Sunday, February 08, 2009

In Which Your Author Becomes Irritated And Behaves Badly

I'm not sure why I'm writing this post. I'm suspicious of my motives.

I recently expressed an opinion quite strongly. I was not at all tactful. And while I still hold the opinion, I feel a sense of remorse about the way I said, amongst other things: 'You're talking out of your arse'.

I wish I hadn't said that. It's emotionally immature. But it was something I'd been holding in for quite some time.

Is that an excuse for inexcusable conduct? My reaction was explicable: I felt judged and belittled. On this topic I have often felt this way. My outburst was fuelled by innumerable conversations; my interpretation of the most minute facial expressions; my sensitivity to rejection; and so on.

I don't want to write a post that's self-serving. I've read those and despised them. I think I've always tried to be scrupulously honest with my least attractive traits. But I need to think of myself as better than my recent behaviour suggests.

Someone once said to me that they found all social networking sites other than Good Reads to be 'a complete waste of time'. It was expressed in such a quelling tone that I thought to profess my own enjoyment of Twitter and Facebook would be to risk a similar dismissal.

At the same time, I had previously been in social situations with this very person where I, and others, had openly discussed our participation in and enjoyment of Twitter and Facebook. I felt shocked that someone would know this and not even attempt to mitigate their words in the same company.

Perhaps the comments just weren't about me and my cultural choices.

Am I unnecessarily conflating the judgement of the cultural artefact with a judgement about the person, in this case myself?

Another person has always smirked, in what I have interpreted as a kind of contemptuous, pitying expression, when Twitter and Facebook are mentioned. It's an expression that the same person extends to discussions of blogging, Second Life, and more recently Wii.

She argues that they don't offer a real experience; that they are a poor substitute for talking to actual people, living life, and exercising. For her, such substitution is a widespread and contemporary pathology.

Here I will sound defensive when I write that I have formed very real friendships with people I've met through blogging. I'm friends with the same people on Facebook, and we follow each other on Twitter. I try to meet them in the flesh if I travel to their city, and they return the favour when they happen to be in Brisbane.

I have never been on Second Life, but another participant in these discussions is using it as a teaching tool and is fascinated by the legal precedents it presents.

I have explained my decision to purchase a Wii Fit and my subsequent enjoyment of what it allows me to do that walking up a hill in my suburb cannot.

I have a linguistics-cultural studies suspicion of any assertion of real, unmediated experience. I tried to argue that many of these activities were simply another means of mediation of particular experiences: some modes of interaction are enabled while others are not. I'd be careful about privileging one as any more real than any other, especially when it's clear that it's a matter of value or lack thereof being ascribed to a particular medium.

Somehow this elicited more mocking laughter about some apparently ridiculous scenario proposed by Lacan to illustrate his concepts of the Real and the Symbolic.

It might be better to quote another friend here who says all of these activities are not substitutions, but experiences in their own right. She is wise and more lucid, perhaps less invested in such activities than I am.

I am still suspicious of my reasons for posting this. I have explained the reasons for the extent of my reaction, but perhaps I should just learn to conduct myself more appropriately in company.


Oanh said...

Well, this story should put paid to criticims of online social media:-

And through facebook I learn that a cousin who has a vineyard in Yarra Valley is safe - and I don't have to do anything but check her wall because so many other people have been bombarding her with 'Are you okay' type messages.

But on the happy side, online social media means I can keep in rather easy contact with my friends, and 'hang out' in a way that I can't physically.

And I feel I too have formed very real friendships via blogging, with people I have not and may never meet.

I have issues calling my non-internet life my real life; my internet life is real too.

So, phooey to the luddites.


Kirsty said...

Ah yes, you're one of the people I first met on line, then in the flesh. There are at least three people I can think of from Brisbane whom I've met this way. People who I'm sure I must have stood in line with at the Biol refec at some point, oblivious to their fabulousness. It took the internet to bring us together. Awww.

Nicotina the Fag said...

Hi Kirsty,

I remember when I first met you, I was surprised that, at the time, you liked Big Brother. But what impressed me was that you weren't ashamed of your opinion and that you backed it up with a reasoned and thoughtful argument. That takes real independence and it convinced me that you were a person I wanted to know better!

Your feeling of being judged and belittled in this situation may or may not have a basis in the other person's true intentions. Facial expressions can say a lot but are also open to misinterperetation. If you know this other person well, it might be worth trying to express your feelings in words
to them. I know this sounds like Psychology 101 - but phrases like "I feel (insert emotion) when you (insert behaviour)" can be very helpful in communciation, as they allow you to express your feelings honestly but also take responsibility for them, and helps the other person understand the effect of their behaviour on you.


Kirsty said...

Hi Nick. I don't have a problem with psychology 101 or the more advanced courses for that matter. That might explain my love of Big Brother : )

genevieve said...

Kirsty, sorry I come by so infrequently - I have added your feed to my reader this time.

I'm looking forward to being able to follow my daughter's first trip to Europe on her blog (or failing that, over her brother's shoulder through his Facebook account.) It is amazing technology. And apparently John Cleese is now using Twitter (following Stephen Fry's example I think.) What larks.
Print can mediate anything.


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