently wrote this article:
"A friend recently sent me an article about the prevalence of blogs, especially in this era of Millenials. Included in this article were excerpts from the blogs of undergrads at a few universities in the U.S. As I read through them I confess I began to feel old. Not “old” as in out of touch with what late-teens and early-20-somethings find significant, but “old” as in disinclined to participate in this growing communication trend.
I read my first blog about three years ago. The idea of a “live journal” fascinated me not so much because I wanted to share my innermost thoughts and feelings with the rest of the world, but because I wondered exactly HOW people could share their thoughts and feelings with the rest of the world. (Which I suppose, it almost goes without saying, is what I’m doing now.) The really gripping blogs seem to contain the greater share of personal information—all the more poignant for their raw honesty and chill-bumping detail. But most of the excerpts from these undergrad blogs seemed to be a reflex of the VH-1 culture—many were wandering, self-centered echoes of ideas and needs that were rattling around inside them like coins in a dryer but lacked cohesiveness and depth.
I have resisted the Instant Messenger tool/reliance/addiction/necessity. I admit there are times when it would be nice to IM someone with some trivial yes-or-no question that doesn’t require a phone call or an email: did Yaphè say we didn’t need to know the neurological causes of incontinence? Is that black heron on the golfcourse a bad omen for tomorrow’s exam? Magic 8 Ball style. But what I witness are I.M. conversations between people sitting a room, or a couple computers, apart. “Hey what’s up?” “Nuthin.” “What page are you on?” “Seven.” “Doesn’t this suck?” “My ass.”
All of these modern tools encourage communication and intimacy—and yet we have skewed communication into blogging about the status of our bathroom mildew or how many times our dog ralphed on the rug, and we have twisted intimacy into knowing more about someone that we never actually see, touch, or hear. So the question I’ve been musing over is, with the advent of IM and blogging, does it seem like we’re saying more, yet really saying less? I suppose that depends on the type of blog. I have a friend who consistently writes thought provoking and intimate entries in her live journal, so I understand the value of using the web as a way of keeping friends and family informed when you simply do not have time to pick up the phone. I have also seen blogs used maliciously to hurt friends/boyfriends/girlfriends while informing their 164 closest friends about the (private?) issue.
Ah, another point: what IS privacy when it comes to blogging? If you the blogger excoriate an (ex)-friend online, have you broken the right to privacy of the (ex)-friend? A classmate and I had recent cause to discuss this idea. According to a few inquiries on her part amongst friends, the current claim is that it’s really no different than verbally excoriating them to a flesh and blood audience. But I differ with that logic. For one thing, your flesh and blood audience is limited to those in your physical or phone presence and I assume discretion plays some part in whom you tell. What you post online is not policed, unless your blog is password protected. For another thing, there is something so indelible about words in print. It doesn’t matter that blogs are malleable and you can erase yesterday’s vitriolic comment about your roommate the bitch who borrowed your flipflops without asking and then her dog chewed them up. Once it’s been written, and is therefore readable and printable, there’s really no revoking what you’ve said even if you can delete it. It’s better to keep your tempestuous feelings in a format (such as verbal) that’s not admissible as evidence and about which you can always apologize for later or outright deny Clinton-style. Don’t be confronted with the navy dress in blog form.
I’ll close with a repetition of something that I’m still pondering: Are we saying more yet really saying less? How much of what we say really needs to be said? Is small talk really the domain of the polite and charismatic or the backbone of the socially uncourageous? Do we fill the space of silence because we view silence as a hollow void? My closest friends know that I view silence as an entity, a presence of something rather than an absence. To me, silence is not a lack of sound but the attendance OF a sound, the sound of nothing. I spend many hours a day with silence and I find it very comforting and relaxing. When I think of how much mindless chatter I’ve nattered off in my lifetime, it makes me want to involute into silence for a while and just enjoy the feeling of being. It’s a compliment if I can sit next to you and say very little—it means that our acquaintance doesn’t need frivolous augmentation."
As usual, she's articulate and personal in a way that always inspires me -- makes me wonder at how little of substance I've been sharing, lately. While I always have the excuse of busybusybusyblahblahblah, still, I established this blog first and foremost as a means of communicating with those far away, who may not have insight into what really makes me myself.
Distance is a killer. Friendship to me depends on intimacy -- an understanding of what really happens in the interstices of a person's mind and heart and soul. The rest is superficial, and counts as little as the bandaid you tear off all at once, to minimize the sting. Superficial acquaintances die that way. The profound ones -- the ones where you share the heartache, and the delirious joy, the dangerous ideas and fever dreams and colors of your future -- feel like limbs lopped off when they die. But to maintain a friendship without a shared reality requires a great deal of commitment on both sides.
All of my friends who regularly check this site (despite the fact that I do not regularly maintain it) have been there for me during times of terrible distress, with words of kindness, words of wisdom, words of support. Those little gifts kept me afloat, often. They have also let me know that mine is not a voice alone and unanswered in the wilderness, which is what it felt like in the terrible transition to living foreign.
Yet now I am returned, I am still a million miles away, both spatially and in life changes/paths, choices made that have taken me beyond a point of no return in some relationships. Others, I wonder. Is this all an elaborate fantasy, the fiction that I still have the friends I once used to share time and space and life with? I know that this site is somewhat fatuous -- a way to talk to myself (think out loud, so to speak) and force others to listen to the whole blather. Well, perhaps force is too strong a word. Still, in person, I talk too much, listen too little. Am I also abusing this forum, in the sense that, as in conversation, I can blurt out whatever I feel like, without regard for the feelings of others?
It wouldn't be the first time, I suppose. This journal was also intended to be my personal diary -- but with the added bonus of feedback. A record of my life and times and thoughts, the imprint of my spirit. The paper journals I have kept lie mute upon my shelf, their beauties and tragedies and curses not meant to see the light of day silent and safe. This journal is not safe. While I have locked some entries, I have not been as careful with names, etc. as I could have. I apologize to one and all for this.
On the flip side, please recognize that I have not intended insult to anyone. I have merely offered up the reflection of my soul, as it is, as I need to vent or ask my "magic 8 ball" what on earth is happening to me, as I need to rail against those who have hurt me, or against myself, as I struggle to metamorphose into the creature of my own design. This is honesty, on a level that I could not offer in another forum with as many of you as I have. This does not have the restrictions that a newsletter does -- there is no set format that is called for, or expected. This is not a synopsis of interesting news, although stories worth telling frequently end up here. This is more personal than that.
It is still a lifeline to me, connecting me with the world. Perhaps that is a "magic feather", enabling me to fly, and not needed at all. Still, I welcome the crutch, and embrace the echoes that come back to me from beyond the pages of my diary, from the world of the past, or worlds far removed from my own. It is better than hanging on in silence, content only to imagine the friendships that define my life. Memories can sustain me only so far.