Saturday, November 16, 2013

"A long, elaborately-choreographed but awkwardly-executed dance"

Here is an article in which Jonathan Franzen and Clay Shirky debate whether technology is good, toxic or both.

The most interesting thing to me about internet culture is how it creates or facilitates relationships and interactions that would never occur otherwise.  This is particularly significant in the case of people who are reserved or not prone to making lots of new friends in their "irl" lives.  Suddenly, no one is totally inaccessible.  Potential friends and creeps alike have multiple avenues by which to pursue your attention.  In the past, when meeting interesting strangers or friends of friends, you generally had to rely on happenstance or time in order to get to know them.  You couldn't just go home and learn about them in anonymous privacy.  You couldn't just send a message that would instantly appear before their face, forcing the situation, the immediate extraction of a response.

Overall, I think it's a good thing that interactions are so easily had.  It makes it easy and less frightening to connect with someone you would never have a chance to know.  It helps the socially inept, the lazy, the reclusive, the avoidant and the noncommittal to carry on some semblance of a social life.  It helps to overcome otherwise deterring circumstances.

Example: I'm friends with someone my ex briefly dated.  I didn't know they were dating and she didn't know he was my ex.  It was a situation that could have been weird, but wasn't.  We chatted in person and later made internet friends, and I put her in contact with my out-of-town best friend because both women were about to move to the same city.  Weeks later I received a Snapchat of my old BFF and my new buddy drinking together in a bar in New York.  Technology!  The future!  Improbable connections made from random situations occurring thousands of miles apart.  In a historical context, I don't think it would have been possible for us to connect the way we did, with social mores generally dictating that we should be awkward around each other due to the nature of our mutual connection.  Or maybe she and I are just grown ass men who don't care about trifling shit.  Either way, it's a weird example, but they're all weird examples.

Still, in making private stranger-interactions so easy, the internet in turn makes them less meaningful, because there is almost no risk involved.  Interactions can almost seem random, motivated by boredom or curiosity rather than a genuine interest or purpose.  It's easy to stay in some vague contact with someone you don't care about, someone who otherwise would have fallen from your life like a dead leaf if you had to maintain that connection in person.  In the end, many of these relationships strike me as a false pantomime of human interaction.

1 comment:

allison_bt said...

good points! i wouldn't know you existed if it weren't for the internets.