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Sharing understanding

I bought a book the other day. One of those impulsive, compulsive purchases that leave me feeling like I’ve done something good in the world. Of course the feeling is altogether misguided. Later, while reading the paltry balance on my bank statement I  grudgingly admitted that I hadn’t done the world a favour at all. I continue to contribute substantially  to the culling of  unsuspecting forests the world over and in similar murderous vein my bank balance is rapidly dwindling. And  it’s  my bank balance that does not have a single dedicated organisation campaigning for it’s preservation.   The usual protocol to follow after raiding a bookstore is to scratch my name onto the inner cover of the book, marking my territory, animal planet style and then stack up the book on my leaning tower of similarly unread foibles. I then customarily look at my shelves and solemnly swear never to commit deforestation again. But it’s often not all disastrous, especially when I do put on a scholarly veneer, remove said book from the precariously petering tower and open it to a gem like this:

Not to let a word get in the way of a sentence,

Not to let a sentence get in the way of its intention,

But to send your mind out to meet the intention

-as you would a guest-

that is understanding.

Mencius

I also read a short, sharp little book called Life on the Refrigerator yesterday. It is a charming little book, consisting entirely of notes left on the refrigerator door by a mother and  daughter. The story itself left me in tears and  while it took me all of an hour and a half to complete, it left me questioning the nature of our interactions with friends and family. Anybody who’s been out with me between 22h00 and midnight knows that my parents and I certainly don’t have communication gaps.  Communication gluts would me more accurate. The book though led me  to question what exactly I communicate with others. In continually claiming to be busy, sending off that text and putting off face-to-face contact, rushing off to do something else, somewhere else, it’s not time I’ve come to be short of, it’s the many people I’ve had to sacrifice in the name of being too busy to visit their new babies or offer my condolences at the loss of a parent.  And yet my Facebook friend list counts some 300 people as friends.  We’re all  becoming strangely more entrenched into little worlds of our own despite all this interconnectedness. And in rushing in and out, perfecting this facade of being too busy, how much are we leaving unsaid?



24 replies on “Sharing understanding”

Maybe we expect too much from ‘friendships’.
Can we maybe compartmentalise (not that I’m generally a fan of compartmentalising) , but maybe to appreciate cyber-connections for what they are. An aspect of interaction.

It’s interesting that ‘deep’ issues are often communicated online, yet in my experience these online connections, if not matched by appropriate face-to-face communication tends to become superficial in nature.
The converse is true regarding face-to-face relationships sharing ‘superficial chatter’ yet somehow sometimes being able to strike that deeper connection.

But like I said initially mabybe we could appreciate online relationships for screen-value ?

Also, having made a conscious effort to limit online interaction, i feel somewhat liberated . ? .

>If I could go back I would have randomly chose one individual and hogged them for the whole night

Alas there was only one of me to go around. Sorry.

I don’t shelve it until I’ve read it. But I also note the date and place of purchase in each book so it’s more of a defence against forgetting.

>If we agree however that real life friendships die natural deaths then so too, online ones. Consciously limiting them is, in my opinion, a little severe.

But then what’s the solution? Blog RSS feeds and follower and friends lists seem to only grow, not shrink, and we’re afraid to unfollow or defriend etc just in case we offend people we don’t really care about. It’s bonkers. The thing is we already do this in real life, but more organically and less explicitly and find it perfectly acceptable. We need to transfer this skill to the online world somehow, but I guess the lure of storing relationships in an infinitely large database is too strong.

>I simply use Twitter a lot differently than you. Vive la différence.

Apologies, I was being a little flippant and not serious.

I’ve come to detest threads
Even getting the last eight emails from this comment subscription alone has made me feel isolated
Not because I don’t understand these words but because there is so much typing, so little understanding in such flurries of words.
I felt the same at Khadija’s Soiree. Too many people that I couldn’t connect with because I was trying to connect with all of them, at the same time. If I could go back I would have randomly chose one individual and hogged them for the whole night

I understand what you’re saying Shak. And I suppose my problem lies in trying to be friends with everybody. Yes, it isn’t possible and yes, quality is likely to suffer. If we agree however that real life friendships die natural deaths then so too, online ones. Consciously limiting them is, in my opinion, a little severe.

And I honestly don’t feel the need to reply to every Twitter update in my timeline. Many of the people I have small talk on Twitter with (Mash, excluding) are hardly friends at all, but people I have previously communicated with on twitter about work or saving the world. I simply use Twitter a lot differently than you. Vive la différence.

>I’m too reliant on this saturation of connectedness. I’m a writer, I thrive on being heard. I could write a book to be heard but I would miss the immediacy online offers.

Notice how none of these reasons even consider the people you’re trying to talk to. Communication seems to be about the producers now and not the consumers. This isn’t a personal criticism directed at you; I totally relate to what you’re saying. Hmm.

>the more digitalised we become, the more our aunts, uncles and parents join FB, the more a seamlessness between online and offline is demanded.

It’s not about the seamlessness. In fact I think the aunts, uncles and parents coming online are going to be our saving grace as they drag the cyberworld into real life (and not the other way around) – unless we start creating new facebook/twitter accounts, online personas and privacy settings just for family (which some people do).

I think we’re getting off the point a bit though. I’m not saying that virtual relationships are necessarily shallower than physical ones, but more that, as humans, I think that we can only maintain a small number of relationships in total, after which the quality of each begins to suffer. The virtual world allows us multiple contacts in a way which was impossible before and that’s why our relationships are suffering now, and not because of the medium itself. The solution in my view is to limit online relationships as you would real ones.

And by that I mean to stop feeling the need to reply to every Twitter update that you see in your timeline :D. The amount of “Good mornings” and “how are you” smalltalk I see online kinda scares me. It’s obvious that these things aren’t meant in the same way they are when spoken over the phone or face to face… or even private email.

True. I’m experimenting with threaded comments plugins. None of them seem to be threading, therefore comment, delete, edit and republish. I’m too reliant on this saturation of connectedness. I’m a writer, I thrive on being heard. I could write a book to be heard but I would miss the immediacy online offers.

You can’t edit and republish comments in real life either 🙂

>Waseem pointed out the other day, that previously friendships would die natural deaths, now facebook renews zombie acquaintances.

There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact it’s one of the good things about Facebook. You’re able to maintain relationships accepted as being trivial by both parties in a way you couldn’t before in real life.

>I’m wary also, of ‘real life’ friendships becoming ‘Facebook’ friendships.

This is the danger, where otherwise awesome, deep and tactile relationships become relegated to Wall conversations just “because they’re easier” (apologies for jumbling your comment).

>You up for that experiment, Shak? I’m not nearly brave enough.

As someone who seems to be on the opposite side of this debate, I don’t see the need to really (although I have taken myself offline for extended periods of time before). As for you, what’s there to be scared of? Not being heard?

@: I agree, it’s easier to hide behind a keyboard and ‘:P’ but the more digitalised we become, the more our aunts, uncles and parents join FB, the more a seamlessness between online and offline is demanded.

I’ve met some of my best friends online, my best friend I met on that damnable MIRC, usurper of youth and marriage bureau unparalleled in success. At the time I was 16, he was 18. Our friendship has survived because there’s a continuity between online and offline, online is a medium, not a strategy to repackage yourself. As Zubair points out above, a lot of my fears in leaving some friends behind is in getting older. I’m not coy about my age, I accept that change is indubitable but I’m afraid as well, of becoming too self-centered.

I’m wary also, of ‘real life’ friendships becoming ‘Facebook’ friendships. Waseem pointed out the other day, that previously friendships would die natural deaths, now facebook renews zombie acquaintances.

You up for that experiment, Shak? I’m not nearly brave enough.

>Our friendship has survived because there’s a continuity between online and offline, online is a medium, not a strategy to repackage yourself.

And yet so many of us are “so different online than we are IRL (LOL)”. It’s amazing what some people feel they can now say behind the written word, especially when they can qualify it with a :p.

>As Zubair points out above, a lot of my fears in leaving some friends behind is in getting older.

It’s in your hands. The thing is where previous generation had to make, you know, an effort to maintain their relationships, now all it takes is a poke and we feel that we’ve done our duty. But hey, it’s the future, no?

>so its not after advent of virtual relationships,real ones died, therefore BECAUSE of virtual relationships, real ones died, it just may be that as “you get older in life, things get taken from you”.

Sounds like post justification to me. Here’s an experiment – kill Facebook, blogs and instant messengers for a month and see what effect it has on the physical side of things.

I maintain virtual relationships not as a substitute for real life ones,or even at the expense of real life ones. They are a thing in themselves. And as we get older, our circle of people who’s company we enjoy seems to dwindle, so its not after advent of virtual relationships,real ones died, therefore BECAUSE of virtual relationships, real ones died, it just may be that as “you get older in life, things get taken from you”.

I hope this sentence hasn’t got in the way of its intention….
And I only write my name in the book cover once i’ve read it. You’re stealing that territory Kay, by marking it before claiming it.

I would like to think that in my communication both online and offline, that I am real as I can be. Although in reality we have more than one facade. There are those who I don’t mind in being true too in my entirety.

So we are saying what we should and to who we should. if we leave things unsaid between us, it obviously means we don’t actually care enough about those relationships

I’ll probably be committing cyber-social-suicide by saying this… but in my view any relationship that exists more online than in real life will always be shallower than those of the converse. Relationships that have a face-to-face component are tested and developed in a different way and so cost much more; like you imply visiting someone to console them on the death of a parent means an infinite amount more than posting something on their walls.

At the end of the day we’re all still insecure and petty and tend to measure our self worth by how many connections we have. I don’t mean to devalue these relationships (I’ve recently seen first hand how awesome they are), but there’s nothing wrong with picking who you actually want to be close to and focussing on them, even if it’s at the cost of others. After all, there’s only so many people you can be humanly with.

Don’t worry, those who are left behind will understand. They’ll have their own friends after all.

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