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Some thoughts on LiveJournal and such

Things Franklin Hates #117:

Writing a post in response to someone else's comment, then having the post bounce because that person's journal accepts posts only from friends (and the owner has at some point removed him from her friends list without him noticing, because he's not very detail-oriented that way).

Some time ago, bishop_henley and I ran an interview with William Gibson, in which he compared the formation of online communities in cyberspace (a term he coined, by the way) with the development of the world's first cities and the change in human society from agrarian to urban.

A bit over the top, I thought, but now I'm not so convinced he isn't right.

kellyannc has on many occasions expressed doubts about the depth of one of my romantic relationships, on the grounds that I first met her online, and most of our contact was online, so I couldn't really have known her all that well.

Had I never experienced that kind of connection, I would no doubt be skeptical myself. But the fact is, online communication can be a remarkably intimate thing. It is, in its way, even more intimate than the telephone--because the apparent anonymity, the very lack of the immediacy of a verbal or face-to-face conversation, can itself facilitate lowering one's defenses to this other person. After all, it's only text on a screen, right?

The thrust of Gibson's argument is that, throughout human history, every society that has ever existed has been predicated on geography...until now. Before the Information Age, you belonged to the society in the place where you live. Now, for the first time in history, societies can form without regard to geography or physical location at all.

But it's a mistake to think that those societies are "less real" than the geographical kind. They take on a life of their own, just as traditional societies do; they grow and change over time, they form bonds as strong and as intimate as those you see in more conventional societies.

I still prefer the physical ones to the kind that exist in cyberspace. Maybe I'm a traditionalist; I do like to get to know my friends in person, and I prefer physical touch to its more ephemeral online counterpart. (Though that may change one day...)

Anyway, I was amused to see that I had a user on my friends list when I first joined the LiveJournal community, whos eventually deleted her journal; and now it's been long enough that someone else, entirely unrelated, has begun a new journal with the same name. Does that make me a grizzled elder of the community? (Or does it just mean that I neglect to update my friends list for so long that everything old is new again?)


Comments

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
scarlete
Nov. 27th, 2002 09:17 pm (UTC)
Anyway, I was amused to see that I had a user on my friends list when I first joined the LiveJournal community, whos eventually deleted her journal; and now it's been long enough that someone else, entirely unrelated, has begun a new journal with the same name. Does that make me a grizzled elder of the community? (Or does it just mean that I neglect to update my friends list for so long that everything old is new again?)

I didn't know that was possible without a whole lot of hooplah.
scarlete
Nov. 27th, 2002 09:24 pm (UTC)
and
Had I never experienced that kind of connection, I would no doubt be skeptical myself. But the fact is, online communication can be a remarkably intimate thing.

We're a strange lot that words affect us so. Well, maybe not strange.. It's so much easier to make something sound the way we'd like with print. It's why we like to read. Gilbert Godfrey could be on LJ and write things that would truely amaze me, but if I *heard* him say it I'd be more annoyed than a hippo with sand under his skin.

It's all perspective.
wilson_lizard
Dec. 1st, 2002 12:37 pm (UTC)
I think that online relationships can be as deep, or deeper, for all the reasons you mention. But it's a different quality of depth. You get to know the person in a different way than you would face to face. Not better, not worse, but having it's own qualities and inherent difficulties and pleasures.

I'm not sure that I prefer physical intimacy to mental intimacy, although it's supremely frustrating not to be able to touch a person that I bond with.
tacit
Dec. 10th, 2002 12:52 pm (UTC)
"I'm not sure that I prefer physical intimacy to mental intimacy, although it's supremely frustrating not to be able to touch a person that I bond with. "

Amen to that. I require a good bit of both; I get frustrated and unhappy if I have either one without the other.
wilson_lizard
Dec. 10th, 2002 02:34 pm (UTC)
Ditto. I'm getting pretty gunshy about it lately.
(Anonymous)
Dec. 2nd, 2002 01:27 am (UTC)
I guess the problem is anonymity which is taken for granted and abused. See the number of gutter stories about how people end up meeting and not liking how each other looks or finding out things were not how they were told or thought it to be. There needs to be the "touch", or else there's always a chance to fool oneself into thinking all is well. Not that this is any different from physical relationships.

-Vijay
tacit
Dec. 9th, 2002 04:09 pm (UTC)
"I guess the problem is anonymity which is taken for granted and abused. See the number of gutter stories about how people end up meeting and not liking how each other looks or finding out things were not how they were told or thought it to be."

There's always potential for that, in any relationship; some people misrepresent themselves, others see what they want to see.

An online relationship requires, among other things, honesty and the willingness to work to get to knw somebody. Given those things, it can create a very powerful sort of intimacy indeed.
(Anonymous)
Dec. 10th, 2002 05:51 am (UTC)
Any relationship requires honesty. But yes, online ones can use the anonymity as a surprise element too for intimacy and seduction. I also think it's a great way to break the ice for many shy people. Get to know someone on the net and then they can meetup and carry on. :)
(Anonymous)
Dec. 10th, 2002 05:52 am (UTC)
Fuck! I keep forgetting to put in my name.

-Vijay
tacit
Dec. 10th, 2002 12:54 pm (UTC)
Meeting online does seem to be easier for many people than meeting in person. Online conversations are seductive; they allow you to let down your guard in ways that you can't do when you're talking to someone face to face, especially if you're shy.

That very seductiveness, though, can set you up for a nasty surprise if you're not careful not to project too much onto the other person when you're talking online.
(Anonymous)
Dec. 11th, 2002 06:44 am (UTC)
Yeah, comfort zone and all that.

-Vijay
(Anonymous)
Dec. 3rd, 2002 11:38 pm (UTC)
i know it works for me...
Had I never experienced that kind of connection, I would no doubt be skeptical myself. But the fact is, online communication can be a remarkably intimate thing. It is, in its way, even more intimate than the telephone--because the apparent anonymity, the very lack of the immediacy of a verbal or face-to-face conversation, can itself facilitate lowering one's defenses to this other person. After all, it's only text on a screen, right?

I agree with this... I have had several connections with men and women alike (though I do admit to enjoying the male ones just a wee bit more). The anonymity definitely lends itself to intimacy... but at some point for the relationship to advance I feel there must be a level of sharing and trust not unlike a physical, real time relationship. Internet relationships have allowed me to discover, kindle, and enhance my sexuality in a way I never really knew before; for that alone I will continue to explore and grow those relationships. As I discover more about my sexuality I see it branching in directions neither I, nor my rather straight-laced husband, would have even known about were it not for the computer (bdsm, polyamory, roleplaying, etc.) The challenge for me comes in battling the distance and getting past the barriers of a non-traditional relationship. I continue to be amazed at how much I learn about myself and the lack of boundaries I seem to possess. What a fun journey it's been so far...

AJ
tacit
Dec. 10th, 2002 12:56 pm (UTC)
Re: i know it works for me...
"The anonymity definitely lends itself to intimacy... but at some point for the relationship to advance I feel there must be a level of sharing and trust not unlike a physical, real time relationship."

Just so. A relationship is a relationship, regardless of the mode of communication; some rules are so basic they always apply.

"Internet relationships have allowed me to discover, kindle, and enhance my sexuality in a way I never really knew before; for that alone I will continue to explore and grow those relationships. As I discover more about my sexuality I see it branching in directions neither I, nor my rather straight-laced husband, would have even known about were it not for the computer (bdsm, polyamory, roleplaying, etc.)"

Self-knowledge and self-discovery are among the greatest things you can ever hope for in any relationship, and the person who helps you to grow as a person is a gift indeed. :)
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