Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I don't expect we'll get the cure to cancer over a person's Facebook update

Consider this scenario from the NY Times.
"Just Smell the Flowers

I was visiting a friend in the mountains who suggested picking wildflowers in a national forest. I told her that wasn’t right because it prevents the flowers from setting seed for the next year. We went for a walk, she picked her flowers, and I said nothing. Later, she posted on Facebook (and her blog) that she’d been out with the “Nature Police,” and encouraged others to follow her example. After my visit, I sent an e-mail saying I was hurt. We haven’t spoken since. Is this friendship over? Anonymous

It will be if the two of you don’t stop your passive-aggressive Internet foolishness. So far, you’ve taken to Facebook, blog spots, e-mail and advice columns. For the love of snapdragons, why not talk to each other?"

This bit in the Times made me think a little. I've been a fan of Web 2.0 and what it does for people since the very beginning. I see it as a tool to help one navigate the net with more efficacy. I don't see it as a family member and/or lover. Web 2.0 is simply a tool that we may use to learn more and facilitate our daily lives. Web 2.0, or in quotidian speech, sites like Facebook, Twitter, blogging sites et al., are not the answer to human interaction. They're there as a means to an end the end being juggling real and sort-of-real attachments with more ease.

Some examples of real attachments would be, expressing an interest in one's dear people's family vacation photos, a photo of their new haircut or a sort-of-funny (but not that funny) update. Sometimes, in the name of civility and true attachment, we have to show (or if we can't truly do it) feign an interest in the rather menial and mundane activities of those we love. It's a trade-ff. It's the price we pay for intimacy.

The unnecessary and menial does come with the good. Life, thankfully, is not just about crises and drama. Life is long and a lot of it is a sea of rather mundane get togethers that people have convinced themselves they need to have so that they keep the commitment (or a semblance thereof) to their attachments as active as they can. What sustains relationships, be they familial, amicable, or professional is going the distance. The distance of menial tasks, that is.

I've always had a hard time with what I ended up calling 'empty get-togethers.' I like to do things if there's attachment and substance to them. I use the same modus operandi in my own relationships. I do the ones that are worth my time and in whom I'm invested. I have never been able to fake interest and I'm not about to start now. I hierarchicalize. I like having specialty friends. have rock concert friends, winter sports friends, travel friends, and so forth. I have a hard time sitting still in gatherings that are purely ornomental. As I would always tell my shopping buddies, "during the time it takes you to decide on a dress, I wrote a whole piece over at Starbucks." If there is no purpose attached to my relationships then these relationships have no purpose.

And this is what I like about Web 2.0. It has created an arena where the seemingly inconsequential can occur without it infringing on my right to use my actual live time as I see fit. It's all it is. I don't expect we'll get the cure to cancer over a person's Facebook update so let's reserve some of the earnest interest that goes to these sites to things in life that actually matter. Like enjoyig actual nature, out and about, like this one:

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Sra said...

Web 2.0 has its uses, certainly. But it also does facilitate distancing ourselves from actual human interaction. And for some reason, people are a lot more willing to say things online that they would never say face to face. I doubt the flowers person would have been quite so snarkily passive aggressive in real life.

Jorg said...

I also think that sometimes some Web 2.0 users hide their passive aggressiveness behind their social media tools. Like Sra points out, actual human interaction does suffer when so many purport to get so much from a computer screen.