Thursday, June 08, 2017

A/S/L | Are you Fish or Fowl?

A meme made it's way through Twitter where ya like an image and then the poster of the image tells the world-at-large something about yourself. There were gentle good-naturedly ribbing anti-memes,  some memes that ran with the idea and built on it - unearthing tidbits of history or book recommendations - and a couple of anti-memes with teeth that struck me as, perhaps, over-hasty dismissals.

I derno. I fav'd those personal memes whenever I saw them come out. Since the whole thing wasn't (1) intrinsically sinful and was (2) indicative that the poster wants to share something with the world about themselves, why the deep-seated urge to respond with cynicism? 'cause dismissive cynicism was my first response, albeit, without an urge to vocalize it. But I've learned to distrust some of my immediate tendencies. "I like it because it appeals to my authoritarian nature," I explained to a friend about a proposed rule, "but that's why I don't think it's right."

If it ain't your thing, it ain't your thing. It ain't my thing-as-a-way-to-communicate, either, though I did enjoy reading the facts. The fav-to-fact ratio seems like it could let you in for some hurt if fav-responses are seen as correlating with self-worth or the care-others-have-for-you. The architectonic principle of this meme is problematic for me because of the potential human fall-out NOT because I see it as a meaningless search for connection or ego-stroking (though it could easily be both/either, depending on the poster). Such is the nature of social media.

I was hanging out with some girls a few weeks back, they decided to have a no-judgment space where everyone shared facts or secrets about themselves. That wasn't my thing, either, and I only shared inconsequential things - like the fact that I can burp at will (Why, hello, Gentlemen -- this Lady here is ACCOMPLISHED!). Afterwards, one of the girls, sensing my reserve, asked me what I thought of the whole thing and I replied honestly that "it's a strange way to share things about yourself."

But one girl shared something which would never be brought up in ordinary conversation yet was good for others to be aware of. It allowed an avenue of expression and a means of approach even if the method of conveyance was supremely artificial.

It was like a more personal faccia-a-faccia version of the meme. And, for at least one person, it was helpful. It reminded me a bit of confession, minus the sanctifying grace.

Not everyone is lucky enough to be surrounded by a robust community of people in whom they can easily confide, with whom they share interests, or who they can simply call up on a random night and ask if they want to go out to the pub and chug a beer. Sometimes you need a screaming box with ears or someone to pat you on the back and murmur inarticulate soothing things as you sob on their shoulder. If you can't get that in corporeality, you may seek it virtually. (Or you may seek it in both places. /logic training )

Virtual connections can be authentic connections, too. Some of my friendships originated first on the net and culminated with meeting the individuals in reality. (Hulloa, Fr ---, L---, and S---!) There IS another person sitting across the screen at a distance; your thoughts they might find interesting, your well-being they might care about. For sufferers of autoimmune diseases, for example, there are message boards where we share our struggles and disappointments, set-backs and successes. It is a virtual community, but it is a real one from which comfort and encouragement are derived. Sometimes a person, who you don't even know virtually, says something that brings an illuminating moment of hope or the simple affirmation that you are not alone. Someone across a distance holds you in their mind.

Online friendships can be transient - hastily formed, easily dropped. They can be superficial and based on utility or mutual-ego-stroking. And, here's the thing, it's sometimes hard to TELL what sort of friendship it is at first because everything on the internet is so...shifty. Who even is this other person on the other end of the line? Are they who they say they are? Is their concern or interest real? The only thing you have to go by are their words and their history and the network of friends they build around them. And that network and that history may appear or be equally fluid.

The face we present online is one we cultivate. Are you the Outspoken Truth-Sayer Sayin' It Like It Is, the SMH at All Modern Church-y Things and Especially Pope Francis, the Erudite Explainer, the Defiant Outlier, etc., etc.? Sometimes the face doesn't match the reality so it's hard to trust even those brazenly assumed.

Despite this, we sometimes open ourselves up to this group of relative strangers because it may feel like the only place where we can do so. Our immediate community is lacking somehow. And some of the faces online aren't gross distortions. The Person Who Cares About You might be someone who actually DOES care about you, who talks you out of a bad spot or who shares your joy when you make pancakes and they turn out perfectly fluuuffy.

Yes, there's certainly a problem of people sharing much too much of themselves on the internets before people who have no right or need to know that of which you speak -- and there's the issue of the two-faced.

But an operating assumption should be one of good-will about others' motives unless there exists sound evidence to the contrary. This person may be egotistical, may be seeking some short-lived pleasure of feeling-important, or...they might just think people care about them and their life or want to express something hard to put into other formats. Is that something objectionable? Do I need to knock them for that? Nah. So I fav on. It might not be the way for me (I prefer long rambling revelatory blog posts), but not everything has to be about me.
This is the image, for reference. And I only saw a couple of dismissive memes, and, really, it's not SUCH a big deal. But I had a reaction and then a counter-reaction and started writing Thoughts and my other blog post is only hiccuping along whereas this one oiled out. You're welcome. 

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