17 August, 2008

Technology & Human Relationships

10th September 2007

The amount of communication between us, it seems, has never been so enormous. Yet, I don’t think it made us any closer than we ever were, or are we. It definitely makes us much more available. Most of us have cellphones and most of us can be called anywhere, any time of the day. Not me, because my cellphone stays where I put it; I don’t carry it around with me unless I need to use it myself, in which case, I turn it off the entire time except for when I intend to use it. If I had friends, I would tell them to get used to it: I am not available whenever it pleases you. Since I don’t have those, it’s not a problem.

Cellphones aren’t the only factor; I’m thinking of websites like MySpace and Facebook in particular. Never before could you get to know that much about anyone so quickly. Of course, the profiles you can see have to be made public by the owners, but insofar as that is granted, there’s no limit (or almost) to what you can show and to what they can see.

I believe this can make things incredibly more complicated between people. Imagine this: you have a partner who has a MySpace, or a Facebook, and then you break up. Imagine now that one of them still loves the other and still has access to the profile. Here’s a place where you can see what your beloved does without him/her seeing you see her. How sad. Then imagine that this beloved finds a new partner, and you still have access to her photo gallery and everything. The wise choice would be to avoid peeking at those, but who can? This is one of those dangling teeth you simply must tear apart from your jaw, regardless of the blood and pain.

It seems to me that a lot of people use MySpace and other similar sites to make themselves little celebs. However, still to me, the majority use it for friends and only friends. To quote the song, we’re all stars now.

The Internet is the kingdom of exhibitionists and voyeurs. And when I use those words, I don’t mean just the people who show themselves naked and those who look at them; I mean any type of exhibition and any type of observation. But is that still the same thing? If you show personal pictures to friends, you probably don’t do anything you wouldn’t do in “real” life, as they like to call it. I guess that can’t quite be called exhibitionism.

I have checked random galleries of random profiles that just showed up on the screen, or the profile of my own friends’ friends, out of curiosity. How could I not? I’m a curious person, and I’d put my nose into everyone’s business if I could, the dirtier the better. Well, insofar as I don’t have to act about it, of course. Just kidding.

So, isn’t it fascinating to just be able to look at holiday photos of someone you either don’t know at all or barely know? It certainly is, but I don’t know if that’s all good. In my experience, it makes me sad. You get to see the cool stuff everyone else is doing, and as usual, the grass is greener on the other side. People always have pictures of their great friends and the great places they visited and all; I just have book reviews and blog entries that very few pay attention to. Not extra glamorous. Then there’s my photo gallery; and then again, there’s nothing much amazing there either.

But back to the relationship issue. Imagine you were dumped and you can witness every major new step in the life of the person you loved and who left you. What an ordeal. Of course, you may just cancel the MySpace friendship and that’s that, but that may not always happen, and may not always be willed either. I’m afraid technology helps us know much more than we really want to.

And now that everyone can get his or her blog, it’s likely that his or her friends will feel somewhat obliged to read, though not in my case, dear fucker friends. I know you’re not reading this so I feel free to copiously insult you to my heart’s desire. And of course, if you are reading this, then the insults aren’t for you. All’s well in a perfect world.

So everyone, well, not everyone – a large portion of people self-document themselves online. If that can promote self-analysis and literacy, then I’m all for it, but there’s a danger that we get all crazy about our little selves in an orgy of narcissism and self-centeredness. I don’t know if that can get so extreme really. Honestly, I just don’t know.

All that communication, I believe, puts distance between us. Freud, I think, noted that if the young men hadn’t had to move to the city for work, there would have been no need for the telephone to hear their voices from the country side. We don’t really use the Internet that way exclusively. Internet offers us near endless possibilities, and people like that, possibilities.

You can find countless sites on which you can find countless profiles of people you could date/befriend/fuck/spend your life with and etc. Our current situation doesn’t limit us anymore: you can find as many people as you want. People fall in love over the Atlantic and get married; people move to the other side of the planet for a person they never even met without the medium of a computer screen. The problem with this, according to me, is that one can always think: “my boyfriend is great, but there surely must be someone better than him.” And sure enough, there will be someone “better”. Normally, you love someone for the person they are, but today, it’s more like you love someone for their performances in whatever domain, beauty, social status, etc. You can spend your life moving from one partner to another, because there’s the offer for it. We’re no longer living in small villages with a limited amount of potential partners. The entire world is our potential partner now. And because Internet helps put distance between us, we no longer have to care much what people will think, because they’re miles and miles and miles away. Thus, perhaps, producing severe dichotomies in some of us. Anyone can lie and pass himself or herself for someone else. Spooky.

By now you have realised I really didn’t have much of an argument to put down here, I’m just typing away. I don’t care because... you’re so far away.

So, all my friends are online friends with whom I communicate online. Champion of redundancy, it’s an art. Then, for a lot of people, their computer is also their sexual partner. When nobody wants to fuck you, and your conscience and/or wallet tell you that you can’t afford a prostitute, well you still have Internet sexdom for a substitute. It’s all so... digital. I wonder if all this is an improvement over the past or not. My impression is that yes, but at the same time, I have my doubts. All in all, I guess, it’s just like anything else; it depends on what you do with it. Technology I mean. I wouldn’t blame technology for what we do or don’t do; all I’m saying here is that it provides us with means to our own despair and hopes, but that mostly it’s up to us to work it out so things turn out fine. Not sure this bit of exquisite prose makes much sense, I just wanted to type some.

I don’t think I would be less lonely without my computer. I’d just be the same, without my online friends, and that’s that. [What? I actually disagree with that now: I would definitely be much more lonely without my online friends, because I’d not have any friends at all. By now you’ll have noticed that the square brackets are comments I make when I proofread my chapters.]

So what do I say now... No idea. This space between us. I’m just going to quote song after song until I can think of something better. Nah, not even. [Well that was one inspired concluding paragraph...]

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